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Postgame, Week 4: New England 34 @ Cincinnati 13

Devastating Defense
Patriots Take Advantage of Another Broken Team

Despite Pats Pulpit's Player of the Game poll contested among three offensive players, New England's defense is the unit that beat the Cincinnati Bengals as the Patriots beat another team by 20-plus points -- four straight to open the 2007 campaign.

No individual defensive play had particularly impressive statistics. Randall Gay and Asante Samuel both notched 4 solo tackles and an interception to lead the team. Adalius Thomas match those 4 solo tackles and added an assist and a sack. Only Ty Warren had more than 3 total tackles (3 solo, 1 assist) and no one else registered a sack, interception or forced fumble.

Yet the defense as a unit held the Bengals to just 57 yards rushing, left Carson Palmer with a 65.7 passer rating, and blanked Cincinnati on third down -- 0 for 7.

P1hotobucket - Video and Image Hosting 34 - - - P1hotobucket - Video and Image Hosting 13

The Patriots let T.J. Houshmandzadeh roam free, and the wideout piled up receptions and yards (10 and 100), but beyond Houshmanzadeh, Palmer and running back Kenny Watson, the Bengals offensive player with the most touches was Kyle Larson, who had four touches.

Larson is Cincinnati's punter.

By comparison, Mike Vrabel, a linebacker, had as many touches as New England punter Chris Hanson: one. Hanson, on pace to punt 20 times for the season booted a 38-yarder on New England's second offensive drive. Vrabel caught his ninth career pass for his ninth career touchdown on the Patriots next drive.

Mike Vrabel scores his ninth
career touchdown in the first quarter.
Photo courtesy: (AP photo)
The whole affair was hardly fair at all. Cincinnati's linebackers were more than decimated heading into the game. They were semi-mated by the end of the first half, losing Lemar Marshall on the second play of the game and Landon Johnson mid-way through the second quarter.

When Landon Johnson went down, the Patriots were in the process of imposing their will on the Bengals, forcing Sammy Morris down their throat like he was a perennial Pro Bowl back.

As bad a situation in which they started, Cincinnati made a way to make it worse. On the drive after Morris wore down the Bengals defense, Palmer drove Cincy down the field in the closing minutes of the half. But Palmer and Chad Johnson read a coverage differently. Johnson ran to one spot, Palmer threw to another; and the only player there was Samuel. Palmer and Johnson had words on the sideline and on their way into the locker room at halftime.

Later, Palmer took responsibility.

Asante Samuel picks his second pass of
the season, right in front of Chad Johnson.
Photo courtesy: (Matthew J. Lee)
"I made a mistake [on the Asante Samuel interception]. I threw a ball into where I shouldn't have thrown to. I got on Chad [Johnson] but I made a mistake. We're both passionate players and in the heat of things, sometimes you lose your cool and I lost my cool. I made a mistake and threw a ball I shouldn't have thrown. I should've taken a check-down there."

Meanwhile, Tom Brady was .. struggling. Brady threw three incomplete passes on the Patriots first drive. He threw another incompletion and an interception on New England's first drive of the second quarter. Then he threw just two more incompletions for the rest of the game.

Brady had a lower completion percentage than in any other game this year. But most quarterbacks would be happy with completing 78.1 percent of their passes. Monday was also Brady's lowest yardage output (231) and lowest passer rating (115.0) of the season.

However, Brady broke or tied several NFL passing records, including the highest percentage passing on his first 100 passes of the season (79 percent, surpassing Jeff George's 75 percent), and throwing for 75 percent or better in the first four games of the season (tied with Palmer and Kurt Warner).

Tedy Bruschi leaps over the Bengals blockers
and deflects Carson Palmer's pass.
Photo courtesy: (Matt Stone)
Morris was devastating in relief of the injured Laurence Maroney, who sat out with a strained groin. Morris ripped a 49-yard dash reminiscent of Corey Dillon leading to New England's first touchdown in the final minutes of the first quarter. The remainder of his punishing running was equally reminiscent of Dillon, and his nine carries in the second quarter was as much a psychological blow as a physical one to the Bengals defense.

After Brady's interception, the Patriots scored on every drive, excepting a pair of kneel-downs at the end of the first half and killing 2:38 after Gay picked Palmer at the end.

By the way, Randy Moss played. He had nine receptions and extended his record of games gaining 100 yards or more with a new team, now at four. He had 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Moss has caught 7 of Brady's 13 touchdown passes.

"He doesn't drop any balls," Brady said. He's a great receiver. There is no doubt about it. He commands double coverage quite a bit and finds ways to beat double coverage. If they double cover him, he always has a threat to go deep. If they play deep, we can throw it underneath. He has deceptively quick moves on the line of scrimmage. He's a great threat out there."

The Patriots remain in the top 5 in every major team statistical category. On offense: total yards (2nd, 431.8), passing yards (5th, 274.8), rushing yards (4th, 157.0) and scoring (2nd, 37.0). On defense: yards allowed (1st, 226.0), passing yards allowed (4th, 156.2), rushing yards allowed (3rd, 69.8) and points allowed (4th, 12.0).

Here are the results of our postgame poll: