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Patriots vs. Bengals: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 43-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jim Rogash

If you've never seen The Karate Kid: Part 3...good for you. It's terrible There's no reason to see it, ever.

And until last night, I never thought I would see the day when I was happy I watched that crapfest. But now, all these years later, it finally has use to me, because honestly, I feel like the first four weeks of the 2014 season has been a lot like the plot of that movie.And while I'll spare you the godawful details, a big part of the plot of that movie involves Daniel LaRusso being "trained" by an instructor who deliberately gives him the wrong moves, incorrect strategies, and false hope in order to ensure he is unable to successfully defend his title. Daniel ultimately wises up, goes back to Mr. Miyagi, and the rest - much like The Karate Kid franchise - is history.

That's how I felt last night watching the New England Patriots get back to their roots. They stopped experimenting with a high flying offense, realized that soft zone coverage is best suited for teams without elite cornerbacks, and returned to utilizing a 2 TE offense built off a strong running game and an effective playaction. It was back to business and enough of the tomfoolery, and the results are hard to ignore. And while it was only one game, it was a game that everyone needed very, very badly.

  • The number of texts I got before this game reminding me how important it was New England gets a win: 13. People seem to like texting me the obvious. Ironically, that was approximately how many seconds it took for the Patriots to score, so everything worked out.
  • Did anyone else notice that Brandon LaFell referred to himself as JoJo during the starters announcement?
  • You know it's a good sign when Tommy B runs the ball in any capacity.
  • Not that it really mattered, as the Pats were able to convert and then punch it in, but I have absolutely no clue what the refs saw on the James Develin failed 3rd down conversion on New England's first possession; that looked good to me.
  • Although, I suppose that call was a good representation of the night as whole for the refs. Did Bill Belichick and Jerome Boger go to the same high school? And did Belichick start calling him Germ Booger one day? And did that nickname stick with him forever? And did he see making sure every single call that could go against the Patriots got flagged as his way of getting even?
  • I'm not going to harp on the refs too much here, as penalties have been a huge problem for New England all season. But some of the flags the Patriots drew were absolutely mind boggling. Gronk's personal foul for what looked like some very standard trash talk. Easley's personal foul for blocking on their incorrectly called fumble. Alfonzo Dennard's multiple defensive holding calls. Just awful all around.
  • That said - there were more than a few legitimate calls that simply can't happen and are the kind of penalties that drive a coach nuts. Just stupid, meaningless crap that does nothing whatsoever. Dan Connelly's chop block to negate a 1st down and Jamie Collins's hit on Brandon Tate when he clearly called for a fair catch are great examples of that - total lack of awareness and poor mental discipline. HUGE difference between those and the occasional holding call. We're getting flagged enough as it is without adding nonsense like that to the laundry list.
  • I initially was going to make a comment regarding poor tackling early on and note how tackling has been an issue over the past two weeks, but I think that's more a testament to the smaller, more elusive guys as representative of players who can give this team trouble.
  • Was...was the Gillette crowd loud last night? Did that actually happen?
  • New England operated out of a lot of press-man coverage with a sort of hybrid man/zone look across the middle that allowed both Revis and Dennard to disrupt the receivers' timing at the line and pass guys off among the linebackers, none of whom particularly excel in coverage. You know...kind of that thing we've all been calling for all season around here.
  • New England also chose to grind out the yards with their between-the-tackles runner in Stevan Ridley (who I have now decided to keep on my fantasy bench all season). That in turn allowed the Patriots to run a solid playaction out of the bigger sets and open up the middle of the field. You know...kind of that thing we've all been calling for all season around here.
  • New England furthermore decided to pick five linemen - Solder, Connolly, Stork, Wendell, and Vollmer - and stick with them all game (for the most part; I think I saw Marcus Cannon in there for a few plays). The result was consistency and solid protection. You know...kind of that thing we've all been calling for all season around here.
  • Anybody who tries to say there wasn't a direct correlation between the way Brady performed last night and the fact that he shaved his beard needs to come see me.
  • Who here thought that we'd be seeing Danny Amendola for the rest of the season after he wobbled off the field? I know I didn't. At least this time when the ball was thrown his way and a flag was thrown, it went New England's way.
  • Another ridiculous penalty was the grounding call on Brady after a few Bengals players lobbied for it. If I had known that in order to get a flag thrown, all you have to do is just ask the refs for it, I would have paid a lot more attention.
  • To those who are interested in an NFL ref's thought process, I recommend following former official and 12 year supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos (@RefereeJimD) on Twitter. He often live Tweets during games and offers his perspective on what should and shouldn't be a penalty.
  • Just for the record...I have DirecTV, and I look way more like unattractive Rob Lowe than I do actual Rob Lowe. That's flagrant false advertising.
  • Mark the time and the date: October 5, 2014. An opposing quarterback playing at Gillette Stadium had to cover his earholes in order to hear the play being radioed in. Good job to everyone that was there.
  • Of course, the flip side of the crowd noise coin is that we have now shown the world that we are more than capable of bringing it, so there is absolutely zero excuse for any kind of silence from now on.
  • Thank goodness for that 3rd down false start to take it from 3rd and 14 to 3rd and 19 in the 2nd quarter; shockingly, Cincy ran a screen that went for 14 yards. How many times do opposing teams need to run a screen on 3rd and long for big yardage before Patricia will start calling in to watch for that?
  • Pacman Jones is still in the NFL?
  • One thing that the Patriots HAVE to fix is giving away yards and first downs on defense. All of Cincy's points came off of drives kept alive by Patriots penalties, and that wasn't just this week, either.
  • This looked like a completely different offense than what we've seen as of late. Maybe it's just because it's October, and that's when the Patriots tend to start getting to work. But whatever it is, me likey.
  • Man...Andy Dalton's hair is red. You don't really see it unless you get that primetime, HD action, but man that guy is a ginger through and through. He also kind of has a Leonard Nimoy/Spock thing going on.
  • Learned something new last night with that whole "can't fumble twice inside of two minutes" rule. Had no idea that was even a thing.
  • Chris Collinsworth on New England: "Man, this looks like the New England Patriots of six years ago with those two tight ends working the seams." Uh, Chris...6 years ago, Tommy B was on crutches and Matt Cassel was leading the huddle. There weren't any tight ends working any seams.
  • Losing McCourty would be absolutely huge. Good news is that initial reports say it's nothing serious.
  • Has anybody seen Rob Ninkovich? Plays for the Patriots, big guy, wears #50?
  • Somebody should start a business that specializes in nothing but vacation packages based on Corona commercial filming locations.
  • I love James Develin. He's sneaky having a great season and nobody has any idea.
  • Nice little coming out party for Tim Wright last night. 5 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown despite playing only 22% of offensive snaps. He's no Aaron Hernandez - ie he didn't kill anybody - but I loved what I saw out of his versatility and on-field awareness. So, in honor of that, I present the following terrible puns. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.
  • The Price is Wright
  • That's the Wright Stuff
  • You gotta fight for your Wright to Brady
  • So Wright it's Wrong
  • Might is Wright
  • That graphic of Calvin JsoadjhoN
  • You'll notice that that last note made zero sense. But I decided to leave it in, as that was the exact moment that Brandon Bolden forced a Brandon Tate fumble on the kickoff and Arrington ran it in for the TD. So if you were ever wondering what happens when Alec Shane looks up from his laptop to see the Patriots make a big play, there you have it.
  • What I was trying to write was: That graphic of Calvin Johnson and Rob Gronkowski lined up together comparing the TDs they had scored since 2010 definitely made me wonder what could be if they were ever on the same team. Megatron and Tommy B together wouldn't even be fair. It's like the NFL knows when it has a game-changing receiver and does everything in it's power to make sure he never gets to play with an elite QB (I'm so, so sorry, Larry Fitzgerald).
  • The play of the night, in my opinion, was the 3rd and 16 conversion by Shane Vereen. Kept the drive alive, got the crowd back into it, and turned what would have been a long FG attempt into a Gronk touchdown that was immediately followed up by the fumble and return to essentially ice the game. As a Patriots fan who has spent several years watching teams convert third downs they had no business converting, it feels good to win one.
  • What was Patrick Chung supposed to do on that defensive holding call? How could he have possibly defended that any better?
  • While I'm on the subject - I've been incredibly impressed with Chung so far. Seems that they're playing him closer to the line now, which is where he excelled. He's not made for the Devin McCourty style safety role.
  • Don't really know how to feel on A.J. Green's TD. I feel like that's one of those plays where whatever the call is on the field is what it will be. To me it looked like the ball was moving when as he was going out of bounds, but he also got a foot and knee down before he went out. Kind of irrelevant at the end of the day, but it does go to show that whatever gets called on the field has a lot of weight.
  • I really hope that the football gods weren't just saving all of the injuries they were going to inflict upon the Patriots for this one game.
  • If all Aaron Dobson does as a New England Patriot is block the way he blocked last night, it will still be a failure - but not as complete a failure.
  • One thing Ridley definitely doesn't have is breakaway speed. But honestly, finding a big back with home run ability is so incredibly rare that it isn't fair to criticize that.
  • The Patriots can't blow a 20 point 4th quarter lead. Right?
  • DROPS. Lots of drops. Patriots, you leave the dropping long, brown, oblong objects to me - it's one of the few things I do well. Your job is to catch the damn ball. A LaFell TD would have been the dagger. Do like the playcall, though.
  • I'll take a Chris Jones sack, though.
  • Boston-area fast food establishments, take heed: "The Chris Jones Sack" is a promotional goldmine. Put a few burgers and fries in a large bag and sell it at a discount for any fan who comes in in Pats gear. Instant business.
  • And to all Boston-area bars - all 22,654, 976 of them - feel free to embrace a "Gronk Spike" promotion in which you add an extra shot of hydration to any patron who walks in wearing Pats gear.
  • Heyyyy...the Patriots got a flag! I'll take it!
  • Tommy B has to stop throwing so low to Gronk. It has been happening all season Maybe because where he is currently putting it is about waist height for Vereen and Edelman, but whatever it is he needs to get those balls up (heh).
  • The Bengals, fresh off a bye, lost in primetime in a game where they could have more or less buried the Patriots for a year. I don't envy the Cincy fanbase for the national panic, media criticism, and "Bengals are done" talks that will be absolutely dominating all week. The tension between Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis is about to be all over the papers.
  • Love - LOVE - that the Patriots kept their foot on the gas even even the game was out of hand. Brady kept throwing, backs kept grinding out yards, and players were just as fired up with three minutes left as they were with three quarters left.
  • I always liked Jason Campbell. I didn't like him too much last year when he was with the Browns having a career day, but I always thought he never got a fair shot at being a legit starter.
  • Much, much happier to see Jimmy G getting some garbage time snaps when all he has to do is kneel on the ball.
  • That said, I'm sure that there are those who still think that the Tom Brady era should come to an end in new England and it's time to move forward with Garoppolo. If you're willing to state your case in a live debate against me, I'd love to set that up. Send me an email.
  • Congrats, Tommy B. 50,000 career yards. Fitting that it was a tight end that caught it - his first ever NFL completion was to TE Rod Rutledge, a 6 yard reception on Thanksgiving Day 2000.
  • Does anybody still care about Monopoly at McDonald's? I remember thinking this was the coolest thing in the world in 4th grade, well over 20 years ago. Time to retire the gimmick, Micky D's.
  • I'm going to go ahead and give Verizon a big fat F so far for the commercials they air during games. At first it was a fully dressed J.J. Watt creeping on a middle school dance. Then it was some guy who was apparently in some kind of romantic relationship with his IPhone and was feeling guilty when he went to upgrade. Then there was that ridiculously confusing one with that guy at the family picnic fantasizing about playing for the Patriots and returning a kickoff for a touchdown, only to see that he's in fact a Jets fan and watching the Jets score a TD on the Pats on his tablet. Which is it? There are no fans in the NFL that support the Pats and the Jets. That's a fact.
  • Sorry, but I have to add: just in case everyone thinks that all is right with the world - it's just one game. Still a lot of football left to play, and everything wasn't perfect. Penalties and drops were a huge problem. Let's not overreact about this win the way we overreacted about last week's loss.
  • However, I will also say this: man was that a satisfying win. Felt a lot like the game against the Chargers in 2007 just after the SpyGate news broke out. There was just no way the Pats were losing that game (Pats are now an astounding 34-4 following a loss since 2003). Definitely take some time to enjoy this one.
  • Finally - and without a doubt most importantly - in case anybody hasn't heard all that much about it until last night's tear-inducing display of class and affection, take some time this morning to read about Bengals linebacker Devon Still. Just a wonderful story all around, and one that has sadly taken a backburner to some of the unpleasantness taking place in the league as of late. You aren't going to see TMZ pick this story up, because it doesn't fit their narrative, but it's stuff like that that helps to remind me that the good far, far outweighs the bad in this wonderful league we love so much. I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I wish Stills and his daughter nothing but the best. You have a huge fan in me. Give it hell, Leah.