The Patriots defeated the Bengals 35-17 to move on to 5-1 and sole possession of 1st place in the AFC. Here are the players that stood out.
Winner: QB Tom Brady
Brady completed 29 of 35 passes (83%) for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns. When his receivers were able to get open, Brady’s placement was impeccable. His season totals are 57 of 75 (76%) for 782 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions for a rating of 135.5. The journey doesn’t get any easier with road games against the Steelers and the Bills before the bye, so the fact that Brady is showing no signs of rust is perfect.
Winner: TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski pulled in 7 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown and he looked like his vintage self, despite battling the flu. He had a few blocks that he would have liked to have back, but Gronkowski’s emergence in the second half allowed the Patriots to pull away from the Bengals.
Loser: WR Julian Edelman
One week after Edelman picked up 35 yards on 10 targets, he only managed to grab 30 yards on 7 targets. He’s dropped a few catchable passes and it’s possible that WR Danny Amendola could have made those grabs.
It’s not a coincidence that Edelman’s production has fallen off since he was added back to the injury report with a foot injury. It’s likely he suffered a minor setback and is working back to strength. Perhaps Amendola should see more time until Edelman is 100%.
Loser: RG Shaq Mason
Mason had an up-and-down game and was responsible for one of the sacks on Brady. Mason has so much potential and his run blocking is consistently outstanding, but there comes a point where his pass blocking needs to be more competitive. Mason deserves more time, but fellow RG Tre Jackson is coming off the physically unable to perform list soon and is a better pass blocker. That’s something to monitor moving forward.
Winner: Patriots coaching staff
The Patriots looked pretty weak in the first half on both sides of the ball. The offense struggled to get any production outside of a two-minute drill right before the half, while the defense looked tired (no thanks to poor offensive production).
The coaching staff made adjustments on both sides of the ball after the half (quicker passes on offense, Eric Rowe on A.J. Green in man coverage on defense) and they worked.
Winner: LB Dont’a Hightower
Hightower led the game with 13 tackles. He picked up 1.5 sacks, including a safety. He added another tackle for loss. He was a force against the run. He energized the defense in the second half and became a one-man wrecking crew.
It seems like LB Jamie Collins takes his game to new heights when he’s without Hightower, and Hightower returned the favor. Hopefully they’ll get to see the field together at some point.
Winner: CB Malcolm Butler
Butler collected 3 tackles- including some nice stops by the line of scrimmage- and 3 passes defended on the day. But let’s allow his coverage statistics to tell the story:
What a game from Malcolm Butler today. Three PDs and only 17 yards allowed on 7 targets.— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 16, 2016
That’s a winning performance.
Winner: CB Eric Rowe
I don’t think Rowe was a part of the Patriots initial plan on defense, but Bengals WR A.J. Green was tearing down the zone defense, so the coaches decided to change it up and use Rowe on Green in man coverage. Rowe made a nice pass break-up on 3rd down in the end zone and added another 3rd down stop in the open field.
In total, Rowe allowed 2 receptions for 10 yards on 3 targets, with that break-up in the end zone. It was a fantastic debut.
Losers: CBs Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman
Jones was a healthy scratch after getting ejected from last week’s game against the Browns. Coleman has been a scratch the past two weeks, despite not showing up on the injury report. Rowe might have just passed them in the depth chart and it’s not like Rowe, as a 2015 2nd round pick, doesn’t have the pedigree and talent to lock down the #3 corner role for good.