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Patriots vs. Bengals: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFL: New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots put a stop to their horrible, awful, no good very bad losing streak - a morbid two full games - yesterday with a solid victory over the hapless Cincinnati Bengals. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that the game was just the thing to get this team back on the right track, but a 34-13 blowout and full control over the #2 seed in the AFC with two home games left on the schedule isn’t the worst way to kick off the week.

Speaking of...the over under on how much real, actual work gets done this week is 45 minutes. Hammer the under and hammer it hard.

  • These 1PM games are just the best. I know that there are some folks out there who prefer the atmosphere and anticipation of the primetime games, but I’m definitely more of a “watch the game and get on with my day” kind of guy.
  • I write this as if I do a damn thing that’s even remotely productive after a 1PM Patriots game. It gets dark at 3PM in the northeast and I never feel like doing anything anyway, yet somehow feel less useless if I’m watching something on TV that isn’t football starting at 4PM.
  • Which made me realize just how little football I’ve watched this year. I don’t think I’ve sat down and watched a single non-Patriots game in 2019, which I don’t believe I’ve ever done before. Even as I write these words, I couldn’t tell you the records of 3/4ths of the league and have no clue what the AFC Playoff Picture looks like beyond the Pats and Ravens. The day when I stop watching altogether seems to be creeping closer and closer.
  • But I watched the Pats beat up on the Bengals yesterday, so may as well get to it.
  • The two main things I was looking for out of the offense was accuracy from Brady and the team establishing the run. I’d say I got one and a half of those things overall. I was hoping to see New England have it’s first 100 yard rusher of the season, but 175 total yards on the ground was pretty solid.
  • As for Tommy B...the longest pass play of the day was 23 yards, and that was the screen to James White on the first TD of the day. Other than that, only three passing plays went for more than 10 yards as receivers continued to drop passes and Brady continued to put balls off the mark. 34 is 34 points at the end of the day (27 if you take away the pick six), but I’m just hoping this team doesn’t find itself in a shootout at any point.
  • Where does one obtain one of those NFL cheerleader Santa outfits? Asking for a friend.
  • If one can have a breakout game with a stat line of two grabs for 15 yards and a TD, N’Keal Harry did just that. He had a nice sideline grab that didn’t count because of a Julian Edelman false start, but more than anything, yesterday saw Harry do what every receiver for the Patriots has to do if they want to stick on this roster: block. He was close to the line on several short conversions and he was there at the second level sealing off lanes.
  • His TD grab looked to originally be a simple 10 yard corner route, and he wasn’t Brady’s first read. But coverage was solid and Brady had to look elsewhere. Rather than give up on the play, Harry fought his way back inside and laid out for the score. It’s the kind of extra effort play you want to see from your receivers,
  • If you were to tell me that with all the issues that have plagued the offensive line this season, Marcus Canon would be biggest liability of the five starters, I’d have politely asked where I could find the egg nog you’re drinking. But both of Brady’s sacks yesterday were on him, he’s giving up the most pressures, and he just can’t seem to find his footing, all while standing next to one of the best right guards in the league. Not sure if he’s still sick, more hurt than we know, or passive-aggressively letting Brady take a beating because Tommy B stiffed him on the Secret Santa gift this year...but it might just be that the greatest blocking tight end of all time spent a good chunk of snaps chipping the right side of the line before breaking out up the seam, and so Canon is adjusting or something. I don’t know.
  • Speaking of breaking out up the seam...watching the Pats go playaction and hitting Mat Lacosse for a first down is the NFL equivalent of coming downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing a perfectly wrapped present that is just the right size to be that new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle you asked for, but when you open it you’re staring this in the face.
  • Joe Mixon was the key to the Bengals offense, Everyone knew that. He rushed for 65 yards in the first quarter alone and had 164 yards on the day. This past Saturday, as I do almost every year, I watched the Army vs. Navy game, both to support the game and the military and to take a look at the future Patriots slot receiver Malcolm Perry. That game saw a total of seven passes thrown, none from the Navy QB, and the two squads combined for 102 total rushing attempts. That number was only slightly higher than Cincy’s first few drives, in which they marched down the field at will and caused me to think, “I guess the experts were right. Another vaunted Pats/Bengals shootout.”
  • Seriously; the first half of this Bengals game reminded me more of that 2009 Wild Card round playoff against the Ravens than I really want to admit. About a million runs, all for positive yards, and fewer passes than Tommy B has Super Bowl rings, all while the Patriots completely forgot how to tackle. And it’s not so much the scoring, to be honest; we kind of see that from this Patriots team in that they feel their opponents out for a quarter and a half or so, then adjust and completely shut them out. It’s the poor tackling, allowing negative plays in the backfield to become positive plays, and getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage. If you have a solid running game, you can move the ball very well on this defense and it has been their big weakness all season. Should the Pats find themselves up by two or more scores and force you to throw, then the whole complexion of the game changes, but run-first teams will be able to move the ball. Luckily for New England, they won’t be playing any more good rushing teams this year.
  • I get the impression that folks were expecting more out of Mohamed Sanu. And by “folks,” I mean “me.” The Patriots have been pursuing him aggressively for years now, which led me to believe that Belichick saw something special in him. And he looked great in his second game, logging ten catches. But he has eleven catches total since then and is good for a few drops a game, yesterdays being a 4th down conversion. I’m going to keep believing it’s the ankle that’s causing him to drop passes and not that he has a case of Doug Gabriel/Joey Galloway/Chad Ochocincos and he just can’t figure out this complex offense. And that Brady is still looking his way on crucial downs is encouraging (everyone remember Jakobi Meyers?). But two grabs on eight looks ain’t gonna cut it.
  • Though to be fair to Sanu, he ran a great post route where he faked the in-cut, beat his man, and got wide open in the end zone just in time to see Tommy B overthrow him on a pass he used to make in his sleep.
  • I don’t think there has been a single game the Patriots have won this year on the back of Tom Brady. He’s having one of his worst seasons as a pro, there’s absolutely no denying it. And to be honest, I don’t really see anyone denying it. So why there are the usual suspects piling on the way that they are is beyond me. I hope - and I genuinely mean this, without a hint of sarcasm or derision - that the people who choose to crap all over Tommy B at every turn live happier, more enjoyable lives, and their anti-Brady stance has made watching football significantly more enjoyable for them. I personally have found that my life is never better for the dislike of someone, even stupid celebrity hate or sports fan nonsense. But that’s just me. I’m in no position to do any moral grandstanding.
  • I’d be lying if I said that when the Patriots rush got to Dalton, hit his arm as he released, and the floaty, wobbly turd ball that came out of his hand landed right on Joe Mixon’s number for the first down, I didn’t get a little nervous.
  • However, as they have all year, the defense and special teams got it done. Andy Dalton was picked four times, and all four of them were great reads by the D and excellent individual efforts. Stephon Gilmore’s pick six was the obvious highlight, but JC Jackson’s adjustments and athleticism on display for his two INTs are what really had me feeling holly and jolly: reading his man, getting in front of the play, high pointing the ball, and coming down in bounds.
  • Once New England operated almost exclusively out of a 3-4 base defense, sticking with their bigger tackles and keeping the linebackers close to the LOS, the run defense seemed to stiffen. It became obvious early that you could leave Bengals receivers alone with New England DBs and focus their resources to the only real weapon the Bengals had.
  • Just don’t tell that to Tyler Boyd, who seems to think that he won the majority of the one on one matchups with Gilmore. Boyd had three on seven targets - just one more grab than Gilmore had.
  • Watch the pick six here; Gilmore never takes his eyes off Dalton, breaks on the route before the receiver does, and then undercuts the pass with nothing but daylight in front of him. That’s the kind of cerebral play that only comes from illegal sideline filming being the best in the business. I have no idea who they’re going to give DPOY award to if not him.
  • Although there was once a time where I could have made a case for Jamie Collins, who has faded down the stretch. On at least have of the blown tackles yesterday, he had a hand on the player. I remember running out of metaphors for what skill players who ran into the business end of a Collins hit.
  • If the NFL had any sense at all, they’d round up every fan who chooses to come to a game in full Santa gear and put them all in their own section.
  • Anybody else catch that random Bengals fan who got picked up saying “You suck, you red-headed prick” in Dalton’s direction? It’s moments like that that remove any doubt that NFL Films has a place in this world.
  • Great to see Rex Burkhead get one against his old team. I have to think that plays like that count more against the squads that decide not to keep you. Sort of like when you see your ex out at a bar and you look amazing and they don’t.
  • That goes double true because I have looked exponentially worse with each passing year and have not once run into an ex who lamented our breakup. I just imagine that it’s a sweet feeling.
  • Let’s state the obvious here: this was the Bengals. They’re the worst team in the league. And New England looked far from perfect yesterday. But for the first time in several weeks all three phases contributed and the running game got going. This is exactly what happened at around this time last year, and that all worked out just fine for them.
  • No more traveling for the remainder of the regular season. And, as has always been the case ever since the turn of the century, the Patriots are going to have to beat the surging, dominant Buffalo Bills in Week 16 in order to win the division.