After a noncompetitive first half that saw the New England Patriots (7-8) enter halftime facing a 22-0 deficit, the Patriots came to life in the second half, thanks to a Marcus Jones pick-six and Hail Mary prayer to Jakobi Meyers. However, New England’s comeback efforts fell short as they dropped the Week 16 matchup to the Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) 22-18.
Here’s everything that went down at the frigid Gillette Stadium Saturday.
Final Score: (7-8) Patriots 18 : 22 Bengals (11-4)
After winning the coin toss, the Patriots deferred putting Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense on the field first. Burrow got right to work, as he found tight end Mitchell Wilcox for an eight-yard gain before finding Tee Higgins downfield for 39 yards - who went up and over Marcus Jones to make the snag. Quickly down in New England territory, Burrow hit Joe Mixon out of the backfield for a 17 yard catch and run to move into the red area. Two plays later Burrow found Higgins again for a nine-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, however. [Patriots 0 : 6 Bengals]
On New England’s first offensive drive of the day, they failed to get anything going. A first-down handoff to Rhamondre Stevenson picked up two-yards, then a RPO handoff to the back picked up four. On third-down, nobody was open downfield and Mac Jones was brought down for a sack. New England punted after an opening three-and-out.
Injury Report: DB Brenden Schooler (shoulder) is questionable to return.
Looking to extend their early lead, running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine got to work through the air and on the ground picking up 18 yards on the first four plays from scrimmage. Facing an eventual third-and-three, Burrow was able to escape the pocket and convert by himself. Several plays later just outside the New England red area, Burrow launched one to the end zone and connected with Trenton Irwin for a 23-yard touchdown. Evan McPherson missed a second straight extra point, but a defensive penalty negated it. Cincinnati decided to go for two, but the handoff was stuffed by New England. [Patriots 0 : 12 Bengals]
The Patriots again started their next drive with two straight handoffs to Stevenson, who picked up six yards before losing two on the next carry. On third-down, a miscommunication led to Mac Jones throwing one in the ground near Stevenson leading to a punt.
Injury Report: TE Hunter Henry (knee) is questionable to return.
Cincinnati kept their foot on the gas on their next drive, as Burrow found old pal Devin Asiasi for six yards and then dropped a dime to Irwin on third-down for 18 yards. A late hit by Matthew Judon tacked on another 15. Pressure by Judon on the next play forced an illegal use of hands penalty, backing Cincinnati into a first-and-20. It ultimately didn't matter, as Burrow delivered a beautiful ball along the sideline to Ja’Marr Chase for 18 yards on third-down. A then holding penalty on Asiasi negated a Joe Mixon touchdown. New England’s defense then held strong and forced a field. [Patriots 0 : 15 Bengals]
New England’s offense got to work in what's still a two possession game, but again failed to make much progress. A first-down completion to Jonnu Smith for nine yards followed by a Kevin Harris three-yard run converted their first first-down of the afternoon. But a play-action incompletion downfield followed by two short completions resulted in a punt.
Burrow connected with Wilcox for six yards and Chase for 11 to start Cincinnati’s next drive. After a deep pass to Chase was then broken up by Jonathan Jones, Matthew Judon got home and brought down Burrow for a sack. Facing third-and-12, Burrow found Higgins for an 11-yard gain. Cincinnati stayed on the field on fourth-and-one where Burrow kept it himself for a conversion. After a catch-and-run for 12 yards from Chase, Burrow hit Higgins and then Boyd for another first-down. New England’s pass rush then heated up, as Uche recorded a sack and Judon got home again, but an illegal hands to the face penalty (Uche) negated his second sack of the afternoon. Two plays later, Burrow’s pass to Boyd was intercepted by Devin McCourty at the New England 15-yard line.
Following the interception, New England hit their biggest offensive play of the day as Kendrick Bourne took an end around for 29 yards. That was all the progress the offense managed, as Jones hit Pierre Strong Jr. on a second-down screen for five yards and then was sacked on third down. New England punted.
Injury Update: DB Brenden Schooler (shoulder) returned to action.
An 11-yard completion to Chase took the clock to the two-minute warning. Following that, Burrow marched down the field hitting Perine and Wilcox underneath for 10 yards each. A facemask penalty then on Myles Bryant added another 15 yards. After a two-yard completion to Boyd and then an incompletion, Burrow again hit Boyd for a nine-yard third-down conversion. Shortly after, Higgins hauled in a 16-yard reception to set Cincinnati up at the four-yard line with 29 seconds left. Following a pair of incompletions, Burrow hit Irwin for his second score of the day with Shaun Wade in coverage. [Patriots 0 : 22 Bengals]
With just eight seconds left in the half, Mac Jones hit Jakobi Meyers on a quick hitter for 11 yards. After a timeout with two seconds left, Jones took a knee to end the half.
Injury Update: TE Hunter Henry (knee) was downgraded to out.
New England started the second-half with a seven-yard gain on a screen to Stevenson. Jones’ next pass fell incompletely to Nelson Agholor, but a defensive pass interference penalty picked up 20 yards for the Patriots. Jones then uncorked one deep downfield to Tyquan Thornton which the rookie receiver dropped. Three plays later the Patriots were forced to punt back to Cincinnati.
After a quiet first half, Joe Mixon bounced one for a 19-yard gain on the Bengals first offensive play in the second half. An eight-yard completion to Chase and three-yard rush by Mixon quickly moved the chains again. Burrow then found Higgins for seven yards to set-up a third-and-one, which the QB kept and was stuffed by New England’s front. After lining up to go for it, Cincinnati took the delay of game penalty and punted back to the Patriots.
Backed up at their own 12-yard line to start their next drive, New England went back even further as Jones was sacked on first-down for a 10-yard loss. Back-to-back completions to Meyers and Smith resulted in 14 total yards, forcing another New England punt.
After a one-yard loss on a completion to Asiasi, Burrow moved the chains hitting Chase along the right sideline for 15 yards. On the following third-down, New England’s finally dialed up a zero blitz and the pass rush heated up Burrow. His pass was thrown right too and intercepted by Marcus Jones as it appeared him and Chase were not on the same page. Jones took it 69 yards to the other way for a score - their sixth defensive touchdown on the year which tied a franchise record. Nick Folk’s extra point was no good. [Patriots 6 : 22 Bengals]
Following the turnover, New England’s defense kept things tough on Cincinnati. Burrow’s first pass to Wilcox went for five yards, but then two incompletions resulted in a punt back to New England.
In what is still a two possession game, Jones got to work and connected with Jakobi Meyers on back-to-back plays for a first down. After a sack, Jones hit Smith for a short gain and then just got one out in time to Kendrick Bourne along the sideline for a 19-yard third-down conversion. Across midfield for the first time in the game, New England faced a third-and-10 where Jones found Bourne - who pulled in down in the middle of three defenders - for a 32-yard conversion. Facing another third-down three plays later, Jones again hit Bourne in the end zone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was no good. [Patriots 12 : 22 Bengals]
Injury Report: TE Jonnu Smith (head) is questionable to return
The Bengals waisted little time on their next possession as Burrow lofted a deep ball down the left sideline that Higgins hauled in for 31 yards. Three straight handoffs to Mixon then moved the chains again. On a following third-and-four, Burrow’s pass to the end zone was just out of the reach of Irwin in the end zone. Cincinnati settled for a field goal, which McPherson missed wide left from 43 yards.
Down 10 with just under 10 minutes left in the game, Jones hit Thornton and Bourne setting up a third-down conversion by Stevenson. The next play, Jones’ pass downfield to Bourne along the sideline was ruled incomplete. After review, it was reversed as Bourne miraculously got both feet in bounds with control. Two plays later, Jones was flagged for intentional grounding as he narrowly avoided a fumble. Facing a third-and-29 after a false start, Jones hurled one to the end zone which was tipped by Scotty Washington right into the hands of Jakobi Meyers who took it in for a score. [Patriots 18 : 22 Bengals]
Leading by just four, Burrow hit Wilcox and then Chase to pick up a first-down. After a five-yard carry by Mixon and then a two-yard run from the back, Cincinnati faced a third-and-three. Burrow hit Chase on a quick hitter, but Matthew Judon - who dropped back into coverage was there to jar the ball loose. Marcus Jones recovered giving New England the ball back.
Starting at the Bengals 43-yard line after the turnover, Jones’ first pass to Tyquan Thornton drew a defensive holding penalty. Following a three-yard gain on the ground from Stevenson, Jones fired a quick-screen to Marcus Jones who dipped and dodged his way through defenders for 15 yards. Three Rhamondre Stevenson handoffs set New England up in a goal-to-go situation with one-minute remaining. On first-down, Stevenson then fumbled and Cincinnati recovered.
Taking over at their own 23-yard line with 59 second remaining, Cincinnati handed it to Joe Mixon three straight plays. The back picked up seven yards while New England used all three timeouts, forcing a punt back to the Patriots.
New England took the field down four with 41 seconds remaining in the game. Jones hit Bourne on first-down for a 15-yard completion to bring the clock to 24 seconds after a spike. A second-down incompletion to Stevenson set up a third-and-10, which Stevenson dropped out in the flat. On fourth-and-15 - following a delay of game - with 15 seconds left, Jones pass deep downfield was incomplete to Bourne.
Cincinnati kneeled to end the game. [Patriots 18 : 22 Bengals]