By Gregory Hunt
There’s no sugar-coating this one. In a 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday, the New England Patriots put on the most pathetic offensive performance of the Belichick/Brady era. Even so, the Patriots still had a couple of scoring chances to salvage the game in the fourth quarter, but Tom Brady’s touchdown pass streak was eventually snapped at 52 games, two games short of the NFL record recently set by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Coincidentally, the 5-0 Saints are coming to Gillette Stadium next Sunday, so the Patriots will have their work cut out for them in Week Six.
Offense Grade: F
New England finished with only 248 yards of total offense, and Brady completed only 18-of-38 passes (47.3 %) for 197 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He also looked uncharacteristically erratic with some of his throws, especially in the fourth quarter when a heavy rain began to fall. Brady appears to be losing confidence in his receivers and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.
Coming into this game, the Patriots were ranked second in the NFL in dropped passes, but the receiving core somehow managed to look worse in Week Five than in the first four weeks of the season. Wide receiver Danny Amendola returned to action for the first time since suffering a groin injury in Week One. He caught four passes but looked very rusty. LeGarrette Blount rushed for a modest 51 yards on 12 carries for a respectable 4.24 yards per carry, but he lost a key fumble in the second quarter at the Cincinnati 25-yard line.
Defense Grade: B-
Under most circumstances, holding a team to one touchdown and two field goals is a solid performance. The Patriots defense did make some nice plays from time to time, especially from the linebacker position, but New England gave up two long drives after Cincinnati had been pinned inside its own 10-yard line. One of those drives ended in an interception by linebacker Brandon Spikes, but the other led to a Cincinnati field goal that gave the Bengals the lead for good.
The New England defensive secondary looked solid. Safety Devin McCourty forced one fumble and cornerback Aqib Talib kept Cincinnati’s top receiver A.J. Green from doing much damage. But against the run, New England looked vulnerable without all-pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who is on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon. Things got worse in the fourth quarter when New England’s other veteran DT, Tommy Kelly, left the game with an apparent knee injury. The Patriots gave up a total of 162 yards rushing.
Special Teams Grade: B+
Rookie punter Ryan Allen had the best game of his young career, dropping four punts inside the Cincinnati 20-yard line, two of them inside the 10. Punt returner Julian Edelman muffed one punt, but he was able to recover it and even if he hadn’t, it would have been negated by a Bengals penalty. Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on both of his field goal attempts, but he did have one kickoff returned to the Cincinnati 28-yard line.
Coaching Grade: D
This wasn’t a great day for head coach Bill Belichick and his staff. Typically, the Patriots always defer to the second half whenever they win the opening coin flip, but on Sunday they elected to receive the ball right away. It’s a mystery why they made this decision given how much the offense has struggled this year, and sure enough, the offense responded by going three-and-out.
During the course of the game, it didn’t appear that New England made any serious adjustments on offense. The Patriots did try to increase the tempo a bit in the second half, but they still couldn’t sustain any drives. Also, the offense fell into a predictable pattern of running on second down on almost every series, and it looked as if the Bengals defense was aware of this.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.