BOSTON (CBS) — It was unfamiliar territory for the entire Patriots roster on Sunday night. They entered Gillette Stadium as home underdogs, and on the heels of an embarrassing loss on Monday Night Football, they did so with many questions surrounding the team.
It didn’t take long for the team to answer just about every single one of them with an emphatic flair.
The Patriots received the opening kick, drove straight down the field to take a 7-0 lead, and shortly thereafter they were driving again to double that lead.
It was an impressive opening statement in what eventually was a 43-17 win.
Here are the Four Ups and Four Downs from the Patriots, with an admittedly heavy slant toward the “Ups.”
Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen
Part of the Patriots’ problem on Monday night in KC was that they did not dedicate themselves to running the football. That was certainly not a problem on this night.
Ridley set the tone early, gaining 20 yards on four carries on the opening drive and finishing it off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. He later busted a 43-yard run up the left sideline late in the third quarter to set up more points for the Patriots.
Vereen got fewer carries but impacted the game just the same, most notably when he found a crease and broke a 19-yard run on a third-and-16. That play kept a drive alive, and the Patriots scored a touchdown two plays later.
Ridley finished with 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, while Vereen picked up 90 yards on nine carries and added 18 receiving yards on three catches.The ground game was truly a force for the Patriots, and this Instagram post from Saturday night proved to be prescient.
Special credit goes to the offensive line of Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer, who not only made all those rushing yards possible but also provided a pocket for Tom Brady in which to work. It was a major step in the right direction — and against a very tough defense, no less.
Earlier on Sunday, ESPN reported that Tom Brady was growing frustrated with the Patriots coaching staff and decision makers. The report went so far as to note that Jimmy Garoppolo was indeed drafted to replace Brady, and that switch could happen “sooner than later.”
He’ll never admit it, but it was obvious that he took the field looking to make a statement right from the get-go.
And he sure did make it. Loud and clear.
Brady took complete command of the game on the opening drive, connecting with Brandon LaFell for a 20-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. He later hit Tim Wright for a 30-yard gain, and the quarterback then broke character by deciding to scramble for a six-yard gain. Once the Patriots got inside the red zone, Brady called his own number for a QB sneak to convert a fourth-and-1, and he ran another sneak on the very next play for a short gain. He popped up while jawing at the linebackers, setting a tone that he was going to do what he wanted in this game.
On the second drive, he surpassed the 50,000-yard mark in career passing yards on a 27-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski, and he capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to Wright.
By the end of the night, Brady finished 23-for-35 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, but most importantly, he got a big fat victory.
Chances are, this week nobody will be talking about the chances of Brady being traded.
At long last, New England got to see what Revis Island looked like. And it looked pretty darn good.
When the game still could have gone either way, Revis limited A.J. Green to just two catches for 19 yards. And it was after that second catch when Revis ripped the ball free from the receiver, forcing a huge turnover in the final minute of the first half that allowed New England to tack on a field goal to stretch the lead to 17 points before the break.
Revis did allow a 35-yard reception by Green late in the third quarter, but the game was already in hand at that point with the Patriots leading 34-10.
Revis temporarily left the game with a hamstring problem, but he later returned.
He was everything he was advertised to be in this contest, making the opponent’s best receiver a non-factor.
So it wasn’t exactly New York Jets-level chaos, but this past week was still a rather tumultuous one for the Patriots. Between the blowout loss in Kansas City, the report of a spat between Aaron Dobson and Josh McDaniels, the “on to Cincinnati” press conference, Brady answering questions about him being washed up and reports about the possibility of the quarterback being traded, it was not your typical week at 1 Patriot Place.
So give credit to the future Hall of Fame head coach for keeping it all together, controlling his troops and proving that “Ignore The Noise” is more than just a catchphrase at Gillette Stadium.
“With all due respect,” the coach nonchalantly replied when asked if the win meant more considering some fans and media were criticizing the team, “I mean, really? Look, we’ve got a job to do, we’re focused on doing that job, and we don’t want to sit around and listen to what everybody else says.”
Extra Point: Brandon Bolden
The running back had just one carry for three yards during garbage time, but he proved his worth by forcing a fumble on a kickoff return by Brandon Tate. Bolden stuck his helmet right onto the ball, jarring it loose, and Kyle Arrington scooped up the loose ball and flipped into the end zone. It was a massive play in the game, as it gave the Patriots their second touchdown in six seconds which made a comeback a hopeless thought for the Bengals. A 20-10 game quickly turned into a 34-10 game, and Bolden deserves credit for making a play where few players do.
Going For Two: The Patriots Organization And Devon Still
The story of Devon Still’s daughter’s fight with cancer is well-known at this point, but the Patriots helped shed more light on it on Sunday night with a touching tribute in the third quarter. The Patriots cheerleaders wore Devon Still jerseys, and the team donated $25,000 in Leah Still’s name to the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center.
The cornerback’s return to the field was not all that glorious, as he was flagged twice for defensive holding on the same drive, leading to a second-quarter field goal from Cincinnati, and he was later trailing in coverage on Andy Dalton’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu. It wasn’t a disastrous game for Dennard, and the penalties might have been questionable calls, but it probably wasn’t what the cornerback had in mind heading into the game.
The safety is a key player on the New England defense, but he missed most of this contest with a rib injury. McCourty was able to remain on the sideline throughout the night, indicating the injury isn’t too serious, but if he does miss any time, the Patriots get a lot weaker at safety.
It’s hard to find too many faults in a 43-17 win, but the number of Patriots penalties jumps off the page when looking at the box score.
The Patriots were penalized 12 times for 114 yards, which is not exactly where the Patriots want to be. There were false starts, defensive holding, unnecessary roughness, intentional grounding and more.
That being said, let’s move on to the next “Down.”
Jerome Boger’s Crew
Some of the calls were correct. Some of the calls were awful. Sometimes, two different officials made two different calls on the same play. But ultimately, the impression that referee Jerome Boger and his crew gave to the viewing audience was that the officials did not have a great grasp on the football game. It made the first half interminably long, and it killed any flow from developing, making the game tough to watch.
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