Patriot’s Report Card: Week 5
As the rain continued to fall Sunday in Cincinnati, so too did the Patriots’ undefeated record. The weather might have been the only thing sloppier than New England’s play as they fell to 4-1 while only scoring six points against the strong Bengals defense. The young guys the team has been getting by with were unable to do enough while battling the elements and a team that has been in the playoffs each of the last two years. The poor field position for the team early on also hindered the offense’s ability to get into a rhythm and unfortunately set the tone for much of the game while negating another solid effort put forth by the defense.
Tom Brady – C-: Even in the less than favorable conditions, the Patriots still threw the ball 38 times on Sunday as opposed to running it just 18 times. Tom Brady completed just 18 of those passes (47.4 percent), his lowest completion percentage in a game since a Monday night win over the Ravens in Week 13 of 2007. He had a QBR under 20 and a passer rating under 55 while continually being unable to find a grip on the ball. His decision to throw what turned out to be his final pass of the game up for grabs (on first down no less) was not one of his smarter moves. We know Brady can perform in bad weather, but on Sunday, he failed to do so.
Running backs – C-: With Stevan Ridley out, the Patriots tried to attack primarily with the pass, but with the bad weather, I thought they should have relied more on the run than they did (just 18 attempts). They managed just 75 yards on the ground, however, between LeGarrett Blount and Brandon Bolden with Julian Edelman adding seven more. Also, as they were needed in the receiving game with Rob Gronkowski out and Danny Amendola not at his best, Bolden had a couple of drops, including one on the final drive. Blount’s fumble also led to the Cincinnati TD in the fourth. New England running backs picked up just three first downs on the day.
Wide receivers – C: When a running back leads the team in receptions, something is probably wrong. Amendola had just four catches and Kenbrell Thompkins only had three for 16 yards, including more juggling to haul the wet ball in. The drops, despite the conditions, were too many and too costly and though they didn’t lose any, both Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman put the ball on the ground once apiece. Maybe they should have been running routes more conducive to the weather – I don’t know – but the execution was not there on Sunday especially with Cincinnati’s top corner, Leon Hall, out. Going 1-for-12 on third down certainly didn’t help.
Tight ends – C: One reception for two yards. Only 82 yards rushing. It’s pretty much as if there may as well not be a tight end on the field until Rob Gronkowski gets back. Brady just does not seem to want much to do with them. The stats from Sunday’s loss reflect just that. Basically, it’s a moral victory for Brady and the offense if the tight ends stay out of the way and don’t get called for any holds, which they did not as the team had a penalty-free day.
Offensive line – D+: Brady was sacked four times in the game – pretty high for this group of what by now is pretty much all veterans. They were responsible for drive-killing sacks on each of the team’s first two drives, which did not help Brady and the boys find any rhythm. There was not much room to run as evidenced by the rushing totals and the O-line was outworked and outmuscled a number of times by the strong defensive line of the Bengals, including Geno Atkins getting a sack on Brady before No. 12 even turned his head around.
Defensive line- C: With Vince Wilfork out, it was up to the young guys to at least marginally disrupt the dual-threat rushing attack the Bengals feature with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. Early on, especially, they did not do so at all as Cincy ran the ball on each of its first five plays from scrimmage. They finished the day with 162 rush yards allowed, which would have the Bengals as the second-best rush offense in the league per game. Green-Ellis scored the winning touchdown from a yard out in the fourth quarter and they could not get off the field either as Cincinnati possessed the ball for almost 10 more minutes on the day. One bright spot for the front four was the 3.5 sacks they were responsible for on the day.
Linebackers – B: The linebacking group played all right Sunday as they combined for 25 tackles and were at the heart of the Bengals’ two turnovers. Jerod Mayo had double-digit tackles again as well as a fumble recovery and Brandon Spikes played much better (and much more) while coming up with a huge interception. The group played a large role in holding the Bengals to field goals before allowing the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. The defense, a lot of times, starts with the linebackers and, more often than not, surrendering only 13 points is enough to win a game.
Secondary – B+: I thought the secondary was the best unit on the field for the Patriots and debated giving them an A for the day. Aqib Talib, who is playing great of late, did very well on A.J. Green, arguably the second-best receiver in the game. I’ll take Green having five catches for 61 yards any day as we all know what the third-year pro is capable of. Devin McCourty led the way with 12 tackles and Andy Dalton finished the day well under 300 yards passing with his longest completion going for just 28. If there was a strong spot on the field Sunday, it was the secondary.
Special teams – B-: Leon Washington’s indiscretion running out the opening kick from the back half of the endzone and getting cut down well before the 20 was not the brightest move, but luckily didn’t set a tone for the rest of the day. McCourty did quite well in relief of him as well. Then there was Edelman fumbling a punt though he did put up decent return yardage on the day. On the other side of the ball, the punt coverage allowed just 17 return yards for Cincy while Ryan Allen averaged over 40 yards per kick on eight boots. Stephen Gostkowski was 2-for-2 on field goals and only allowed one kick to be returned, so all in all, it was a pretty solid day for the special teams.
It was no doubt a tough go of it for Brady and the offense on Sunday and they will have to be at their best next week as the undefeated Saints come to town.
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