It was a tale of two halves in Foxboro, MA today as the Bengals could not overcome a huge deficit collected in the first two quarters and fell 38-24 to the Patriots.
As the Bengals opened the game looking unprepared and listless, Tom Brady led a blitzkrieg of points and big plays in building a 24-0 Patriot lead before anyone in stripes seemed to wake up. The supposedly formidable Bengal defense was carved like a tender Thanksgiving turkey, yielding chunks of yards while providing virtually no pass rush. The Pats didn’t even punt until midway through the 3rd quarter.
Meanwhile, the Bengals looked predictable and overly conservative of offense, with two consecutive 3-and-outs before gaining a faint spark late in the 2nd quarter that led to Mike Nugent’s impressive 54-yard field goal.
The Pats opened the scoring when Wes Welker caught a wide receiver screen lined up in a triplets formation with 2 tight ends and scooted into the endzone. The Bengal defense looked confused and out of position on the play, with only two defensive backs and no linebackers or safeties to help stop what ended up being an easy touchdown. After their next drive ended with Stephen Gostkowski’s 32-yard field goal, they got the ball again and this time Brady connected with Welker from four-yards out on a 3rd-and-goal. The Bengals challenged the ruling that the ball had broken the plane of the goal, but the call was upheld.
On the ensuing Bengals possession, Marvin Lewis finally took the handcuffs off the offense, and Carson Palmer began trying to air it out, but a pass intended for rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham ended up in the hands of LB Gary Guyton, who raced 59 yards down the Bengal sideline for a touchdown and a suddenly overwhelming 24-0 advantage. It appeared Gresham’s route wasn’t as sharp as it should have been, allowing Guyton the opportunity to undercut him for the ball.
At that point, the sleepy Bengals finally started to realize they were playing a game that counted. With nothing left to loose, and the reins finally removed, Palmer led a second consecutive drive into Patriots territory, this time ending in points with Nugent’s long field goal to momentarily stop the bleeding at 24-3.
With less than 2 minutes to go in the half and out of time-outs, the Patriots benefited from an excellent kick return and swiftly moved into field goal range, but Gostkowski’s 47-yard attempt sailed wide right with one tick left on the first half clock.
The Bengals offense came back out for a Hail Mary attempt to end the half. Palmer’s 51-yard heave was actually caught by WR Jordan Shipley, but the rookie from Texas couldn’t bull his way into the end zone from the one-yard-line, ending the half.
Much was, and will be made about the fact that both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens were unavailable for the play as the Ocho went in early for an IV and T.O. thought the half was over.
The half mercifully came to an end as the dejected and shell-shocked team was able to regroup in the locker room. As DT Domata Peko was quoted as saying, “At the end of the first half it was like we were deer in headlights.”
The second half started much the same way as Patriots WR Brandon Tate took the kick-off 97 yards to pay dirt and a 31-3 lead.
The Bengals finally went to a more aggressive no-huddle attack from that point, and had Bernard Scott in the game more with Jordan Shipley in the slot. The results were impressive and give the Bengals something to cling to for next week.
The Bengals dominated time of possession from that point forward, and outscored New England 21-7 down the stretch, but the game was decided when an on-sides kickoff failed and gave the Patriots the ball in Bengal territory with less than five minutes to go.
The Bengals will now fly back to Cincinnati and regroup for their home opener next Sunday against division rival Baltimore. Both Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer expressed extreme frustration at the loss and will no doubt have much to say in Monday’s film sessions. It certainly was not the start the team or the fans were expecting, and it had the air of an eye-opener for a team that was perhaps believing too much of their own hype.
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