Bengals Use Balanced Effort To Hand Patriots First Loss
By Joe Sorensen
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady had thrown a touchdown in 52 consecutive games, until he played the Cincinnati Bengals this week. A stiff pass defense by the Bengals had the Patriots searching for answers all day. While Brady’s streak ended, the Bengals kept their own impressive streak alive. It has been 19 consecutive games since the Bengals have allowed an opposing quarterback to throw more than 300 yards in a game.
Brady and his group of receivers were unable to find any openings in the tough Cincinnati defense. Brady (197 yards and an interception), who completed only 18 of his 38 pass attempts, was only able to lead his offense to 248 total yards – a far cry from the 343 yards per game the team has averaged so far this season. Steady defense in the secondary was supplied by CBs Leon Hall, Terrence Newman, and Adam Jones, who refused to let the receivers get open.
A steady pass rush by the Bengals’ front seven forced Brady and the offense into several mistakes. Along with four sacks, the defense forced four fumbles and a key interception by Jones, which sealed the game in the final seconds. So far this season, the defense is seventh in points per game allowed (17.4) and eighth in total yards per game allowed (316.8).
This top-10 defense got just enough from their struggling offense to get the win. With two running backs fighting for time and a quarterback that has struggled as of late, the team did just enough to get by. RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (67 yards and a touchdown) and rookie GIovani Bernard (62 yards) have been unproductive for several games and this was a rare sighting so far this season. Green-Ellis’ touchdown in the fourth quarter put the team up for good.
In the passing game, QB Andy Dalton (212 yards and an interception) has been relying more on the short to intermediate throws to get the ball to his receivers. There is no sense of urgency to get the ball down the field for the big play anymore. This style appeared to benefit the tight ends this week, as Jermaine Gresham (four catches, 24 yards) and rookie Tyler Eifert (five catches, 53 yards) appeared to have an impact against the Patriots’ defense. This style is going to hurt the game of Pro-Bowl WR A.J. Green. In the short passing game, Green only gained 61 yards on five catches. Green’s numbers have dropped since the beginning of the season due to Dalton’s inability to get the ball down the field.
Looking ahead, the defense has shown they can keep up with two of the best offenses in the league during wins against Patriots and the Green Bay Packers. While the defense continues to succeed this season, the offense has hit a wall. The team failed to produce a play longer than 28 yards. This happened twice, once on a pass to Eifert and the other via a run by Bernard. Other than that, there have been no big plays. Perhaps next week’s encounter with the Buffalo Bills will provide Dalton a chance to take some shots down field to exploit a weak defense. A lack of big-play capability will hinder the team’s success if they get in a shootout with a high-powered offense, especially in the playoffs.