Patriots vs. Bengals
WOW!!! For the Patriots, this game was pretty much a must win. Personally, I just wanted to see any form of improvement from them not necessarily a win. But, the amount of bull that the media was throwing around this week made this game a must win to silence the haters. Of course, as only the Patriots could do, they came out and put an absolute spanking to the then undefeated Bengals by 26 points. I thought the Patriots were going to bounce back and win, but not in this fashion. The Patriots thoroughly controlled the game right from the get go.
The first drive really set the tone for this team and this game. The Pats came out showing a bigger formation with Develin and TEs swapping in and out. They simplified the offense and finally got Hernandez 2.0 aka Tim Wright involved on a big pass play to set up Ridley's TD. From there, you could just feel it. The fire was burning inside them last night. Brady looked like a totally different player last night, like we wanted to be out there leading the team and running the offense. The offense made a concerted effort to stay under center and run the ball between the tackles into the tough Bengals D. This made throwing the ball much easier for them. The play action passes were working perfectly most of the night due to great balance and a commitment to the run.
The offensive line was an entirely different animal last night. They only allowed one sack, one QB hit and three tackles for loss. The run game shredded this Bengals D for 220 yards. There were open holes all night as Ridley ran for 4 yards a carry and Vereen sliced the D for 10 yards a carry. Brady had time to throw on many plays and was able to look like himself hitting his spots. Gronk looks really good. He may not be 100% healthy yet, but he's certainly close to it which adds so much this offense. It also looks like the Patriots have the 2 TE offense they love with the arrival of Wright last night. If this OL play can keep up, it will be very hard to slow down the Pats offense with these weapons coming together.
Then, we have the defense, or Revis Island I should say. What a job Darrelle Revis did on AJ Green last night. Yes the stat line will show you that AJ had 5 catches for 81 yards and TD but that's the quietest numbers you'll ever see. The entire first half Revis put Green on an island and held him to just one catch, on which he forced a fumble. Absolutely shut down. The Patriots defense FINALLY let loose and went man across the board last night and it paid off big time. Dalton had nowhere to go with the ball on many plays and forced balls into tight spots.
The Patriots front 7 played a very sound game, as they held star RB Gio Bernard to just 65 yards. We saw a pretty big change on Sunday night along the front 7. Chandler Jones, who struggled vs. the run last week, was used situationally on obvious passing downs and rookie Dominique Easley took his spot at LDE on most 1st and 2nd downs. I like the idea of this because Easley is a penetrator and he can set the edge on run plays with his jump off the line. This also takes Jones off the field for over 90% of snaps that he used to see, which will keep him fresher deep into games to be still an effective pass rusher. Another surprise was the play of #98 Walker who, I bet, nobody even heard of until last night when he was packing in the middle. Jamie Collins played his best game of the season last night as he seemed to be flying around the field all night making tackles. Getting Hightower back, hopefully soon, will only make this front 7 better and more diverse.
What a game it was for the Patriots in a must bounce back situation. They came out with some fire and intensity for once and imposed their will on the Bengals. The defense smothered them and the offense was firing on all cylinders. The Patriots finally looked like the team I expected to see from the beginning of the season. Hopefully they don't slow down at all and the injury plague doesn't come again. This team has the talent to be great and finally looks like it can reach its potential. As long as Revis Island is healthy you can expect this every week in my opinion.