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Monday, October 7, 2013

All of New England's Problems Come To the Surface In Ugly Loss To Bengals

We all knew that the Patriots' 4-0 start this season was more a product of a favorable schedule than the makings of a powerful team. Still, it was disconcerting to have all those fears realized this afternoon at Cincinnati's (3-2 overall, 3-0 home) Paul Brown Stadium where the Bengals survived for a 13-6 victory over New England (4-1 overall, 2-1 away).

Former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis (67 yards rushing) recorded this slopfest's only touchdown-a 1-yard run up the gut in the fourth quarter-where Vince Wilfork would have been-and New England's struggles on offense, particularly in the Red Zone or tough situations continued. This being the Bengals though, they weren't content to seize the game so instead they kept giving New England second and third chances (dumb penalties, bad clock management), but Tom Brady (18 of 38 for 197 yards, 1 INT) couldn't take advantage as he had one of his worst performances in recent years.. Adam Jones picked him off on a terrible deep ball to end it.

Danny Amendola (4 catches, 55 yards, 9 targets) returned but he was predictably rusty with a couple key drops. With no Stevan Ridley, LaGerrette Blount got the chance to be the top running back but he flopped gaining 51 yards on 12 carries but also losing a fumble (a tribute to Ridley?) that caused him to be briefly benched.

That wasn't even the worst turnover of the game as Andy Dalton (20 of 27 for 212 yards, 1 INT) threw across his body, easily picked off by Brandon Spikes (12 tackles, 7 solo, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass deflected) in New England's red zone. Cincy also lost a fumble when rookie Giovani Bernard (62 yards rushing) got popped by Devin McCourty and Jerod Mayo (11 tackles, 7 solo, half a sack, 1 pass deflected and 1 quarterback hit) recovered it.

After a scoreless first quarter (when does that ever happen in today's NFL?), the teams traded field goals. Mike Nugent hit from 39 and Stephen Gostkowski received a gift-a 42-yard kick thanks to three straight runs and a punt by the Bengals right before halftime. Nugent's 50-yard field goal in the third were the only points in the frame. By the time Green-Ellis rumbled in from a yard out early in the fourth, I felt like a two-score deficit to overcome given New England's offensive struggles and Cincinnati's excellent defense was too much to ask for.

Gostkowski's 19-yard field goal provided the final points as the Patriots couldn't punch it in and took the points instead. A scary moment for the Pats occurred when Tommy Kelly went down with an apparent knee injury when he was chasing Dalton and nobody touched him. The good news was that he returned to the game shortly thereafter.

New England will have its hands full on Sunday (4:25, Fox) as they play one of the three remaining unbeaten squads in the NFL: Saints (5-0) at Gillette Stadium.

UPDATE 10/8: Yesterday the Pats re-signed Marquice Cole and waived the Kannoris Davis and Ja'Gared Davis. There are two open spots on the practice squad with their names on it.

UPDATE 10/9: The Davis brothers (just kidding, they're not related but they might as well be) were re-signed to the practice squad) and New England signed defensive tackle Andre Neblett to the 53-man roster.

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