Calm down. Everything will be OK.
This may come as a surprise to fans of the New England Patriots, but NFL teams lose on occasion. And occasionally, they lose ugly and their quarterbacks can’t seem to complete a pass.
That’s what the Patriots suffered through on Sunday afternoon when they couldn’t move the ball on Cincinnati’s stout defense. It should probably be mentioned that New England was without their top offensive weapon and their No. 1 and 2 running backs.
To think that did not affect the offense would be insane. Now, that’s not to say the Patriots will start looking like the 2007 version of their team once Rob Gronkowski and Stevan Ridley are back, or that they will look as solid as they did against Atlanta’s porous defense in Week 4, but they will get better.
Atlanta was a test for the defense. They passed, even if it was not with flying colors. Cincinnati was a test for the offense. They did not pass.
The offense struggled all game. From the very get go, Tom Brady struggled, overthrowing his receivers. The offensive line did not do a great job stopping the Bengals’ pass rush, and they had a tough time opening holes for LeGarrette Blount, who doesn’t accelerate off the handoff nearly as well as Ridley. Blount’s fumble did not help matters nor did the numerous dropped passes by New England’s receivers.
Let’s just get it out of the way now, too. The rain could not have come at a worse time. The defense stopped the Bengals’ offense on third-and-two and the sky opened up. Brady could not get a grip on the ball, and no matter how hard the Bengals tried to get the Patriots back into game, the Patriots’ couldn’t get in the end zone.
Brady’s final pass wobbled and fell in midair like a wounded duck. Kenbrell Thompkins was double covered anyway. He’s a physical player, but it’s unfair to put a rookie receiver in a handicap match in just his fifth career game.
The rain wasn’t to blame for the Patriots’ loss, but it affected the outcome. Still, New England should have had more than three points at the half and they should have had more than six before the two-minute warning.
The Patriots’ best chance to score came with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Blount got the drive started with a six-yard carry. Then Brady threw one of his few strikes of the game downfield to Aaron Dobson, who tried to weave his way down the field through Cincinnati’s secondary to the end zone. The path he took to score was less than ideal. His blocking could have been better, too.
So, what should have been a touchdown wound up being a 53-yard play that the rookie nearly gave up on a fumble. Brady hit Danny Amendola on a 16-yard pass on the next play, but Amendola did not have the field awareness to roll into the end zone before he was hit.
Then, Blount got thumped at the goal line, Brady overshot Nate Solder, who was being held on the play, and Julian Edelman dropped a pass in the end zone. The Patriots settled for three.
If they had known the rain was going to affect the game later on, they may have tried to score on fourth down at the one-yard line. Bill Belichick is a lot of things, though, but he can’t tell the future.
But Gronkowski will be back. And so will Ridley and Shane Vereen. And Amendola will continue to get healthier and the rookie receivers will continue to improve.
If everyone gets and stays healthy, the Patriots will have an impressive array of offensive targets. At 4-1, it’s not time to panic yet. But the next time the offense faces a challenge against a top defense, they’ll need to pass, even if it’s not with flying colors.