The Last “on to Cincinnati” game came over five years ago — time flies — when the Patriots’ dynasty was supposedly crumbling after a disappointing 2-2 start culminated with an embarrassing 41-14 beat down at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on prime time television.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t in the mood for panic on the Wednesday after that loss, so he answered questions about New England’s early-season woes, the team’s perceived lack of talent and Tom Brady’s age with “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
The Patriots trounced the Bengals 43-17 in their ensuing game, went on to win a Super Bowl, and they’ve captured two more titles since.
And since time is a flat circle, the Patriots are facing similar questions this week after getting beat by the Chiefs 23-16 at home last Sunday.
Here were the questions Belichick faced back in October 2014:
Q: Your team has been successful for so long. How difficult is it to adjust to the adversity of Monday night’s game and get back on track? This team and organization hasn’t had these sort of issues in the past.
Q: You mentioned Tom Brady’s age at the draft –
Q: Do you think having a 37-year old –
Q: Do you think the talent you have here is good?
Q: Do you think you’ve done enough to help Tom Brady?
Q: As you get ready for Cincinnati, does Tom Brady have the talent and protection around him?
Replace “37” with “42,” and aren’t those the exact same topics being discussed by sports radio hosts this week after the Patriots have dropped three of their last five games?
There’s an extra twist heading into this week’s matchup against the Bengals. Not only are the Patriots probably sick of losing after dropping two games in a row, but Cincinnati also Indianapolis Colts’d themselves on Sunday. The Bengals alerted the NFL after a Patriots TV production employee was discovered taping Cincinnati’s sideline from Cleveland’s press box last week during a game against the Browns.
It has turned out to almost certainly be an honest mistake and extremely unfortunate coincidence given its optics and the easy comparisons to Spygate. But now all week, Belichick has had to answer questions about a controversy that he’s said had absolutely nothing to do with the team’s football staff.
The Patriots are 10-3. The Bengals are 1-12. If there’s a game to get the Patriots’ offense going and the team back on track, you’d think it would probably come when panic is subsiding in New England and against a crappy team who reported a five-alarm fire over a cindering cigarette butt dropped in the middle of a desolate wet road.
Now the Patriots have to prove they really do have the talent for another “on to Cincinnati” game. That 2014 offense featured a healthy Rob Gronkowski, who went off for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. But it also saw Tim Wright catch five passes for 85 yards with a score. Stevan Ridley carried the ball 27 times for 113 yards with a touchdown. Julian Edelman only caught five passes for 35 yards that game.
So, yeah, the Patriots probably do have enough offensive firepower to turn it around if some ancillary contributors can get going. Edelman has been a machine this season, James White is coming on strong, and now someone else has to emerge out of Sony Michel, Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry.
It feels like it’s coming this week. And if it doesn’t, then maybe it’s not happening at all this year.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images