The New England Patriots’ Week 15 win over the Cincinnati Bengals almost served as a reset button after consecutive losses to the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.
All is back to normal after the Patriots smoked the Bengals 34-13 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, and perhaps it could give the team a boost of confidence as they head into the stretch run against the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins before the postseason.
New England did clinch a playoff berth Sunday. It will win the AFC East as long as it finishes with the same record as the Bills. A win over Buffalo on Sunday would clinch it a week early.
All stats via Pro Football Focus.
QB Tom Brady completed 15-of-29 passes for 128 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Of Brady’s 14 incompletions, four passes were dropped, two were thrown away and one was batted at the line of scrimmage. Brady had a 73.1 accuracy rate.
Brady was 0-for-2 on deep passes. He was 4-of-8 for 25 yards while under pressure and was just 2-of-9 for 12 yards on play action.
RB James White, WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Julian Edelman and RB Sony Michel all dropped passes.
Brady has the fourth-highest drop rate among qualified quarterbacks this season. He’s tied for first with most total dropped passing attempts. Brady hasn’t been phenomenal this season, but he’s also receiving the least help from his receiving corps.
The 42-year-old did garner help from rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry, however. Harry was perhaps Brady’s most dependable receiver Sunday, catching two passes on three targets for 15 yards with a touchdown.
WR N’Keal Harry: 7 yards after contact per attempt, forced missed tackle
RB Rex Burkhead: 6.83 yards after contact per attempt, two forced missed tackles
RB Sony Michel: 3.68 yards after contact per attempt, two forced missed tackles
RB James White: 2.67 yards after contact per attempt, two forced missed tackles
— The Patriots had their best overall rushing game of the season, gaining 175 yards on 32 carries.
— Burkhead had a long carry of 33 yards for a touchdown.
— Offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, right guard Shaq Mason and fullback/linebacker Elandon Roberts graded out well as run blockers.
— Harry was impressive as a ball-carrier as well as a receiver.
LT Isaiah Wynn: clean
LG Joe Thuney: one hurry
C Ted Karras: clean
RG Shaq Mason: hurry
RT Marcus Cannon: two sacks, QB hit, three hurries
TE Matt LaCosse: two QB hits, hurry
— TE Ben Watson, Michel, White, Burkhead, RG James Ferentz and LB/FB Elandon Roberts all were clean in pass protection.
— Karras played very well in his return from a one-week knee injury.
— From a pass protection perspective, this was Wynn’s best game of the season.
LB Kyle Van Noy: four hurries
DE Deatrich Wise: QB hit, hurry
LB Jamie Collins: two hurries
DT Lawrence Guy: hurry
DT Danny Shelton: hurry
LB John Simon: hurry
LB Dont’a Hightower: hurry
FS Duron Harmon: hurry
— Van Noy only rushed the quarterback 19 times. He had a high pass-rush productivity rate on the day.
— Collins only rushed 13 times.
— Adam Butler rushed 21 times without a single pressure.
SS Terrence Brooks: three catches on four targets for 37 yards
CB JC Jackson: 4-7, 29 yards, two INTs, PBU
SS Patrick Chung: 2-3, 24 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 2-6, 24 yards, two INTs, PBU
LB Dont’a Hightower: 2-2, 16 yards
CB Jonathan Jones: 2-2, 12 yards, TD
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 1-2, 8 yards
LB Jamie Collins: 1-1, 1 yard
— Both of Jackson’s interceptions came on deep passes by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. He’s been unbelievable throughout his NFL career at defending deep balls.
— Jackson (28.6) and Gilmore (32.8) are first and second in the NFL among cornerbacks in passer rating allowed.
— Jones went down with a groin injury late in the game. That’s an injury to monitor with Jason McCourty also nursing a groin ailment.
DT Danny Shelton: three stops
DT Adam Butler: three stops
DE Deatrich Wise: two stops
CB JC Jackson: two stops
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: two stops
LB Kyle Van Noy: stop
DT Lawrence Guy: stop
LB John Simon: stop
LB Chase Winovich: stop
LB Elandon Roberts: stop
SS Terrence Brooks: stop
LB Jamie Collins: three stops, two missed tackles
LB Dont’a Hightower: missed tackle
CB Stephon Gilmore: two missed tackles
— The Patriots struggled against the run, allowing 164 yards on 32 carries. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Bengals running back Joe Mixon “probably is the best back in the league. He runs so hard. He’s so hard to tackle.” That’s obviously very high praise.
— Shelton, Roberts and Bentley caused a fourth-down stop by stuffing Mixon for no gain midway through the second quarter. That seemingly was the turning point in the game. The Patriots tied the game on their ensuing possession, later gained the lead and never gave it up.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.