FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots offense did few things that made sense during the first half of Saturday’s 22-18 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Never was that more true than during a bizarre sequence in the closing seconds of the second quarter.
After Joe Burrow and the Bengals took a 22-0 lead, New England got the ball back on its own 25-yard line with eight seconds left on the clock. A Mac Jones kneeldown and long walk to the locker room seemed inevitable.
But then the Patriots called a short slant pass to Jakobi Meyers that went for 11 yards. Bill Belichick immediately called a timeout with four seconds left.
A deep pass with hopes of drawing a penalty perhaps? Maybe some lateral-filled razzle-dazzle to try and get a miracle touchdown, despite what happened last Sunday?
Nope. Jones lined up and … took a knee. Half over.
What was the point of all of that? Belichick was asked that question during his postgame news conference.
“See what happened, see how much we gained on that play,” Belichick said. “In the end, didn’t feel like it was much we could do there.”
It still doesn’t make any sense.
Meyers isn’t known for his run-after-the-catch ability. That play had little chance of gaining significant yardage. Plus, it put Meyers, who’s been dealing with a concussion and shoulder injury, in a position to potentially get hurt on a meaningless play.
Regardless of what Belichick says, the end-of-half sequence defied explanation.
The Patriots eventually put together a spirited comeback attempt and even had a chance to take a lead in the final minute. But a controversial Rhamondre Stevenson fumble effectively ended the game — and perhaps New England’s hopes of making the playoffs.
The Patriots still have an outside shot at earning a spot in the postseason, but they can’t do it without first beating the Miami Dolphins at home next Sunday.