You could almost see what happened yesterday coming from the beginning of the game.
Cincinnati's defense got to Tom Brady on the second play of the game, taking him down for an 8 yard loss and setting the tone for an afternoon where the Bengals defense spent the day disrupting an offense that is still in a weakened state. Better yet, they kept it on the sidelines as Cincinnati held the ball for 34-minutes, leaving Brady as a spectator and preventing him from ever having a chance to get into a rhythm.
They hit him early and often, and put the offense in long yardage situations on nearly every third down. They faced 3rd and 7 or more on 8 of their 12 third downs, with their only first down conversion coming on a 3rd and 3 just minutes into the second quarter (a 14-yard run by Brandon Bolden). On two of their short yardage situations, they sacked Brady for an 8 yard loss (a 3rd and 2 on New England's second drive), and forced an incompletion on a 3rd and one from the Bengals' one yard line in the fourth quarter, which was the only drive they even sniffed the end zone.
The execution just wasn't there, and despite getting Danny Amendola back in the line-up the Patriots looked worse on Sunday than they've looked all season, which sends them back to the drawing board on a week where they'll start preparing to face one of the most prolific offenses - and quarterbacks - in the league in Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
"It wasn't our best day execution[wise] today," said Brady after the game. "I thought we, we certainly had some opportunities there in the first half that we didn't take advantage of. We just had too many times where we...one negative play and [it] really took us out of field position. It just wasn't very good execution and hopefully... It's a very good defense, I give them a lot of credit, they put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of areas. So our execution needed to be really good and it just wasn't."
It certainly wasn't their best peformance, and of their 12 possessions, the Bengals held them to six or less plays on nine of them, with New England having only two drives all afternoon where they held the ball for longer than three minutes. On the other side the Bengals had three drives of over 10 plays, the final one delivering the knock out blow after Cincinnati put together a 14 play drive that began on their own three yard line, marching 97 yards for a one-yard touchdown run by former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to put the Bengals up 13-3 early in the fourth quarter.
The main reason why they couldn't get anything going was the Bengals' pass rush, which sacked Brady four times Sunday and registered an unbelievable eight quarterback hits. It had Brady struggling to look downfield and find an open man, and New England ended up with a lot of passes that were near misses because he couldn't step into the throws and put it where he needed to. The biggest came on New England's lone potential scoring drive where the normally reliable Julian Edelman couldn't quite haul in a pass in the end zone from Brady that was in his hands, but with a Bengals defender right on him, he just wasn't able to hold on.
"They've got a good rush," said Brady. "I said earlier in the week how capable all those guys are in rushing the quarterback and forcing you into some quick throws, throws you don't want to make and that's why they're a good defense. Because they rush, they cover, they've got good athletic linebackers, so you need to stay balanced against a team like that. Like I said, we had our opportunities, we just couldn't take advantage of them."
The worst part is New England squandered a strong performance by their defense, which was without Vince Wilfork yet still managed to hold the Bengals to just 13 points. Those are performances that New England needs to take advantage of, and this will likely be one of those games that they'll be frustrated that they let get away from them.
"Well, they've been playing great all year," Brady said of the defense after the game. "You can't kick two field goals and expect to win many games in the NFL. So we can do a lot better job than that. We're going to have to if we want to win these games. We just can't ... silly execution errors and mental mistakes ... it's hard to drive the ball down the field if you're always making mistakes."
Now they'll spend the week trying to pick up the pieces and start working on getting ready for New Orleans. The Saints are averaging over 26 points per game and will likely be the Patriots biggest test of the season defensively. However, Brady will also be going up against a defense led by coordinator Rob Ryan, who has the Saints sitting at number four in points-per-game. While the Patriots are now ranked number two in that category themselves, they're not going to win if they can't score. Hopefully they're able to fix that this weekend.
FIRST DOWN A PROBLEM FOR TOM BRADY SUNDAY:
One area that has been a problem for Brady this season has been his struggles throwing the football on first down. Coming into Sunday's game he had been 32-of-58, completing just 55% of his passes. Against Cincinnati he was just 5-of-17 (29%). They were in 2nd-and-10 on 10 of the 21 second downs they faced on Sunday, with one conversion from that distance. Brady talked about the lack of execution during the game, and that's certainly an area that was an issue Sunday.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
1) As pointed out by our friend Sean Glennon via Twitter on Sunday, yesterday's performance by Brady saw him eclipse the 46,000 yard milestone for his career, with Brady becoming only the ninth quarterback in NFL history to reach that mark.
2) Before yesterday Brady had never lost to Cincinnati, and had scored over 30 points during his four victories. Obviously they were no where near that yesterday. He's now 4-1 lifetime against them.
3) Ben Volin pointed out via Twitter yesterday that while Brady is no longer undefeated against the Bengals, he's still perfect against eight other NFL teams, including Atlanta (4-0), Chicago (3-0), Dallas (3-0), Detroit (3-0), Jacksonville (4-0), Minnesota (3-0), Philadelphia (3-0), and Tampa Bay (3-0).
4) He also pointed out that prior to Sunday the Patriots had lost every coin toss, and on Sunday not only did they win, they did something they haven't done since Week 1 of 2008, they elected to receive. That was the game where Brady tore his ACL, and they had deferred 38 straight times prior to yesterday.
5) Christopher Price of WEEI noted Sunday that the Patriots were held to their lowest point output since 2009 against the New York Jets, which was a 16-9 loss.
6) Considering the Patriots 1-for-12 performance on third down Sunday, it's hard not to notice another streak that came to an end. Coming into Sunday's game Brady had been a perfect 11-for-11 targeting wide receiver Julian Edelman in that situation, including 7 first downs and two touchdowns. On Sunday he was 0-for-2 looking his way. He had also been 7-of-8 to Amendola, with 7 first downs during their week one win in Buffalo, and was 0-for-1 this time around. Instead he was perfect throwing to Brandon Bolden in that situation, completing 5-of-5 passes, but only had one first down.
7) Aaron Dobson's 53-yard reception on Sunday was is now the longest pass play of the year for New England, eclipsing the 49 yard grab that Kenbrell Thompkins had last week in Atlanta.
8) The 28 yard 3rd quarter run by Bengals rookie Giovani Bernard was the longest allowed by the Patriots defense all season, and before that New England's defense hadn't allowed a rush by an actual running back longer than 13 yards all season, which came back in week one against the Bills. On Sunday they allowed two of 13 yards, including one by Green-Ellis on the Bengals' first offensive play of the game.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
ON FOOTBALL: Bengals' defense simply dominates Patriots - Ben Volin - Volin looks at yesterday's loss and writes that the final drive of the game let Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry know that he was in Tom Brady's head.
Tom Brady rues defeat, not end of his streak - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has his column this morning and writes that death, taxes, and TB12 touchdown passes were all certainties, until Sunday's loss.
Patriots tamed by Bengals in season's first loss - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young looks at Sunday's loss, as the Patriots fell short of being able to force overtime.
5 takeaways from the Patriots-Bengals game - Zuri Berry - Berry has his takeaways from Sunday's loss, and writes that offensive inconsistency is the new norm.
Belichick short of words after Patriots first loss - Zuri Berry - Berry writes that Belichick had little to say following Sunday's game, although he didn't mince his words either.
Bengals' Chris Crocker, teammates were in control - Mark Schmetzer - Schmetzer writes that all the Bengals heard all week was, "Tom Brady, Tom Brady," and they were frustrated that they weren't talking about them.
Play of the game: Bengals power play - Rory Glynn - Glynn looks at the Bengals' lone touchdown drive, where BenJarvus Green-Ellis pounded the ball in from the Patriots one yard line, delivering the knock out blow to New England Sunday.
Borges: Patriots get pushed around - Ron Borges - Borges has his column on yesterday's loss, and writes that yesterday's result is painfully similar to other games where when a dogfight breaks out, it's usually the Patriots who end up in the fetal position.
Danny Amendola yard shy in return - Rory Glynn - Glynn writes that Amendola's return was one of the only rays of sunshine for the Patriots on Sunday.
Tom Brady not so terrific - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that Sunday's performance by Brady has been so good for so long, that there's a certain expectation when he steps under center and he was no where near it Sunday.
Patriots notebook: Knee forces out Tommy Kelly - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with the knee injury to Tommy Kelly, which he writes Kelly will be "all right" after his injury scare on Sunday.
Tom Brady, Patriots offense drowned out in Cincinnati - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that Sunday's game resulted in a comeback they couldn't finish, mostly because they struggled all day to get anything started.
Best & Worst from Pats-Bengals game - Herald Staff - In this report the staff has a group of categories and has an interesting take on the game.
Rain to blame for a losing game - Chris Letourneau - Letourneau quotes Milli Vanilli's "Blame it on the rain", which he feels was relevant for yesterday's loss.
Brady, Patriots' offense knocked for loop - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at Sunday's loss and writes that the fact the Bengals were able to get after Brady early while also forcing turnovers left made it a rough afternoon for New England's offense.
Defense not satisfied with job well done - Field Yates - Yates has an article on the defense, which he writes despite a solid effort wasn't happy with how they played on Cincinnati's touchdown drive.
This time, Patriots' safe call on fourth-and-2 was telling - Mike Salk - Salk has a column on New England's 4th and two call on Sunday, and writes that it's a down and distance Patriots fans have become all too familiar with.
What we learned: Offensive inconsistency plaguing Patriots - Christopher Price - Price has his "What we learned" column for this week, and writes that the Patriots many not face a better defensive front all year.
Tom Brady Struggles More Than Receivers, Alfonzo Dennard Not Targeted Among Five Takeaways From Patriots-Bengals - Doug Kyed - Kyed has a good read this morning with his thoughts from yesterday, while noting that the Bengals didn't target a receiver who was matched up against Alfonzo Dennard Sunday.
LAWRENCE EAGLE TRIBUNE:
Message to Gronk: See you on Sunday? - Bill Burt - Burt writes that he's tired of seeing the Dunkin Donuts commercials for Rob Gronkowski and would like to see him get on the football field because his team really needs him.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
FARINELLA: Rain dampens Patriots' undefeated run - Mark Farinella - Farinella has his take on yesterday's loss, and writes that the carriage turned back into a pumpkin for the Patriots on Sunday.
Jim Donaldson: Pats' fans missing their points - Jim Donaldson - Donaldson ponders the good old days when the Patriots used to be able to score points, which was obviously a problem yesterday.