It may sound silly to panic over a team that’s 4-1, but that’s where we’re at with the New England Patriots.
The Patriots lost their first game of the season to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, 13-6. It was, statistically speaking, their worst offensive showing since Week 14 of the 2006 season when the Miami Dolphins shut them out.
You have to give credit to the Bengals tough defense on Sunday, limiting Tom Brady to under 200 passing yards and Patriots running backs LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden to a combined 75 rushing yards on 17 carries.
But let’s be honest, the Patriots offense hasn’t looked right since Week 1, and it hasn’t looked worse than it did on Sunday. What we learned in the loss:
Punt, Punt, Punt.
The Patriots had 12 drives against the Bengals, eight of which ended in a punt (three of which that were a three-and-out). Their first six drives of the game ended without a point on the scoreboard, as New England didn’t get its first points until a field goal with seconds remaining in the first half. Why so many punts? Take a look at the Patriots' third-down efficiency for your answer: 1-for-12. The Pats didn’t establish a run game as Stevan Ridley was inactive for the game, and Brady and his receivers (Danny Amendola included) weren’t effective enough. Cincy clamped down on defense when it had to, including . . .
. . . the Patriots’ blown chance at a touchdown from the 1-yard line. Fresh off a Bengals TD to go up 13-3, Brady wasted no time trying to answer. He found Aaron Dobson for 56 yards and then Amendola on the next play to give the Pats a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. After a Blount rush for no gain, Brady missed Nate Solder (yes, Nate Solder) on second down and Julian Edelman couldn’t hold onto it on third down. Bill Belichick elected to kick a field goal, and the hugely missed opportunity would come back to bite the Patriots on their final drive, when they got into field goal range but needed a touchdown to tie things up.
Defense shows up again
It’s official: The Patriots are now a defense-first team. While it may seem that way by default, the defense has done more than enough to earn praise. That goes for Sunday too. According to ESPN, before Sunday, the Patriots had won 63 straight games when allowing 13 points or fewer, dating back to 2001 against the Jets. The one touchdown they gave up came on Cincy’s fourth-down try from the 1-yard line – something Belichick didn’t have enough trust in his offense to try.