Tom and I sealed Monday's game with some quick thoughts.
|Josh (Cincy Jungle)||Tom (Pats Pulpit)|
|It was over when...|
...when the Bengals punted on the first drive of the second half. The drive before that, late in the first half, Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson miscommunication on an interception to close out the first half. Not only did the Bengals offense ruin a scoring opportunity, but that's about the time the supposed selfishness and arguing began.
A potential 14 point swing could have given the team the lead. Instead, zero points and a touchdown allowed later.
|... Lemar Marshall ruptured his Achilles tendon on the second play of the game. Cincinnati's came into the game with just four healthy linebackers, and they would have had enough problems. While it took a while for the Patriots to impose themselves, the loss of Marshall doomed the Bengals. At no time was that more clear than New England's 12-play drive through the middle of the second quarter when Sammy Morris carried the ball nine times for 39 yards and the Patriots never found themselves in a situation worse than 3rd-and-1 until the last play of the drive.|
|The Patriots offense was ...|
...efficient and balanced as hell. The Patriots called 32 passing plays against 30 rush attempts (not including 4 by Cassel and Brady). They converted 58% of their third down attempts and dominated time of possession (37:24-22:36).
In the second half, the Bengals defense was simply worn down, defeated and very undersized.
|... opportunistic. They took advantage of everything the Bengals gave them. Know Cincy's defensive injury situation and that New England had two pass blockers sitting out, it was no surprise the Patriots would test the Bengals rushing defense at some point. After opening with varied success passing, New England simply ran the ball until Cincinnati's defense was worn down. Mixing the pass back in, there was little the Bengals could do to eliminate enough of New England's options to slow them down.|
|The Bengals offense was...|
... inconsistent. While they could move the ball against underneath coverages, the Patriots had at least one guy sitting 20 yards deep to eliminated Chad Johnson's seam routes. The rushing game was somewhat abandoned early after the team experimented with an uncharacteristic conservative offense.
Sadly, outside the three (T.J., Chad, Palmer) no one stepped up either. And even Chad showed that he lacks the attribute of rising during a must-win game like the conclusion of 2006. He simply does not show up when he must show up.
|... simply ineffective. It's difficult to say whether Rudi Johnson would have made much of a difference. Most teams will find it very hard to run on New England's defense. Either way, with the running game neutralized, the Patriots were able to focus on covering Cincinnati's most dangerous receiver (Chad Johnson, obviously) and took away the Bengals big-play capability. Carson Palmer had no trouble finding T.J. Houshmandzadeh open all over the field, but Cincy couldn't move the ball according to their game plan, and they didn't seem to have a fallback. I thought Palmer would spread it around more. I'm not sure if he doesn't trust his other receivers or if the Patriots coverage was just that good.|