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Mulligans In Football: Bengals Need To Reset Season After 38-24 Loss To New England

You'd be right to say our defense failed miserably at mostly everything they attempted to do this Sunday and Bengals coordinator Mike Zimmer wasn't pleased. “The secondary played tentative. The defensive line played undisciplined and the linebackers made just enough mistakes. We missed so many tackles.” For the most part, Zimmer hoped that the front four would put pressure on Brady, nervous that the blitz would be greatly exposed, much like Aaron Hernandez's 45-yard reception where no one was covering him.

“I was ready to blitz,” Zimmer said. “A few times (Brady) saw it coming and he threw the ball to the outside and on a screen. They had a lot of different formations that weren’t real conducive (to blitzing). I was probably tentative on some of my calls. We had so much time to prepare and we put so many things in, I think we kind of forgot about doing what we do, which we’re good at."

They couldn't contain the Patriots rushing game allowing 5.1 yards-per-rush, they couldn't pressure Tom Brady and they couldn't cover Wes Welker -- then again, who can? Though we'd also be fools not to point out that there's a reason Brady is the highest paid quarterback in the NFL and Welker averages 115 receptions per season. This is status quo between the two.

Yet the Bengals were victims, once again, being as useful as pennies in a jar trying implant their own impressions on the game. They, the Bengals, specifically the defense, were taken for a ride, forcing only one punt. Fortunately, the Patriots were unable to really blow out the Bengals with enough time that saw the deficit eventually collapse to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

While the offense did recover some, likely enabled by a Patriots prevent-like defense, they were just as bad early on when the game mattered the most. In the first half, the Bengals would pick up two first downs during the team's first four possessions. Cedric Benson fumbled the football after New England took a quick 10-point lead. Even though they allowed only one quarterback sack, the Bengals offensive line allowed Carson Palmer to be hit at least six times during his epic 50-pass Sunday afternoon.

After another three-and-out after Benson's fumble, Carson Palmer targeted Tight End Jermaine Gresham on a crossing pattern. Linebacker Gary Guyton, after making initial contact with Gresham, swept underneath the pattern just as Palmer threw the football. One could argue that Gresham showed his youth, waiting for the football to reach him, rather than fighting for the pass. Either way, the pass shouldn't have been thrown and Carson knew it. "Just a bad decision," said Palmer. "A ball I shouldn’t have thrown and our team paid the price for my mistake. I can’t do that to our team."

The awful truth is that Cincinnati wasn't prepared. They couldn't figure out the Patriots offensive personnel packages, watching Brady dissect the Bengals defense, finding seven different receivers, always in progression of what the defense was allowing, including two big plays with two rookie tight ends. Aside from Geno Atkins and Frostee Rucker being credited with quarterback hits, Brady was virtually untouched throughout the contest thanks to a New England offensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage, while the Bengals had an assist of missing a shocking number of tackles.

All in all, the Bengals defense allowed 6.5 yards per play in the first game of the season. Last year, opponents recorded a six-yard average in three games against Houston, San Diego and Pittsburgh. When the defense allowed 20 first downs or more, the Bengals went 2-4. The Patriots recorded 20 first downs on Sunday.

Sure, Mike Nugent nailed a 54-yard field goal towards the end of the first half. But the Bengals special teams really wasn't that good, capped with a 97-yard kickoff return by Brandon Tate that gave New England a 31-3 lead. Adam Jones, Quan Cosby and Bernard Scott averaged 17.5-yards per kickoff return, with no one having a return of 20 yards or more. Scott averaged 31.5 yards on 16 returns last season. Kevin Huber had a nice day, averaging 46.3 yards on three punts, including a 57-yarder, but generally speaking, the Patriots starting field position started at their own 36-yard line.

Are we sounding the alarm, jumping off the wagon, calling the season a bust? Hardly. New England was clearly the better team, better coached, miles more prepared. Yet, we're Bengals fans. We've seen it all. We're tough and resilient. We might have our occasional breakdowns, but we always rebound soon enough. But if there is a mulligan in football to restart the season, the Bengals are already using it.

Jermaine Gresham enters the league. Early in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tony Gonzalez became the first Tight End in NFL history to record over 1,000 receptions. On the same day, the Bengals 2010 first round draft pick recorded his first career reception with 8:54 left in the second quarter.

Chad Reaches Milestone. With over 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Chad Ochocinco caught a 19-yard pass to put him over the 10,000-yard receiving mark for his career.

Opening Weekend Struggles. The Bengals always seem to struggle on opening weekend, with Marvin Lewis now sporting a 3-5 record during the first game of the season. And Cincinnati did lose last year, only to win seven of their next eight games.

Momentum is a bitch. About midway through the second quarter, the Cincinnati Bengals offense began moving the ball. With 8:58 left in the first half, Cincinnati's offense had recorded only 39 yards total and two first downs. They would go on to pick up 117 yards total and seven first downs to finish the first half, capped by a Mike Nugent 54-yard field goal.

The Patriots would move the ball in the closing minute of the half until Patriots place kicker Stephen Gostkowski's 56-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.

At this point, Chad Ochocinco went into the lockerroom to get an IV and Terrell Owens reportedly had to get something checked out. The offense lined up anyway at their own 46-yard line. Palmer heaved it down the left hashmark and Shipley recorded a 52-yard hail mary reception to the Patriots two-yard line as the first half ended.

Then, the first play of the second half, Brandon Tate returned the second half opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and a 31-3 lead. Game over.

Chad Ochocinco Scores 63rd Career Touchdown. It's nice that Chad Ochocinco recorded his 63rd career touchdown, tying Carl Pickens for most receiving touchdowns in franchise history. What's nice is that it happened when the Bengals were attempting to make a 28-point comeback. After the Bengals closed the deficit to 21 points and forcing the Patriots to punt, the Bengals finished a 12-play, 73-yard drive with a touchdown.

Chad, lined up wide left, sprinted past the secondary with a beautifully thrown ball by Carson Palmer that Chad hauled in with a dive into the endzone.

Jordan Shipley Makes His Mark. On third-and-11 with 11:24 left in the third quarter, Carson Palmer was searching for an open receiver while being pressured and nearly sacked. Able to get rid of the football, Palmer connected a pass to Jordan Shipley, leaping vertically about two yards past the line of scrimmage. With two defenders suffocating Shipley, jumping in the air with him, the wide receiver fought for the reception, hauling down the pass for a first down, continuing a drive that would give Cincinnati their first touchdown in the game.

Jermaine Gresham Makes His Mark. With 7:58 left in the third quarter, the Bengals lined up New England's one-yard line. Palmer, feeling phantom pressure, rolled out right. Domata Peko ran a quick out along the goalline, pulling linebacker Jerod Mayo with him. Gresham found a hole once Mayo vacated the middle, allowing Palmer to throw a pass to his right shoulder, cutting the Bengals deficit to 21 points.

First penalty. With 13:12 left in the third quarter, the Bengals committed their first penalty when Dennis Roland was called for a false start.

First Patriots Punt. With 5:25 left in the third quarter, Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko, arch-nemisis of Superman from the planet Krypton, kicked his first punt in the game.