Yes, the Bengals were playing on national television on Sunday, on the road, and against the proud Bostonians coming off a blowout loss at Kansas City. And yes, the Bengals were without Vontaze Burfict.
However, the Patriots ran all over Cincinnati because their run defense is bad, and Football Outsiders ranked them 30 in DVOA rush defense after 5 weeks.
DVOA is a Football Outsiders method to "measure a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on a situation and opponent", and it is a better way to determine how good or bad a unit is because it is adjusted to the strength of the rivals faced, and Cincy's looks bad.
The team combined for 10 missed tackles. The only truth, as we have already discussed here on CincyJungle, is that we should be worried because this run defense's issues go beyond having to play in front of the entire country on Sunday Night Football in Foxboro, and we are going to the tape to take a close look at them.
Over the beginning of the season (and with one week of rest already) Cincinnati has given up 560 yards on the ground at an average of 5.0 yards per carry, 4th-worst in the NFL. That means the opponents are getting 140 rushing yards per game, only better than 5 other teams.
The Bengals are also in the bottom of rushing 1st downs given up with 36, and dead last in 1st down % with 31,9% (Seattle's league leading number is 13,7%).On Sunday Paul Guenther's defense allowed 220 yards against a team that before the game was in the bottom pack of the NFL on rushing offense.
Let's go to the second play of the game, where Ridley gets 9 yards up the middle very easily. The fullback is going to take Maualuga, so it seems like Vinnie Rey would get a clear look at the running back.
No, he does not. Right guard sees one man is enough to contain Peko and gets quickly there to block Rey, opening a massive lane inside.
As you can see here this is clearly a poor job by Peko. Rey, who struggled against the run in Week 1, also takes a bad look (more on that coming), going to Maualuga's side, where his opponent only has to push him, making the offensive lineman's life easy.
Atkins is very close to getting there, but Cincy needs way better production from their other defensive tackles to stop the run.
Next play, on 2nd & 1, a short run designed to get the first down actually gains 7 yards up the middle and the interior defensive line looks bad again, topped by another bad choice by Rey.
The offensive line has pushed Peko and Atkins back enough to move the chains, and it looks like he has nowhere to go as Lamur and Rey are there in the gaps, right?
So there you have Rey attacking the maul instead of hitting the gap, which is precisely what the running back is looking at. The linebacker brings him down, but the lane to the right end around Newman was open for a big gain. And again the Bengals were in 4-3 formation.
In the next screenshot, there's another play where you'd think the back has nowhere else to go and would be happy to get a couple of yards at best.
Alright then. Ridley gets 8 yards and the first down, making two Bengals players (Maualuga and Newman) miss on his way out. Here's another look of this play.
And I am sure everybody remembers that run for 15 yards that almost goes for a first down on 3rd & 16 by Vereen up the middle. Bengals had a great look at stopping the play way shorter than that, but Geathers lets the running back go.
Later on in the second quarter, we see a bad alignment by the Bengals defense that opted for the nickel formation against the tight end-less I-formation. New England is going to run up the middle with their supremacy in the box (6 vs 6) and will get 11 yards.
The fullback takes on Peko, leaving the center and left guard free to block the linebackers in the second level, while Hall is busy with one of the wide receivers.
Two plays later, the Pats go no huddle and catch the Bengals defense off guard for a gain of eleven off the shotgun formation. Vinnie Rey goes to his left when he sees Grontkowski aligned tight on that side, and he reacts late as New England strikes again the middle of the nickel formation with this inside cut by Vereen.
This is the big lane the Pats' offensive line opened for the back, who 'only' gained 10 yards here.
Belichick had great success running plays out of this 2TEs, 2RBs 1 WR formation, with Bengals paying more attention to the tight ends as receivers and letting the fullback make his blocks count against a 6-men box. And this play was with Cincinnati trying to pull a comeback trailing 20-10 after a Dalton to Sanu touchdown. New England pulls the right guard to block Rey and Lamur does not hit the gap, so there is a lane wide open to the back's right side.
Lamur should have hit the gap and Rey stayed put to stop the cut, but they didn't and Vereen gained 14 yards and reached the CIN-29.
As the tape has showed, the Bengals missed Burfict dearly, but there's also more issues that should be dealt with, like the lack of production of the defensive tackles, the inability to contain the run off the nickel formation and all the missed tackles, getting torched inside easily and often.