The Bengals are 3-1, first in their division and tied for the best record in the AFC
Was it painful, frustrating and all too familiar to watch on Sunday night? Sure. But, as I said in my scouting report last week, this was one game and even with the loss, the Bengals control their destiny - 1st in the AFC North, Tied for the best record in the AFC (and they play Denver) and a half game up on New England.
Sometimes you are the bug. Sometimes you are the windshield.
Every team has a game where they simply don't have it. On Sunday night, not only did the Bengals not have it, the Patriots had some extra fuel in their tanks (as evidenced by the yellow flags on the field). Unfortunately it happened on national television...again.
The Bengals played a proud team in a difficult environment
Anyone who thought the beating the Patriots took last Monday night was not going to fuel them on Sunday night does not know the mindset and proud ego of an athlete - especially championship athletes. The Bengals are 100% better than the Patriots in talent, but the Patriots were embarrassed the week before and were tired of hearing how terrible they were.
That emotion showed right out of the gate. I picked the Bengals to win convincingly, but in hind sight, I am not sure anyone going to Foxboro last night stood a chance to win. Losing the way the Bengals did was frustrating, disappointing and embarrassing, but losing to the Patriots in Foxboro is nothing to be ashamed of.
Marvin Lewis's teams continue to look overwhelmed by big time games
Whether Marvin and his players like it or not, they have been nothing short of embarrassing in primetime/playoff games. The stats don't lie: 2-8 in primetime with Andy and AJ and 1-11 in primetime on the road under Marvin. The Bengals will hear about this until they win in the playoffs.
Winning on TNF against the Browns won't quash the talk and beating Denver seems unlikely. The Bengals, as they always have under Marvin, came out greatly underprepared and overwhelmed in a big game. Until they prove it wrong, the criticism is fair.
Marvin should not have deferred the kick
Usually I agree with deferring the kick, but given the turmoil surrounding the Patriots from the prior week and the fact that they have a 3 time Super Bowl winning QB and coach, why allow them to get the crowd into it? Take the ball, drive down the field and put up some points and get the crowd uneasy and booing the home team. Take the fight to them in that situation before they have the chance to grab the momentum.
The defense needs Vontaze Burfict
Without Burfict, the defense can hold their own against Joe Flacco, Jake Locker and Matt Ryan (behind a terrible line), but a QB like Brady, Manning, Brees, etc. will light them up.
Geno Atkins is a shell of himself right now
Players with ACL injuries generally do not regain their pre-injury form until one season removed from the injury, so I didn't expect the Geno Atkins of 2012 pre-injury. However, the fact of the matter is that the Geno Atkins of right now is an average DT at best.
The last time Atkins went 4 games without a sack was early in his rookie season and Atkins now has 0 sacks through the first 4 games and in fact, has barely been noticeable when on the field. His dropoff is felt even more with Brandon Thompson being out. Thompson is clearly the Bengals second best DT.
Domato Peko is not a starting DT
Peko is a great guy, fun to watch, great to have on the team and exciting at full back. What he no longer is, is a starting DT. With Peko starting next to a less than 100% Atkins and Burfict out, the Bengals are very susceptible to the run game.
Devon Still is not a starting DT
No one loves the Devon Still story more than me - lord knows we need more stories (and people) like Devon Still in the NFL - but, Still, like Peko, is not a starting DT at this point in his career. Still has his priorities right where they should be - with his daughter - but with Thompson out and Atkins at less than 100%, the Bengals are weak at DT. Still was a 2nd round pick and former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and eventually, I believe he will be a very good player, but right now he is not that player.
Emmanuel Lamur had a dreadful night
Up until Sunday night, it could be argued that Lamur was the Bengals defensive MVP to this point in the season. He had a dreadful night on Sunday. It started with what could have been a game tying pick 6, but Lamur dropped it and it seemed like he let it affect him the rest of the night.
Lamur was constantly being blocked out of plays, missing tackles, missing assignments and all around playing a terrible game. Lamur was in charge of getting the defense lined up and time and time again, the defense was not ready.
Reggie Nelson is still looking for a play he would like to be a part of
Nelson looked like he wanted no part of tackling or covering Gronkowski (or any Patriot) for that matter. This is rare for Nelson, but Sunday night was not a good night for Nelson.
There is no excuse why Adam Jones does not return every punt
Brandon Tate gives the Bengals nothing in the kick return game...and less than nothing from a punt return standpoint. In 7 punt return opportunities, Tate has 6 fair catches and 1 return (6 yards). In 5 punt return opportunities, Jones has 0 fair catches, a 23.6 average and 2 returns for 40+.
Rey Maualuga was the only defender that showed up to play
Make a note, I am complimenting Rey Maualuga. I thought the only player on the defense that looked like they showed up to play on Sunday night was Maualuga. On more than 2 occassions, I actually uttered "nice play" in regards to a play/hit made by Maualuga.
Brandon Tate serves zero purpose on this team and is more of a liability than anything
Brandon Tate returned 6 kickoffs out of the endzone on Sunday night and only once did he get past the 20 (25 yard line). To make matters worse, on one of those returns he fumbled and the fumble was returned for a TD, all but sealing the game. It is not the fumble that pissed me off about Tate.
It is his insistence of bringing the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs and not having the track record of making it worth it. Worse yet, Marvin defended Tate in his press conference on Monday. The only thing Tate should return for the Bengals is his playbook...and I bet he would be tackled before making it to Marvin's office.
Jermaine Gresham is not a villain...he is a highly paid poor catcher of the football
Recently Jermaine Gresham said he has finally "embraced" the role as the villain...I wish he would embrace the ball as much as he embraces his villain role. No player in Bengals history is more frustrating and disappointing than Gresham.
This is a former first rounder that has the size and raw athletic ability to be a Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but does not have the right mental makeup to be a dominant (or even good) TE. The disturbing part is that Graham and Gronkowski were drafted in the same draft as Gresham...way lower in the draft.
The TD pass Gresham dropped was a perfect pass by Dalton and would have made the game 14-7, a whole lot different than 14-3. Drops and penalties is what Gresham is known for, neither of which are a good thing.
AJ Green manages to escape all criticism for his mistakes
Andy Dalton is blasted for every misstep (especially in big games), many times even being criticized when he plays well - see Sunday night. But somehow, AJ Green, who has managed to come up very small in many big games as well, manages to always escape the criticism.
Green's fumble on Sunday night was a big play in that game and until Revis went out, Green found little success against a weak Patriots defense. Green has also had big time drops in the playoffs and other big games and although I love AJ Green, it is fair that he be criticized for his primetime failures as well...it isn't all on Dalton.
Dalton was not the reason the Bengals lost
There was a mountain of reasons the Bengals lost on Sunday night, but Dalton was not one of them (don't tell this to the Andy Dalton haters/trolls on twitter). Did he miss some throws? Sure. So did Brady. But he was 15/24 for 202 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers and a 117.4 rating. If not for 4 drops (by my count), his numbers would have been 19/24 (80%) for about 280 yards and 3 TDs (thanks Gresham). If your concern over Dalton was his ability to "show up" in big games, he showed up on Sunday night...but he was one of the only ones.
Sean Porter is made of glass
The Bengals must love this guy, because how else could you justify keeping him on the 53-man roster from week 1 despite playing 1 preseason game and being injured all of 2013. Porter missed all of 2013 with a pectoral injury, missed all of camp and preseason (essentially) and in his first real NFL game - ever - he tears his ACL on the opening kickoff. I feel for the guy, but I question why the Bengals kept him on the roster when he could never stay healthy.
The Patriots (especially Brady and Belichick) are not dead as the national media were foolishly touting last week
The Patriots heard their eulogy last week...and reminded everyone they are not dead yet. The talk all week was silly. In fact, I heard a reporter during the week ask Belichick if he was contemplating a QB change. That type of stupidity should cause the revocation of one's media credentials. It was the first time I ever saw Belichick laugh in a press conference - deservedly so. The Patriots have plenty of holes and are not the Patriots of the mid-2000's, but they (especially Brady and Belichick) are far from washed up and dead.
Primetime games count the same as any other game
Many fans and media alike want to make more of a primetime loss. It is one game. No more. No less. Yes, the Bengals at some point need to win on the big stage, but let's be honest, winning on primetime will not silence the questions surrounding this team. That can only be done by winning in January. I would take a loss every time on primetime in favor of a win in the playoffs and if you say otherwise, you are lying, stupid, or both.
The Patriots (and their fans) tribute to Leah Still was the utmost class and shows what a classy organization Robert Kraft runs
If you didn't get the chills watching the tribute to Leah Still on Sunday night, then you lack a heart. From the donation by the Patriots, the cheerleaders donning his jersey, the video and the support of the Patriot fans and players, the whole thing was moving and shows that there are good people in football. The Patriots and their fans showed was a classy bunch they are and should be proud. It is a shame the Bengals couldn't use the emotion of the tribute to catapult their play.