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Bengals vs Patriots: What they’re saying about the Bengals’ second half collapse

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Gauging national reactions to the Bengals falling apart against the Patriots.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals are finally ready to move on from the extremely tough six-game stretch to start the season. Despite a pair of games against struggling teams like the Dolphins and Jets, the Bengals have had a very tough schedule against playoff contenders like the Steelers, Broncos, Cowboys, and Patriots. The problem is, the Bengals only managed to beat the two struggling teams, yet were flat out beaten by all four playoff contenders.

Luckily, the Bengals’ AFC North competition has been struggling lately, so the 2-4 start isn’t necessarily a death sentence with the schedule easing up from here on out. The Bengals still play the Ravens twice, the Browns twice (including once this week) and have a chance to take a game back when they host the Steelers in Week 15.

They will need some help from the Steelers’ opponents to turn their chances of winning the division around. But, the recent injury to Ben Roethlisberger might slow down the Steelers and help the Bengals’ standing in the division, if they can turn things around starting in Week 7, and get back to their winning ways.

Unfortunately, that isn’t, by any means, what happened on Sunday in Foxborough against the Patriots. It was a tale of two halves as the Bengals looked like a legitimate contender in the first half, even going as far as to put together a respectable 14-10 lead by the end of the first drive of the second half. But, that’s when, as explained by Mike Trainer of Bleacher Report, everything took a turn for the worse.

The Bengals drove 80 yards to take a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter, but when Dont'a Hightower sacked Andy Dalton for a safety, you could almost feel the Bengals' collective shoulders slumping at once. Brady began slicing and dicing with the tight end/running back trio of Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and James White (who combined for 20-257-3), while the Bengals did what they have done for five years: prove that they are not good enough to beat the AFC's best teams.

The performance was essentially the polar opposite of how the Bengals performed last week in Dallas. They were outscored 25-3 after that first drive of the third quarter and, at times, looked like a team that had simply given up after that one deflating safety on Andy Dalton.

You could make the argument that the Bengals were done in by their inability to stop the incredible Tom Brady, who was coming off of his electrifying 2016 debut, which was a blowout victory over the Cleveland Browns. You could also make the argument that the Bengals experienced a lot of red zone problems as they have all season. So, seeing the return of Tyler Eifert would be a welcomed sight for Bengals fans who are getting fed up with the pathetic state of the scoring offense.

But, the biggest problem the Bengals had this week, as explained by Katherine Terrell of ESPN, was that they couldn’t stop the elite tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.

For as well as the Bengals played in the first half against the Patriots, and they did play well in several phases, they just didn’t appear to have the resources to stop the Patriots' two-tight-end attack.

Their saving grace in the first half was that the Patriots didn’t use Martellus Bennett much, opting for more wideouts instead. For about a half, the Bengals halted Brady and his passing attack by covering well and pressuring him enough that they were able to flush him out of the pocket. They sacked Brady three times on Sunday.

The Bengals just weren’t able to maintain that level of play, particularly when the Patriots went back to their usual dose of two-tight-end sets in the second half.

Bennett had a good second half against the Bengals, but Gronkowski’s seven receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown throughout the entire was a downright embarrassing statline for the Bengals’ defense to allow.

The frustration from the Bengals’ slow 2-4 start has started to mount, culminating in multiple fans calling for the head of whoever they think is primarily responsible for this mess of a season. For the first few weeks, much of the blame and anger was directed toward new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. But, calls for Marvin Lewis to lose his job over the poor performance have started to gain a lot of traction and a lot of volume, as exemplified by Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports.

It’s Lewis’ job to create a culture of discipline — both assignment and temperamental — and that responsibility has either been shirked or Lewis is no longer capable of reaching his team.

Both are equally fireable offenses.

Considering the uneasy footing Lewis entered the season on, the next two weeks should determine the coach’s fate in Cincinnati. A loss to the Browns next week would be unacceptable, and the following week’s game in London against Washington seems a perfect litmus test for the team.

Losses in either game should seal Lewis’s fate.

To an extent, you could consider any calls for Lewis’ head to be a lame scapegoat ploy that is really nothing more than a band-aid for some larger issues with the team. But, the fact of the matter is the Bengals have rarely lived up to their own talent when it matters during the Lewis era.

The frivolous use of timeouts outside of crunch time due to an overall lack of team organization and the team’s apparent lack of discipline in critical situations has become the calling card of this era. So, you can understand why some fans are willing to part with Lewis’ ability to find talent in exchange for someone who might be able to focus and discipline that talent.

Despite the exciting start to the game, the Bengals went right back to looking like a doormat for a playoff contender by the middle of the third quarter. Twitter had plenty to say about the matter, very little of which was positive.