Week 15 between the Bengals and Patriots was a fun and competitive contest throughout two quarters. But, a familiar storyline emerged in the second half as Cincinnati failed to get a win against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady yet again.
Really, much of the team played well enough to win, but the play of the team’s most important position, the quarterback, was the difference. Here are the best and worst performers in the Bengals’ 34-13 loss to New England.
Cethan Carter: The third-year tight end/H-Back notched his first career NFL receptions on Sunday. The first was a touchdown catch, where he made a nifty move to squirt into the end zone.
Joe Mixon: When he wasn’t bailing out Andy Dalton on a fluttered pass with a catch, he was netting over 100 yards before the third quarter was completed. He finished with 156 total yards (136 rushing, 20 receiving) and was seen revving up the team as they stared at a surprising 27-10 hole in the third quarter.
The offensive line: While Mixon had to create space on his own a couple of times, the line was getting some push in the run game. Additionally, they didn’t let up a sack on the day to a very stout Patriots defense.
Pass-rushers: Carl Lawson, Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard harassed Brady frequently, racking up two sacks—one by Dunlap and another by Hubbard. They were also hitting No. 12 often, as he had to pick himself off the turf a lot in the first half. Dunlap also had a forced fumble.
B.W. Webb: Though he made a couple of pass break-ups on Sunday, Webb once again proved to be a liability. He was seen being turned around by Julian Edelman, while also getting flagged for a defensive holding in the first half. He let up a touchdown reception to N’Keal Harry, though Brady had a lot of time to throw on that one in the third quarter.
Andy Dalton: You can’t give the Patriots the football and opportunities for free points. Cincinnati fumbled the ball away right before the half where the Patriots broke the tie, then Dalton gift-wrapped a ball to Stephon Gilmore on their opening drive of the second half.
Explain the decision to throw the ball there to me, please. pic.twitter.com/6mgflP8ZSR— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) December 15, 2019
It resulted in a game-breaking touchdown by Brady to Harry to give New England a 10-point lead midway in the third quarter. As if that wasn’t enough, Dalton channeled his inner-Carson Palmer for a pick-six by Gilmore once again to open the floodgates.
Zac Taylor entrusted Dalton to throw just eight passes in the first half—ironically, he was 7-of-8 on those throws, but was disastrous in the second half with a career-high four picks. Really, his play was the major difference in the game, as most of the team played relatively well throughout the afternoon.
Alex Erickson: The veteran returner has played with fire a few times this year, in terms of bobbled punts and the like, but he got burned late in the first half. Erickson fumbled a punt in a tie game where the Bengals were set to run their two-minute offense. It cost the team a big field goal right before the half.
Zac Taylor: Until about two minutes left in the first half, it was a good-looking performance by the Bengals. But, as it happens with bad teams, one mistake against a quality opponent began to have things go out of control.
After a handful of competitive games in Weeks 11-14, Cincinnati came crashing back to reality against the vaunted Patriots. While there have been a lot of solid performances since the bye, it’s no coincidence that their two blowout losses have come against top AFC teams. And, once again, the Bengals didn’t score points, netting just 13 in the game and failing to net a second half touchdown for the seventh consecutive game.
Seeing New England come out and take it to the Bengals in the second half was further proof that Bill Belichick is the master of second half adjustments (five turnovers on the day helped, as well). To sum up the day, Cincinnati recovered a fumble only to see it wiped out by three penalties on the defense—on a single play.