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Bengals vs. Patriots: Bengals with familiar primetime showing during 43-17 loss to Patriots

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The Cincinnati Bengals had an opportunity to change people's impression of them on Sunday Night Football. They didn't. In fact, it was worse than we could have imagined.

Jared Wickerham

Here's how it appeared beforehand: Heading into Sunday's game, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was 2-4 under the lights (MNF win in '13 and TNF win in '12... both against teams in Pennsylvania). Cincinnati hadn't won a game in New England since 1986 -- weathering a five-game losing streak in games played at Foxborough. It's been ten years since the Bengals last won on Sunday Night game ('04 against the Miami Dolphins).

Out with the old, in with the new. That was the storyline. The Patriots heard it. Heard it all. And it angered them -- evident by the intensity that they came out with. New England, having lost 41-14 in Kansas City last Monday Night, applied a similar thrashing against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

At least it's a night game. Day not ruined by harboring disappointment like you would a 1 p.m. game? Nope. Now you're going to bed angry and waking up with a non-alcoholic hangover.

Now departing Sunday's game, every one of those incompetent streaks still applied. Cincinnati artfully recapped every Sunday Night, Monday Night and postseason game that they've played this decade (except for those two wins mentioned previously). These games, fantastic as they are, highlights a collapsing defense and an offense incapable of the simplest tasks when the eyes of a nation are on them.

Andy Dalton wasn't a liability, so there's progression there. He doesn't rise to the occasion though, and neither does A.J. Green. The money-making pass rushers weren't rushing the passer, but we credit Cincinnati's collection of first-round corners who allowed every the Patriots receiver a free release off the line of scrimmage. Emmanuel Lamur was schooled and Vincent Rey is clearly no Vontaze Burfict.

And as if the gods of irony couldn't be any more satisfied, the 43 points that Cincinnati allowed on Sunday Night is the most since allowing 44 against the Ravens in 2012... a Monday Night game.

God, I miss Vontaze Burfict. And I can't possibly be more done with Jermaine Gresham or Brandon Tate.

This was the same story, the same DVR'ed transcript. The Bengals are on primetime, playing a big game. The offense still have the deer in the headlights look and the defense completely collapsed.

Nothing has really changed.

Patriots dominated the first quarter
The New England Patriots came out firing -- as you would expect them too after facing so many distractions this week. New England, who has gone three-and-out in every game-opening possession this season, opened with a perfectly thrown Tom Brady pass to Brandon LaFell that gained 20 yards -- exposing a significant hole in Cincinnati's zone coverage. After a pair of runs by Steven Ridley to the Bengals 44-yard line, Brady finds a tight end Tim Wright for a 30-yard gain to the 14-yard line with 13:41 remaining in the first.

The theme? Exposing the left hashmark. And thus the chorus of Bengals fans going, "here we go again," starts chiming in the queen city. Following a Tom Brady scramble to the Bengals eight-yard line, Ridley and James Develin reached the five with over 11 minutes remaining.

New England takes an early 7-0 lead after a pair of runs on the goalline, with Ridley finding a lane into the endzone. Prior to that touchdown, Cincinnati had only allowed three points in the first half... all season.

Cincinnati weathered a storm on offense, generating three first downs and reaching New England's 34-yard line. A well-played Darrelle Revis interception was nullified after offsetting penalties gave Cincinnati a first down from the Patriots 34-yard line. A five-yard Jeremy Hill run was wiped out by an Andre Smith false start (aka, neutralizing his gain two plays later) and Cincinnati's momentum was crushed to an explosive halt.

Mike Nugent's 52-yard attempt fell short, giving New England the ball at their own 42-yard line. This would be Cincinnati's best possession in the first half.

New England sustained their momentum (and even more importantly, their intensity), needing eight yards to convert a third down at Cincinnati's 44-yard line. Brady easily found tight end Rob Gronkowski motioning towards the sidelines and then cutting upfield for 27 yards with 4:15 remaining in the first quarter (with a little help from Emmanuel Lamur's missed tackle). This was the moment that New England celebrated Tom Brady's career for surpassing 50,000 yards in a career. On the next play, Brady hit Wright for a 17-yard touchdown, taking a 14-0 lead with 3:12 remaining in the first.

Cincinnati responded with a three-and-out... and a poorly overthrown ball to a wide open Giovani Bernard streaking down the left sidelines. You have to make that throw.

Thanks to a Rob Gronkowski personal foul and a Robert Geathers quarterback sack, it appeared that the Bengals were planting the seeds for momentum late in the first quarter. A poorly thrown pass was negated by a Reggie Nelson defensive pass interference. Alright... patience is needed for the sprouting seed, but the momentum was growing. Thanks to Julian Edleman dropping a wide-open diving catch and Carlos Dunlap forcing Tom Brady to throw it away (and acquire a subsequent intentional grounding) forced the Patriots to punt with 14:03 remaining in the second quarter.

The Bengals go three-and-out with a missed deep pass, four-yard loss on a Jeremy Hill pass, Andrew Whitworth false start... leading to a third and 19 with 12:33 remaining in the second. Dalton's dump off pass to Jeremy Hill led to 15 yards and another three-and-out possession.

Really patient.

Bengals finally score but Patriots with 20-3 halftime lead
Both teams exchanged several punts, until midway through the second quarter when New England was called for three penalties, allowing Cincinnati to reach the Patriots 13-yard line with 6:40 remaining in the half. Giovani Bernard ran for eight yards on two plays, leaving third and two from the six. Cincinnati called (or Andy Dalton audibled to) a run on third down, falling a yard shy of a first down and forcing Mike Nugent to convert the 23-yard field goal to put Cincinnati on the board.

DAMN YOU GRESHAM MOMENT: With 6:50 remaining in the first half on New England's 18-yard line, Gresham dropped an easy touchdown pass that would have reduced Cincinnati's deficit by half. As if THAT was a shocking.

Yet the field goal was neutralized by New England's 11-play drive that resulted in 48-yard field goal late in the second quarter. Cincinnati couldn't muster much in the final minute of the first half. By "can't muster much", we really mean that Dalton would complete a 19-yard pass to A.J. Green, who fumbled at Cincinnati's 25-yard line. Recovered by New England with a minute remaining, the Patriots take a 20-3 lead on a field goal.

Bengals with a chance to come out inspired to string together a mass...
...Bengals go three and out on the opening drive in the second half. Punt.

DAMN YOU GRESHAM MOMENT II: With 14:55 remaining in the third quarter, Dalton tries hitting Gresham on an underneath route but throws an inaccurate pass. Gresham went, "what the hell" and Dalton motioned that Gresham was supposed to continue the route. Either way, Gresham is higher on our shit-list than Dalton (though not by much) so we blame him.

Adam Jones brings the inspiration
Finally. After watching Brandon Tate inadvisably do things... like play football, Cincinnati finally puts Adam Jones back in return mode after Cincinnati forced a punt with 11:32 remaining in the third. Jones returned the football 47 yards to the Patriots 37-yard line.

Andy Dalton takes advantage of single coverage and throws a beautiful arching pass on first down, hitting Mohamed Sanu in perfect stride for a 37-yard touchdown, reducing their deficit to 10 points.

...but the defense doesn't buy this "inspiration"
Well, its not like the Bengals expected to win. New England responded with a 10-play touchdown drive that spanned 86 yards and included a 19-yard Shane Vereen run that converted a third-and-16. Rob Gronkowski easily scored on a 16-yard touchdown, taking a 27-10 lead, with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter.

...neither does Brandon Tate
After the New England Patriots take a 27-10 lead, you'd think that Brandon Tate would stop trying to score a touchdown during every return. We get it: It's his birthday. It's a return to New England. However, he's returning footballs nine yards deep into the endzone and barely reaching the ten-yard line. And with six minutes remaining in the third, fumbled the football on a return that directly led to a Brandon Bolden recovery and touchdown.

It's 34-10 by this stage. This story is over.

INJURIES

  • Linebacker Sean Porter, who was active for the first time in his career on Sunday, limped off the field during the game's opening kickoff. The team announced, after New England's opening touchdown, that Porter would not return.

TWEETS

INACTIVES

The Cincinnati Bengals were without three of their starters Sunday Night with Vontaze Burfict, Marvin Jones and Kevin Zeitler all declared inactive against the New England Patriots.

Burfict and Jones made the trip to Foxborough, despite being listed as "doubtful" on the team's final injury report. Burfict "officially" did not practice this week, though he was seen working during Friday's session with his helmet. Additionally, Burfict appeared to be undergoing tests on the field before the game, still dealing with the mysterious concussion protocol.

Jones didn't practice all week. It was widely believed that Jones would play Sunday against the Patriots, but Cincinnati has approached most of their injury situations with a mind towards conservatism (Burfict says, "huh?"). Jones and Burfict appear to be close to returning with an eye for next week when Cincinnati hosts the Carolina Panthers -- which is also a favorable return for Zeitler and Thompson.

Active for the first time in his career was Sean Porter, who spent his entire rookie season on IR with a torn labrum. Porter opened the season with a hamstring issue, which held him out for the first three games of the season.

As for the Patriots, New England didn't have their leading tackler, linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

BENGALS INACTIVES PATRIOTS INACTIVES
LB Vontaze Burfict LB Dont'a Hightower
WR Marvin Jones CB Malcolm Butler
RG Kevin Zeitler S Nate Ebner
RB Rex Burkhead OT/G Cameron Fleming
DE Will Clarke DE Zach Moore
DT Brandon Thompson RB James White
CB Chris Lewis-Harris OL J. Kline