CINCINNATI -- Picked-up pieces from second-half review of the Patriots’ 13-6 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium:
1. Similar to his performance against the Buccaneers on Sept. 22, cornerback Aqib Talib was competitive in a tough one-on-one matchup against Bengals receiver A.J. Green. Both made plays. One of Talib’s best came early in the third quarter, on third-and-10, to end the Bengals’ opening drive of the half. Talib had good coverage on Green’s outbreaking route and deflected Andy Dalton’s pass before it could get to Green. An underrated aspect of the play came up front, where defensive end Rob Ninkovich looped inside and had a good pressure on Dalton to make the quarterback shuffle his feet and maybe not get the full velocity he wanted on the pass.
2. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was hit early and the Bengals were able to make him uncomfortable throughout most of the game. But not to be overlooked is that it seemed like receivers were having trouble making themselves available to Brady, as evidenced by the sack which ended the Patriots’ opening drive of the third quarter. The Bengals rushed five, one of their 12 blitzes on the day, but it was picked up nicely, with running back Brandon Bolden staying in for a 6-on-5 situation. At that point, it came down to whether tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and receivers Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson -- all of whom released into pass routes -- could win their matchups. That was a coverage sack for linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
3. Rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan (seventh round, Illinois) has been a solid contributor as a nickel rusher at right end, allowing the Patriots to kick Chandler Jones inside in a three-DE look on some third-down situations. The Patriots didn’t use that package often on Sunday, with Buchanan playing just six snaps, and Buchanan’s inability to maintain the edge showed up at one point. With 11:10 remaining in the third quarter, and the Bengals facing a third-and-5, Buchanan got caught inside on left tackle Andrew Whitworth, which opened up the left side for Dalton to scramble 6 yards for a first down. Looked like an example where Buchanan’s inexperience showed up a bit as his primary responsibility was to maintain the integrity of the edge.
4. The half-sack shared by linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive tackle Chris Jones in the third quarter came on a “hug” by Mayo, who didn’t initially rush because he was accounting for running back Giovani Bernard as a possible pass-catcher. But when Bernard stayed in to protect, and was drilled by fellow linebacker Brandon Spikes on a run blitz, Mayo then surged forward for the half-sack. Good pressure by the Patriots on a play that included multiple elements -- a run blitz and a hug -- as six players in all were involved in the rush.
5. It looked like officials might have missed a face-mask penalty on Burfict, who brought down Bolden short of the first down on a third-and-5 play with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter. Certainly the officials weren’t the reason the Patriots lost the game, but on a day when the offense was having trouble getting things going, something like that is magnified a bit more than it might have been otherwise. Bolden gained 3 yards on the play and the Patriots were forced to punt it away. Later, in the fourth quarter, I thought there could have been a holding call against the Bengals on eligible receiver Nate Solder in the end zone.
6. On the Patriots’ late third-quarter sack, shared between Mayo and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, it was a simple one-on-one matchup in which the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kelly powered through with a club move on right guard Kevin Zeitler at the snap. Put that one on the highlight film as it was a play made by Kelly, with Mayo helping clean it up. Kelly can move people on the inside and has been a nice free-agent addition to the Patriots this season. He didn’t finish the game because of a right knee injury, and a play like his sack is a reminder of what the Patriots would miss if he is sidelined for any period of time.
7. On a day in which the defense kept the Patriots in the game, one play the unit would obviously like to have back was the third-and-15 situation that came after the Kelly-Mayo half-sack, as the Bengals were at their 2-yard line. The Patriots, in their sub defense, didn’t appear settled at the snap and in retrospect, one wonders if they would have benefitted from calling a timeout (they would later need those timeouts, of course). The result of the play was a 28-yard reception by receiver Marvin Jones down the left sideline. Cornerback Kyle Arrington trailed Jones in coverage and safety Devin McCourty might have been a little late getting over to the sideline, although he probably couldn’t have done much anyway.
8. The Patriots’ lack of big bodies along the defensive line, which was further depleted when Kelly left with a knee injury, showed up on the goal line as BenJarvus Green-Ellis powered through for a fourth-quarter touchdown on fourth down. That was just power football from the Bengals, but the undersized goal-line defense came through late in the fourth quarter in stopping Green-Ellis for no gain on third-and-2 to turn the ball over to the Patriots’ offense.
9. Underrated play of the game: Bengals punter Kevin Huber delivering a 57-yard bomb on his final attempt after the Patriots’ defense had stopped three straight running plays and given the offense one final chance. In a 13-6 game, both punters -- Huber and Patriots rookie Ryan Allen – were solid.
10. On Brady’s final pass, the ball didn’t seem to come out of his hands as desired, leading to the underthrow and interception. Brady had pumped once, and perhaps that pump affected his grip and release on the delivery. Also, it had been raining extremely hard and the wet ball might have been a factor, as Brady hinted on sports radio WEEI earlier this morning. Otherwise, it was an uncharacteristically poor throw from Brady in a critical situation.