The New England Patriots and Tom Brady continued their rampage of revenge last Sunday in a 35-17 beating of the Cincinnati Bengals. But while there was a lot to like about the offense, the defense is really worth a mention.
While Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a decent game (21-for-31, 254 yards and one touchdown), he was largely contained, as was A.J. Green. Green had six catches for 88 yards but never broke free. Brandon LaFell scored early in the third quarter, but overall the passing attack was limited.
The defense also shut down the run game, limiting Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill to 87 yards on 28 carries and a paltry 3.1 yards per carry average. The Bengals did score once on the ground, a scrambling run by Dalton. Otherwise, the run game was ineffective.
What did the Patriots do?
Interestingly, it was the Patriots who were ineffective early in the game. Dalton completed his first 10 throws to begin the game and he looked sharp in the opening drive of the second half, which ended with that LaFell touchdown.
We began to see a shift when tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was called for a holding penalty, taking away a first down and putting the offense on their own 8-yard line and facing a 2nd and 18. That mistake was massively compounded by several more on the very next play.
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower showed blitz late before the snap, but neither center Russell Bodine or left guard Cliff Boling shifted to account for him. It’s likely that they assumed Hill would pick up the blitz, which would allow Bodine to pick up a blitzing Elandon Roberts on the right side while Boling dealt with defensive tackle Malcom Brown — who was head up on him and his proper assignment in all likelihood anyway.
Hill didn’t execute though, barely touching Hightower, who was on Dalton before the quarterback could react.
Things went downhill from there on both sides of the ball, but it was especially tough to watch the offensive line struggle. Dalton did a creditable job moving in and out of the pocket to avoid the defenders the Patriots were sending more and more of, but he could only do so much and the lack of time kept the completed passes short.
The Patriots knew they couldn’t give Dalton a clean pocket and time to make a throw—we saw in the first half that when the defense couldn’t get to him, Dalton was accurate and dangerous.
So the Patriots brought more heat and made Dalton move more. This brought up two interesting points which Connor Howe of SBNation’s Cincy Jungle shared in his “What we learned from the Bengals’ Week 6 loss in New England” piece.
While it’s impressive Dalton can score on the ground, it’s not his game.
The Patriots knew that and decided it was a better to let him run a bit than give him time to throw. They brought constant pressure to take advantage of a shaky offensive line and the result was a disrupted offense and a Patriots win.