CINCINNATI -- It was 3-3 at half, but the road to that score was interesting. Taking a look back at the first 30 minutes.
On the last play of the first quarter, Andy Dalton threw a horrific pick on second-and-7 from the Patriots 9. Before the snap, Aqib Talib was in press coverage on AJ Green. But Talib peeled back to the goal line after some communication, a tip the Patriots knew what was going to unfold. It appeared that way after the snap as nobody uncovered and Dalton panicked, rolling right, throwing across his body and hitting Brandon Spikes in the belly.
The next big play came after New England took over at it’s own 46 and moved to the Cincy 32. LeGarrette Blount, breaking into the open field, was stripped from behind by Carlos Dunlap resulting in at least a field goal likely coming off the board.
On the ensuing Bengals drive, a big sack by Chris Jones on second-and-8 from the Patriots 23 backed the Bengals into a third-and-17 and they had to play for the field goal instead of trying to punch it in.
Finally, some brilliant strategizing by the Patriots at the end of the half got them the tying field goal. After Cincy took over at its own 7 with 57 seconds left, the Patriots burned three timeouts after BenJarvus Green-Ellis bulled into the line. New England got the ball back with 37 seconds left. Brady hit Danny Amendola for 21 yards and New England was in field goal range for Stephen Gostkowski. That tied it at 3.
Some other lingering thoughts from the first half:
* Blount hasn’t played much -- if at all -- since his fumble.
* Tough start for Nate Solder in protection as two sacks appeared to come on his watch thanks to miscommunication.
* Bolden had a bad drop on a well-designed screen and two poor return decisions by Leon Washington and Julian Edelman hurt first quarter field position.
* The Bengals were intent on testing the Patriots’ middle defense without Vince Wilfork and the linebackers -- Spikes and Jerod Mayo in particular -- had a terrific first half against the run.