Pats defense laments missed plays late in game

Pats defense laments missed plays late in game
October 7, 2013, 1:00 am
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CINCINNATI – Two plays on the same drive, at opposite ends of the field, haunted members of the Patriots defense in the wake of Sunday’s 13-6 loss to the Bengals.
 
The overall performance of the Patriots defense was very good, especially considering it was their first post-Wilfork effort. But the play that extended the Bengals drive – a third-and-15 throw from Andy Dalton to Marvin Jones that brought the ball from the Cincy 2-yard line out to the 30 had players shaking their heads.
 
The Patriots admitted they weren’t ready for the ball to be snapped.
 
Asked what he saw on the play, Kyle Arrington – who was in coverage on Jones along with safety Devin McCourty – answered, “I saw that they took off on us. Once we got switched, they hurried up on us and we just weren’t ready. We gotta get lined up better, quicker all the way across the board. To have them backed up like that and then let them get out of that hole . . . You don’t lose on one play but it’s definitely a play we’d want to have back.”
 
Jerod Mayo, who sets the defense after getting signals from the sidelines, said, “Third down, we gotta get off the field. Especially third down, we had some miscommunications. We just weren’t ready to go (on the completion to Jones). We just weren’t ready to go. We gotta get ready, get set and that falls on me. I gotta make sure everyone’s on the same page and I’ll take that one.”
 
On the heels of the Jones reception, the Patriots got gashed by running back Gio Bernard who went for another 28 yards. Suddenly, in about 45 seconds of game time, the Bengals had gone from punting from the back line of their end zone and clinging to a 6-3 lead to being at the New England 42 and being in position to pad that lead.
 
Which the Bengals ultimately did. The Bengals converted a third-and-2 with a BenJarvus Green-Ellis run. Then they knocked out a third-and-3 with a 17-yard completion to the Patriots’ 6. Green-Ellis then took a handoff and charged to the Patriots’ 1. On second down, they stacked Up Green-Ellis and forced a third-and-goal from the 1.
 
If the Patriots could hold Cincy out of the end zone and make them settle for a field goal, they’d be down a touchdown at 9-3. But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis wasn’t settling for a field goal. If Cincy didn’t get in on third down, they were going on fourth, realizing that the Patriots offense going from their end zone to field-goal range was a tough proposition on this day.
 
The Patriots seemed to catch a break when DT/fullback Domata Peko was charged with a false start, turning the ensuing play into third-and-goal from the 6. But Dalton got 4 back with a scramble setting up the second-biggest play of the drive. This time, Peko didn’t jump.
 
Peko led Green-Ellis into the end zone, right through an area Wilfork would have occupied. For all the outstanding plays the Patriots linebackers – Mayo and Brandon Spikes in particular – turned in, that was the play they couldn’t abide.
 
“I hate losing,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. “It was a low-scoring game but we had some opportunities there to keep the score even lower. You can’t have that stuff down in the red zone. We have to be a little more stout and not let them score on fourth down. It’s our job to get off the field.”
 
That job order wasn’t filled on that drive and the Patriots could never make up the difference.
 
But that wasn’t the fault of the defense which, in the final minutes, forced a fumble and also got the ball back to the offense after two minutes remained. To say nothing of Spikes’ interception in the first half when the Patriots sniffed out Cincy’s red zone play and Dalton panicked.
 
Still, the idea of a moral victory wasn’t anything the defenders I spoke to were willing to accept.

“We let ‘em come down, drive on us in the fourth quarter and score that touchdown,” said Aqib Talib. “We coulda played better. That drive, at the end, we gotta be able to stop ‘em on that drive. Whether it’s the last play on fourth down or one of the third downs we gave up, we gotta be able to stop them on that drive.”
 
Defensively, the Patriots were tested hard in the middle with Wilfork out. Spikes (12 tackles) and Mayo (11) led a run defense that allowed 162 on the ground on 39 carries (Bernard’s big run accounting for a big chunk of that).
 
But the tight ends had a decent game for Cincinnati with nine catches for 77 yards. And that’s a scary proposition given what Tony Gonzalez did to them last week in Atlanta and what Jimmy Graham might do next week when the Saints are in town.
 
The Patriots are going to put a lot on their linebackers trying to help fill the Wilfork void with run-blitzes. And the coverage on tight ends is going to suffer because of the commitment to stopping the run.
 
The Patriots defense played well enough to win on Sunday. That the team took the loss is disappointing. Even maddening, to hear some tell it. But it’s a loss, not a crisis.
 
Asked what their performance says about them, Aqib Talib said, “It just say that we’re 4-1.”