Gresh's Grades: Flunking out in Cincinnati
WHAT A MESS
Three things jump out at me. 1) The Bengals D-Line won the battle of the trenches, but some of that was the Pats' not running the ball in the second half (six total carries), which enabled Cincy to pin back their ears and get after TB12. 2) The red-area and goal-to-go issues go deeper than play selection. 3) The QB can't get down like he did in this one. When he hangs his head, it resonates and everyone on that sideline senses it. Oh, and 1-for-8 on third down is horsecrap.
While he was under siege all day, TB12 went 1-for-his-final-10 and that just isn't him or this offense. I know we hammered him for getting angry in Week 2 vs. the Jets, but when they show him hanging his head sitting on the bench, the others notice that, too. The Patriots need a consistent middle-of-the-field presence in the receiving corps to help Brady bail himself out when there's pressure.
RUNNING BACKS: D
Once Blount fumbled they stopped running the ball -- again -- and Bolden had some drops in the passing game. But they weren't the issue. Look at the down and distances they were in when they ran the ball in the first half. It was a helluva lot better than the second half, when they shelved the run game. The fumble and drops lower this grade, but I didn't think they were that bad.
TIGHT END: Incomplete
They have one guy in Hoo-man who a) has to block pretty much all the time, b) then run a route or two, and c) then -- all of a sudden -- show up in the passing game around the goal line and red area. How the hell do you grade this guy? Or Mulligan, who's pretty much a one-trick pony meathead? Gronk! It's time!
WIDE RECEIVERS: F
Amendola looked pretty good in this one. The groin didn't look like it limited him in any way, and I thought he was able to run everything asked of him. That said, there wasn't much separation across the board with this group. Thompkins has to get better at giving TB12 a target to throw to. Edelman was limited against Cincy's good cover guys. And Dobson makes a play, then fumbles the ball. Developmental and teaching week for this group. Let's hope it shows on the field next week.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F-
The untimely sacks ruined pretty much all of the possessions in the first quarter. The protection was rough all day as the Bengals defensive line benefitted from Josh McDaniels not running the ball in the second half; also, the Pats were constantly in down and distances where the Bengals' 'D' didn't have to play anything but the pass. The O-Line was put in an unfair position vs this D-line. But they hurt themselves plenty of times.
What more can they do? They made up for the offensive turnovers with hard hits and more timely red-area interceptions. They did allow a bunch of yards, but kept touchdowns off the scoreboard and never caved in mentally. I do worry about the run defense without Wilfork, and Vellano looked like he was single-blocked a lot. They battled their behinds off and this is a 'D' that can be counted on.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
I thought this group had some issues in the run game and at times got pushed around. They also spent 19 of the final 30 minutes on the field trying to stop a team that was committed to the run game. Vellano needs to gobble up more blockers because the guards were getting up on linebackers too easily. The pass rush was pretty good, with six QB hits. Overall good job.
Jerod Mayo had some issues getting out of blocks but overall played well. Spikes showed up in the run game but also had some over-pursuit issues. And Hightower has been their best overall defensive player this season. After the big play to the TE Eifert, they shut down those passing windows to the TEs; after that, Cincy's tight ends caught some balls but were nowhere near as effective. This group is going to need to be good to great, week in and week out, without Wilfork.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
I thought they played so well in this one. The hit from McCourty to force the fumble was a thing of beauty. Gregory went out with a minor ding but played well when in there. Talib was excellent, as were the other corners; no one scored through the air. AJ Green was held in check.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
The punt game was very good, with five kicks downed inside the 20-yard line and only a two-yard difference between Allen's average and his net average. Gostkowski was excellent again with field goals and kickoffs, and the returners were fine, too. The only negative was the one kickoff return they allowed for 29 yards. The punter is starting to turn a corner here and that's great news for this team.
IT AIN'T BROKE . . .
1) The running game. As long as they stick with it. 2) Defense. It's good and we can say they're good. 3) The punt game. Allen's getting better, y'all.
. . . BUT IT NEEDS FIXING
1) Offensive philosophy. Gotta run the ball, even if someone fumbles. 2) Third down. Gotta be better on earlier downs to fix this. 3) Goal-line offense. Help, Gronk! | Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for nine years has worked pre- and postgame analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the recently released book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.”