Two diva receivers disappear

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Two diva receivers disappear

By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com

A handful of thoughts on a Moss- and Mankins-free Monday.

Do you now see the problem with diva, pain-in-the-ass receivers? I promise, this isn't about Moss. It's about the guys on the other side.

The Bengals were totally unprepared to play that football game on Sunday. There were many examples of it throughout the day, but perhaps none was more striking than the scene that played out just before the half. With the Pats leading, 24-3, and driving into field-goal range, Chad Ochocinco headed off the field and into the tunnel to the locker room. Moments later, apparently feeling that's the way business is done with the Bengals, Terrell Owens followed suit.

The only problem was that the game was still going on. When Stephen Gostkowski's long field-goal attempt drifted wide, the Bengals found themselves with the ball at their own 46 with one second left on the clock and a chance for a Hail Mary. Unfortunately, they were without their best receivers for the play, which would up being completed to Jordan Shipley at the Pats' 3-yard line as time expired. While Ochocinco and Owens were unlacing their cleats, Moss was on the field as a safety defending the play. Score one for the Pats' DPITAR (diva, pain-in-the-ass receiver).

Again, there were a lot of examples of the Bengals' lack of preparedness. That was just the most glaring.

Ochocinco wound up with a big statistical day (12 catches, 159 yards, touchdown) but the majority of it came after the game was out of hand. Owens also put up a few numbers (7 catches, 53 yards) but had embarrassingly little impact spending most of his day up against a rookie, Devin McCourty.

In a recurring theme from last season, the Pats were outscored by the Bengals in the second half, 21-14. When you consider that seven of the Pats' points came on the opening kickoff, that deficit looks worse. This happened repeatedly last season, as the Pats lost five games in which they were leading or tied at half (at the Jets, at Denver, at Indianapolis, at Miami and at Houston).

So, was this a case of history repeating itself?

No.

This one was purely circumstantial. First, the Bengals were bound to show some life in the final 30 minutes -- and so they did. The Pats, leading 31-3, were bound to let up a bit -- and so they did. Second, the Pats seemed on their way to scoring on their first full drive of the third quarter when a Dan Koppen holding penalty nullified a first-down conversion pass to Alge Crumpler. Finally, the Pats had a chance to put points on the board on their final, garbage-time drive in the fourth quarter but instead took the air out of the ball.

Maybe the second half will prove to be an issue going forward. Maybe it won't. We'll find out. But as far as Sunday was concerned, it was a non-story.

I know the tight ends looks great, and I know Moss is still the most dangerous receiver in the league and that Brandon Tate looks legit. But, to me, the the heart-and-soul of the Pats offense remains Brady-to-Wes Welker and Brady-to-Kevin Faulk in the possession game. That's still the bread and butter.

Welker (8 catches, 64 yards, two touchdowns -- all team highs) was huge on the most underrated drive of the game, which occurred after the Bengals had closed the gap to 31-17 and the Pats got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. Welker moved the chains on third-and-3 and third-and-4 and the Pats were on their way.

Faulk, meanwhile, rebounded from a few early drops and a heavy hit to record four catches for 47 yards and three carries for 23 more.

Time will tell whether or not the Pats truly have a good defense. But at this point, you can definitely say it's younger and faster. Pat Chung (team-high 16 tackles) and Jerod Mayo (12 tackles) were active in the middle of the field and the young defensive backs more than held their own. Yes, Darius Butler gave up his share of plays to Ochocino, but he also made his share, too.

This is a game where stats lie. The Bengals had more yards (428-376), first downs (26-20) and time of possession (31:50 - 28:10) -- but the Pats' defense still carried the day when it counted.

The Pats have found the perfect role for Laurence Maroney -- as a fifth-string, emergency running back who will remain in street clothes until injuries necessitate his activation.

In the meantime, Fred Taylor is a pleasure to watch.

Felger's report card posts Tuesday morning. Email him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Bryan Stork: 'Nothing but great memories' with Patriots

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Bryan Stork: 'Nothing but great memories' with Patriots

After being traded to the Washington Redskins this week, former Patriots center Bryan Stork broke his 35-day Twitter silence to say farewell to New England.

For those who are wondering, the acronym "HTTR" stands for "Hail to the Redskins," the team's fight song. #HTTR is used by the team and fans on social media.

Stork was reportedly mulling retirement after being dealt, but has decided to report. 

The Patriots informed Stork of his release early Wednesday, but the Patriots and Redskins were able to work out a deal for a conditional 2017 seventh-round pick before the move was processed.

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ray Ratto joins Chevrolet SportsNet Central to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.

"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."

Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.

"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.

What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."

As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.