PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Tom Brady only threw for 188 yards but it was just the opposite of last week. Against the Broncos, Brady's 320 yards through the air seemed like much less because most of the yardage was racked up in garbage time. This week, Brady's 188 yards were more effective because he made plays when he had to. Doug Gabriel provided a spark, catching 4 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Brady wasn't sacked in the game and usually had plenty of time in the pocket to find his receivers. It wasn't a great performance from the passing game but they started to show signs of improvement and that's encouraging for the Patriots offense.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus -- The Patriots ran over the Bengals defense for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns. Laurence Maroney had the first 100-yard game of his young career. The rookie piled up 125 yards on 15 carries, while scoring 2 touchdowns. Corey Dillon added 67 yards and a touchdown himself. After his score, Dillon tossed the football into the Cincinnati crowd, much to their dismay. The Patriots offensive line dominated the Bengals defensive front all game long, opening up huge holes for New England ball carriers. The Patriots were about as dominate on the ground as an NFL team can be in a game.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- This was the biggest surprise of the game by far. Playing without starters Ellis Hobbs and Eugene Wilson in their defensive backfield, the Patriots found a way to control the vaunted Bengals passing attack. Carson Palmer threw for 245 yards and the starting receiver tandem of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh combined for 159 yards on 10 receptions. However, the Patriots secondary didn't give up any big plays. Palmer didn't throw a touchdown pass, was sacked four times and fumbled twice. The New England front seven took over late in the game when on back-to-back series, Jarvis Green and Ty Warren strip sacked Palmer and slammed the door on the Bengals chances.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- After giving up a lot of yards on the ground to Denver, New England shut down Rudi Johnson and the Bengals rushing attack, limiting them to 71 yards. Johnson did rush for 4.6 yards per carry but the Patriots kept him in check for most of the game. His longest run of the day was only 13 yards. The Patriots defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and didn't allow the Bengals to get much push up front. Once New England started to build a lead in the second half, the Bengals went away from the running game and became one-dimensional. The team only gave up 26 yards rushing in the second half.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Kevin Faulk had a 43-yard punt return -- the longest for the Patriots since 2001 -- but other than that, it wasn't a great game for the New England special teams. Josh Miller wasn't himself, with a net punting average of only 32.7. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard field goal badly in the third quarter -- his third straight miss as a Patriot. The rookie finally connected on a 24-yard attempt in the fourth quarter but the Patriots kicking game is on shaky ground at the moment.
COACHING: A -- What a great game plan put in by the Patriots coaching staff and it was implemented to perfection on the field. Everyone knew the way to beat the Bengals was to run the ball right at them and wear down their defense and the Patriots didn't mess around. They didn't try and get too cute on offense. Instead, they just bludgeoned the Bengals defensive front to death. On defense, New England was without two of their starting defensive backs, although since when does that matter? The Patriots employed the same scheme they've used to befuddle the Colts over the years. They refused to give up the big play, instead making the Bengals drive down the field and then forcing them to settle for field goals early in the game. Bill Belichick thoroughly outcoached Marvin Lewis in this game and it showed by the outcome on the field.