Monday, September 13, 2010
It's September. Early September at that. It's important to state that before going into the Patriots' 38-24 victory over the Bengals. A victory which was more dominating than that score suggests.
Not only did Brady and Welker combine for 2 touchdowns, not only did the tight ends excel, not only did Fred Taylor run all over the Bengals' second level, not only did the offensive line protect Brady, not only did Kevin Faulk have a big game catching and running, not only did Zoltan Mesko only punt once, but the defense also performed very well.
Devin McCourty made some excellent plays in pass defense. Gary Guyton had the interception, and as the CBS commentators noted, the Patriots' LBs didn't intercept a single pass last season. There was the forced fumble, and consistent pressure on Palmer that rushed throws and clogged his passing lanes.
Then there was the kickoff return for a touchdown. That and Guyton's INT touchdown were vintage 03-04 Patriots kind of plays. With an offense loaded with weapons, getting a pair of touchdowns from defense and special teams is a very nice bonus.
Those two returns won the game for the Patriots. They probably would have won without them, but they came at a time when the Bengals were already desperate. But 17-0 isn't a large deficit. 31-3 is. 31-3 gets opponents to start thinking about Week 2.
All this being said, there needs to be some attention paid to the negatives from this game. Maybe "negatives" is too harsh a term. The not-so-positives. Those big returns put the Bengals away by the start of the 3rd quarter. The Patriots' offense could have expedited that.
They blew a Red Zone opportunity and settled for a 32 yard field goal in the 1st quarter. Gostkowski missed a 47 yarder, as well. And the Pats' offense was unable to get him closer than 56 yards for an attempt at the end of the 2nd.
The defense made some big plays, but also allowed some big drives. They confused the Bengals in the 1st half, but Cincinnati learned and adapted. This athletic but inexperienced defense is going to allow some long, frustrating drives. It's up to the offense to make sure the game doesn't depend on them too much.
But it was a good win against a solid team, and this is the best I've felt about a Patriots' Week 1 performance since 2007. There's a slightly important game next Sunday against the Jets. 4:15 kickoff from the Meadowlands.