Takeaways from Patriots’ defeat by Bengals
On Christmas Eve afternoon, the Bengals jumped out to an early lead and held off a late Patriots comeback to win 22-18, dropping New England to 7-8 overall. The Pats were harmed by a sluggish start that allowed the Bengals to lead by three scores at the half, as it seemed New England was still reeling from their devastating last-second loss to the Raiders.
However, the Patriots were able to get back into the game and keep it exciting until the last drive thanks to some assistance from the defence and some big plays by Kendrick Bourne, Marcus Jones, and Matthew Judon.
New England appeared to be in position to pull off an unexpected victory as they approached a
However, the Patriots were able to get back into the game and keep it exciting until the last drive thanks to some assistance from the defence and some big plays by Kendrick Bourne, Marcus Jones, and Matthew Judon. The amazing comeback attempt by New England appeared to be coming to a dramatic conclusion when Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled with the game seemingly in the balance and on the verge of an upset victory.
While Joe Burrow of the Bengals had 375 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two interceptions that helped kept New England’s chances alive, Mac Jones completed 21 of 33 for 240 yards. After a scorching start, the Bengals’ output slowed and their errors increased, which allowed New England to almost mount a comeback.
With only two games remaining in the season, the Patriots are in yet another late-season slump while the Bengals have reestablished themselves as the AFC’s top team and a Super Bowl candidate.
Here are the main conclusions from yet another late defeat.
Bengals offence starts strong.
Joe Burrow tore apart the first two Bengals drives of the game, scoring two touchdowns to give Cincinnati a quick lead. The Patriots defence was defenceless against them. The final score at the end of the first quarter was 12-0 rather than 14-0 due to a failed extra point and a stop by the Patriots on a two-point conversion try.
Burrow started the game with 11 consecutive completions, while the Patriots only ran six offensive plays in the opening period.
When Burrow connected with Tee Higgins over Marcus Jones for a 38-yard gain on the Bengals’ second offensive play of the contest, it was a poor sign straight away. Similar to the first, Cincinnati rushed to the line for the second touchdown and swiftly threw a pass up the seam to receiver Trenton Irwin for a simple score. Another accurate throw by the quarterback came on third-and-17 with Jamarr Chase receiving it for 18 yards up the sideline as the injured Patriots cornerback corps battled to match up.
Early on, New England appeared still reeling from their defeat in Vegas. They put up little of a fight on defence and couldn’t muster much of an offence.
After going behind 15-0, the Patriots’ defence started to step up, starting with a Ja’Whaun Bentley pass deflection in the end zone that led to the team’s first-ever red-zone stop. As a result, they kept making plays on the Bengals’ subsequent drive, first collecting sacks from Matthew Judon and Josh Uche and then getting a takeaway with Devin McCourty’s interception in the end zone, which kept Cincinnati from going up by three points.
The defence made some plays on one drive to make a stop, but failed to maintain it on the penultimate drive before halftime, enabling a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown-scoring drive that made it 22-0 at halftime with the game hanging in the balance.
The Patriots defence regained momentum in the second half, forcing two punts and picking off a pass on the opening three drives. However, the Patriots’ stuttering offence prevented them from capitalising on the defense’s first few stops until far into the second half.
First half offensive struggles for the Patriots
In the first half, the Patriots’ offence gained just 70 total yards, converted just three third downs, and held the ball for only 8:20 of their four possessions, all of which resulted in punts. The Patriots offence nearly hit rock bottom in the first half against the Bengals, unable to mount any sort of counterattack against one of the best offences in the NFL. 29 of those yards, or nearly half, came from just one carry from Kendrick Bourne.
It is simple to understand how lopsided the game was in the first half when comparing those figures to the Bengals’ offensive output: 22 points, 7-9 on third down, 303 yards of offence, and 21:26 of possession.
As the Bengals threatened to extend their 22-0 lead in the third quarter when Burrow threw up an ill-advised throw while under pressure from Kyle Dugger, rookie Marcus Jones made things interesting. Early in the third quarter, Jones received the ball and immediately turned it into a 69-yard pick-six to make the score 22-6. Nick Folk failed to make the extra point, which was the third extra point throughout the game in the closed end of the stadium, as kicking was challenging because of the wind and cold.
The defence once again came through with a score to give the offence a surprise unexpected lift while the offence was struggling to achieve anything.
With his walk-off punt return victory over the Jets earlier this year, Jones has been one of the highlights of this campaign.
With this pick-six, he has one more than fellow rookie Jack Jones, who also had one against the Packers earlier in the season.
Week 16’s game against the Bengals marks Kendrick Bourne’s first touchdown grab of 2022.
Bourne enters the scene
After Jones’ pick-six, the Patriots began to regain momentum by forcing a subsequent punt and putting together their finest offensive drive of the contest, an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown march in which Kendrick Bourne played a crucial part. Bourne first successfully converted the team’s first third-down opportunity of the game, then he added another with a spectacular 32-yard conversion catch while surrounded by defensive backs. It brought to mind Bourne’s incredible touchdown catch last season against the Browns.
Soon later, Bourne would score New England’s second touchdown of the half with a toe-tap grab on the back line. Even though the Pats missed a two-point attempt that would have made the score 22-12, the game suddenly became exciting.
The Patriots took control after the Bengals missed a field goal on their subsequent drive, and Bourne once again made a crucial play. This time, the catch was a 28-yard toe-tap along the sideline that was initially disallowed but was later changed to a reception after further review.
Jakobi Meyers recovers a deflected pass for an impossible 48-yard touchdown deflection in this can’t-miss play! Forced Mistake! We almost have a game.
The Patriots faced a third-and-29 from close to midfield after taking an intentional grounding penalty that was increased by a Trent Brown false start. Mac Jones made the decision to just let it fly. With just under six minutes left in the game, Jakobi Meyers scored a startling 48-yard touchdown after the ball deflected perfectly into his arms from practise squad tight end Scotty Washington. Another extra point attempt was unsuccessful, bringing the score to 22-18.
The Patriots continued to gain momentum in the second half, forcing the Bengals to record their first point since the half in order to win the game. It wasn’t a traditional comeback in any sense.
Then, with 3:12 remaining, it was Matthew Judon’s turn to make a big play, forcing a fumble by Jamarr Chase that Marcus Jones recovered. This put the Patriots at the 43-yard line.
They would advance all the way to Cincinnati’s three-yard line until tragedy struck and determined the outcome when Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled the ball, giving the Patriots their second consecutive loss due to a crucial unforced error.
7-8 for the Patriots.
Even with the late comeback push, it was likely the worst loss for the Patriots in 2022, as New England now has a losing record for the season. Late in the game, the defence produced some significant plays that prevented the offence from converting a third down.After a slow start that ultimately wasn’t enough to make any kind of a difference, the music plays and stops.
Stevenson’s late fumble served as the unpleasant icing on top of a season in which self-inflicted mistakes have been a significant factor in both wins and defeats. Everything the offence accomplished well in the latter part of the game was ultimately obscured by the awful beginning.
With the defeat, it looks as though New England’s season will come to a close without earning a postseason spot for the second time in three years, marking the team’s fourth consecutive season without a playoff victory since they won Super Bowl 53. And unless they manage to eke out one more victory this year, they still have two games against two more very excellent AFC teams, thus their downward trend in the standings will only become worse.
After five months without making any significant strides forward, it is difficult to assume the Patriots will suddenly discover any magic. Florida and Buffalo will provide comparable difficulties as New England attempts to salvage some good from one of the most disastrous seasons in recent memory.