1. Jerod Mayo — Set the tone with a big third-down stuff on BenJarvus Green-Ellis to open the game. Spent the rest of the day trying to prove that this team can stop the run without Vince Wilfork. Finished with seven solos, four assists, a half sack. Tackled well in coverage. He was very active.
2. Brandon Spikes — Marvin Lewis challenged him and ran at him and nearly lost the game because of it. Spikes had a couple tackles for loss, filled the right holes on nearly every play but the decisive BJG-E touchdown run. Also had seven solos, with five assists and a gift of an interception on a ball that no Merrimack Valley Conference quarterback would have been stupid enough to throw.
3. Ryan Allen — The best day of the Pats’ rookie punter’s young career. Of course, he had plenty of opportunities. Stuck five of his eight punts inside of 20, netting 42.0 yards per attempt.
1. Julian Edelman — Sorry, buddy, but when you’re expected to make plays for a football team, and you get the bobbles —a trait I thought he had put behind him — you become the face of a receiving corps that endured a really, really bad day. Targeted seven times, he caught two. Two of the misses are on Tom Brady. The other three on him.
2. Nate Solder — Dominated physically from the opening snap, which allowed the Bengals to rush four and do nothing else but cover with the other seven. You can’t leave your quarterback hanging like he did.
3. Tom Brady — Not a pretty day for the big fella, who was knocked off his spot early and never looked comfortable again. Look, the monsoon rains stopped just in time for Brady to author another miracle. He responded with a floater that Pacman Jones of all people pulled in. Finished 18 of 38 for 197 yards, with his 52-game TD pass streak snapped. The rating of 52.2 tells all. He threw off-balance, rarely stepped into throws and was too happy to throw off the back foot. It got so bad that one person in my house was led to wonder aloud, “Giselle has to be pregnant again, right?”
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (D) ... When Nate Solder surrendered sacks on each of the first two series, you had to be expecting a long day and it was. Cincinnati owned the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by the Pats not being able to pump it in on first-and-goal in the fourth.
Receivers (C-) ... Too many drops. Too many miscommunications. With the young guys, it’s two steps forward, two steps back. Case in point,Aaron Dobson. He had a great 49-yard catch-and-run, but even that came with an unforced fumble that he fell back on. Where was Dobson the rest of the day? Kenbrell Thompkins was blanketed all day, finishing with three catches for 16 yards. Heroic effort by Danny Amendola, who caught four balls for 55 yards. But he’s so beaten up.
Tight Ends (D) ... Where is Gronk? This facade that Michael Hoomanawanui is an NFL tight end has to end.
Running Backs (C) ... LeGarrette Blount’s fumble is inexcusable. Yes, it’s a great defensive play, the strip from behind, but if it’s being carried high and tight there, it wouldn’t have mattered. He and Brandon Bolden averaged a solid 4.5 yards a carry, and the latter caught six balls, but the inability to punch the ball into the end zone was a problem.
Quarterback (C) ... Tom Brady simply looked uncomfortable from the opening pass attempt. Of course, when you are smothered by Geno Atkins before you can even turn around to look downfield, you’d be uncomfortable, too. High marks for taking the hits. Low marks for tip-toeing around and refusing to step into throws.
Line (B-) ... Chris Jones, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were in on sacks. They were active but they didn’t pressure Andy Dalton consistently, as he hit on 20 of 27 attempts. Yes, they missed Vince Wilfork, but hustle and a big day from the linebackers meant it didn’t hurt so much. Consistency has to be better. And we will see what happens if Tommy Kelly’s knee is an issue.
Linebackers (B-) ... To listen to Dan Dierdorf, this group might as well book their Pro Bowl plane flights in bulk. The bottom line is that Cincy’s lead backs ran 32 times for 129 yards, just over four yards a carry. And the backs and tight ends combined to catch 11 balls. Just because Brandon Spikes plays well, it doesn’t mean Dont’a Hightower has to disappear.
Secondary (C) ... Aqib Talib held A.J. Green to five catches for 61 yards. That’s commendable. But Andy Dalton was there to be exploited and ham-and-eggers named Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu hurt you at the wrong time.
Why Belichick’s better
On the road, hostile crowd, Bill Belichick’s Patriots are flagged for zero penalties, netting zero yards. That’s a well-prepared football team.
Meanwhile, Marvin Lewis’ crew, on its own home turf, was hit for 7 flags and 59 yards. Two of them — an offsides and a personal foul — give the Pats’ first downs on their final bid to tie the score.
‘Free points, getcha free points, he-ya’
There’s a reason for going 81-83 and 0-4 in the playoffs as a head coach. You simply aren’t good.
And it truly was nice to see Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis in a charitable mood yesterday, giving the Pats a free three points, right before halftime.
The Bengals took the football over with 57 seconds left inside their own 10. Now, at the time, his QB Andy Dalton was 10 of 12 for 107 yards. With the Pats stacking the box defensively, Lewis called for three straight BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs that gained little.
The 20-second possession left Tom Brady with 37 ticks on the clock, just enough to maneuver into position for Stephen Gostkowski’s game-tying 42-yard field goal.
Who wanted the lead, right Marvin?
The game’s scariest stat
Yikes, a New England Patriots offense — with Tom Brady in charge — was just one of 12 on third-down conversions. You wonder how the Pats stayed in the game, considering Cincy hit 6 of 15 and then converted on its one fourth-down try.
The glass is half-full
The Pats dropped to 4-1 but hold sway in the division with Buffalo’s Thursday night loss, Miami’s loss to Baltimore yesterday and the Jets’ sure defeat tonight in Atlanta. ...
You can blame Marvin Lewis for an awful offensive gameplan and sloppy execution, but this defense held a pretty potent Bengals’ offense to just 13 points ...
Chris Jones and Joe Vellano held their own inside at the defensive tackles. ...
Danny Amendola made it through the entire game. ...
Rob Gronkowski is due back anytime now. ...
I mean half-empty
Injuries to Tommy Kelly and Steve Gregory could really test this defense’s depth. ...
The Bengals ran 70 plays and possessed the football for 34:16 on the clock. That’s too much bend in the Pats’ “Bend but don’t break” philosophy. ...
The defensive backfield played much of the day in chase mode, allowing the Bengals receivers to dictate. ...
Drew Brees comes with the 5-0 Saints to invade Gillette Stadium next Sunday at 4:25 p.m.