The recipe to stopping Tom Brady has always been about excellent pressure from the defensive line. Despite all of their problems on offense with the struggling Andy Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals have enough talent when it comes to the pass rush to keep the team from falling apart.
The Bengals, now 3-2, thought they’d be better at this point of the season. The 13-6 win over the New England Patriots, who continue to look bad, making last week’s impressive win over the Falcons become somewhat of a rarity in terms of the quality of performance, had plenty of down moments for the home side, but through a strong running game and excellent defense, they prevailed.
Brady thought he finally had his young receivers figured out. He also got Danny Amendola back, but the pressure from the Bengals pass rush, sacking him four times and putting him to the ground eight more times, blitzing him a total of 12 times during the game. There were plenty of drops from Pats receivers, including three out of the final 8 passes, all coming in the final 3:30 minutes of the game, but Brady himself was off on many of his passes. He finished with 18-of-38 for 197 yards, and his touchdown streak ended at 52 games, after being stopped at 0, throwing one interception.
The Bengals had to win with defense, because Andy Dalton didn’t do much better. He did complete 74% of his passes, but didn’t throw a single touchdown pass, getting intercepted once and mostly relying on his running game, as the Bengals got 169 yards through rushing, including their only touchdown of the game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis reaching the endzone, and Giovani Bernard looking as effective as ever with 62 yards on 13 carries. He fumbled the ball once, but the Patriots were even sloppier when it came to taking care of the ball.
How bad did the Bengals make Brady look? His 16.8 Total QBR was his worst in a game since Week 14 of the 2006 season (lost 21-0 to the Dolphins). Nearly 29%(11-of-38) of his throws were off target , his highest rate in a game during the last 2 seasons. They were especially effective when blitzing him, keeping him on 4-of-9 for 74 yards, sacking him 3 times and forcing a fumble. Brady was completing 62% of his passes over the last 20 games when facing five or more pass rushers.
So is this what the Bengals are about, or is there more? It seemed that for now, they’re simply proud of what their defense can do for them, ignoring, publicly, the problems caused by Andy Dalton not being able to become the quarterback they need him to be.
We knew we were going to have our hands full, but we were able to get to Brady on the second play. After that, you could see he was a little shaky. If you hit somebody enough, they’re going to make mistakes. All week long, all you guys were talking about was Tom Brady. We wanted them to be talking about us.
For the Patriots, the question is what’s been the out-of-the-ordinary game so far – the impressive win over the Falcons, or their first loss of the season, which wasn’t the first time Tom Brady looked like a less than spectacular quarterback.