The Cincinnati Bengals managed to escape with a victory, 13-6, over the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.
Cincinnati’s coaching staff decided to play to quarterback Andy Dalton’s strengths in order to limit turnovers. Their plan worked.
The Bengals (3-2) won thanks to a solid defense and a strong rushing attack. Cincinnati ran for 162 yards, sacked New England quarterback Tom Brady four times and held the Patriots (4-1) to only 248 total yards of offense.
During the game, there were signs that head coach Marvin Lewis has lost some faith in the Bengal signal caller. On Cincinnati’s first drive, the Bengals handed off four straight times before punting and instead of trying to score quickly before halftime, they attempted to run the clock out. The Patriots would end up getting the ball back, kicking a field goal to even the score 3-3.
It was an impressive showing for Cincinnati’s secondary as Brady was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since 2010, a record of 52 straight games. Brady was harassed all day by the Bengals’ fierce defensive line which allowed the defensive backfield to make plays and limit New England’s inexperienced receivers. Perhaps the biggest play was made by cornerback Adam Jones who intercepted Brady near the end zone with under a minute left to seal the game.
The Bengals defended the pass well against another premiere NFL quarterback, but the question is whether they can carry the momentum of wins like the one against the Patriots over to their next road game against the Buffalo Bills. It is clear that Dalton is nothing more than a game manager and cannot be asked to carry Cincinnati’s offense. Since the Bengals do not have any other feasible options at quarterback at this point in the season, they must work around Dalton’s weaknesses and allow the defense to continue to dominate and win games as they did Sunday. After a solid victory against a true contender in the Patriots, it seems that Cincinnati has found a formula that works and must stick to it.