NFL Nation: 2013 Week 5 NWE at CIN

BenJarvus Green-EllisJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesBenJarvus Green-Ellis and the Bengals were inspired by Marvin Lewis' tough week of practices.
CINCINNATI -- OK, Cincinnati Bengals, can we have a heart to heart?

Your win over the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon was fantastic, amazing, stupendous, remarkable and any other adjective you can think of along those lines. The fact that one week after an uncharacteristic loss, you beat a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and his undefeated team, who everyone -- except Las Vegas, apparently; oddsmakers favored you all week -- thought would clobber you into submission, is something that bears applause.

You also ought to be recognized for the fact that despite a harrowing outdoor scene that looked like it was straight out of the Apocalypse, you held on, fended off Mother Nature and earned one of your most important wins of the young season.

Congratulations, you're back over .500.

But here's the thing, Bengals, football fans are fickle, as can be the media who cover the sport they so passionately love.

For that reason, the following question has to be posed: This time around, can we believe in you?

Can we, the voracious consumers of this sport you so courageously risk limb and livelihood for, take you seriously this time? Can we believe that now, you are officially, without a doubt, 100 percent able to live up to the hype so many built up for you this offseason? Can we believe this immensely-talented team does have the internal drive and desire to not only get by as an OK team, but to be a truly great one?

Essentially, what we're asking is this: Should Bengals fans start getting their hopes up again, or should they wait to see if you play down next week to a currently quarterback-less team in Buffalo that you should beat? The fans are on to your hot-and-cold style of play. Many of you are on to it, too. Like them, you know you have a habit of going into winnable games and, for whatever reason, not arriving.

"We can't do that. We can't be up and down. We can't be a roller-coaster team," defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "We've got to be consistent and steady. The guys in this locker room got the hint [Sunday]. We've just got to play that way every week."

Cincinnati, you know that in order to be taken seriously again, you must pressure every quarterback the way you did Tom Brady. Four-sack games were once a staple in your defense. Make it that way again. Pretend the Brian Hoyers of the world are just like the Mannings, the Flaccos, the Roethlisbergers and Rodgerses; you know, championship quarterbacks you've beaten the past calendar year.

In order to be taken seriously again, you have to throw for more than 170 yards and simultaneously rush for more than 160 like you did in your 13-6 win over the Patriots. That type of balance is your offensive identity, whether you believe you have really found such a thing or not. You have the horses, so keep figuring out ways to get the ball into Giovani Bernard's and BenJarvus Green-Ellis' hands. Keep tossing it to Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. Keep looking for A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Don't deviate from that plan. If you do, you'll have a repeat of last week's bitter mood.

You don't want that.

[+] EnlargeCincinnati's Adam Jones
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsAdam Jones' interception of Tom Brady iced the game for the Bengals.
Coach Marvin Lewis was so disgusted by that loss that he put you all through practices last week that were as close to training camp levels of intensity and physicality as the NFL would let him employ.

"We were ready," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "When you feel like your back is against the wall, that's how you come out fighting. You want to hit whoever it is, first. And when you hit them, you don't really want to give them a chance to hit you back. That's the mindset I take out there, and I'm quite sure I got 10 other guys feeling the same way. I don't care which quarterback you bring and what your case may be, when our back is against the wall, we fight you. So that's the results you get when you got 11 guys swinging and throwing haymakers for four quarters. You make stuff happen."

Gilberry wasn't the only one feeling inspired by the intense workouts. Green-Ellis, en route to his 19-carry, 67-yard performance, was, too.

"We hate losing around here, and anytime you lose, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth," Green-Ellis said, referencing last week's disappointment after a 17-6 loss at Cleveland. "We were anxious to go out [Sunday] whether it was rain, sleet or snow, monsoon, hurricane, tornado. We just wanted to go out and get the 'W.'"

It's fitting "monsoon" was one of the weather elements he invoked. Late in the fourth quarter, during a crucial Patriots drive, sheets of rain settled into Paul Brown Stadium. They soaked the venue so much that it was hard for spectators in the rafters to even see you all moving around the field. Many probably wondered how you even saw the ball.

Apparently, the Patriots couldn't see it, either. On a six-pass drive that started inside the final two minutes, Brady threw four incomplete passes and one interception. Just before the pickoff, the clouds began to lift, the rains started to ease. The precipitation had slowed just enough for Adam Jones to track Brady's deep, hopeful, potentially game-tying throw and tip it into the air, before securing it in his hands as he landed awkwardly. Even though 16 seconds remained, the Patriots were out of timeouts. The game had been iced.

You, as a team, had won.

Just like the Week 2 win over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, a solid ground game complemented the passing attack. Just like the Week 3 victory over Green Bay, a big defensive play late effectively preserved a win.

You need more of the same, Bengals.

"As much as you hate letting a couple slip by here and there, you're going to have to win more," center Kyle Cook said. "We've already dropped two, so obviously we're going to need to go on some good streaks. But what better way to start it off? We have a hard one against us this week to go to Buffalo. As a team, we have to come together and not only play well at home, but play well on the road."

It all goes back to consistency. Play the way you did Sunday, and you'll start seeing people believe in you again, too.


Amendola on return: 'Work to be done'

October, 6, 2013
CINCINNATI -- After missing three games with a groin injury, New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola made his return to the field on Sunday, logging 38 of 64 snaps and leading the team in both catches (four) and receiving yards (55).

The receiver was limited early in the game, often being held off in two- and three-wide-receiver sets, but after it was over he said he felt OK in his first game back.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done and we've just got to get better."

Amendola also revealed a bit about the process leading up to the decision that he was going to play, as he alluded to the fact that he had a "good idea" he'd be on the field when he traveled with the team on Saturday. Ultimately, the decision came down to how Amendola felt as he prepared for the game, something he tested during an extensive pregame warm-up.

"It was just something that, it was day-to-day all week and it just felt good enough to play," he said.

The pregame warm-up was important for Amendola in order to ensure that he was fully ready to roll.

"Practice is practice during the week, then you get into the game, adrenaline's flowing, it's a lot faster," he noted. "I had to make sure I was ready, but I felt pretty good."

On the field, Amendola nearly corralled his first touchdown catch with the Patriots, coming up inches short as he nearly rolled in for the score.

"I caught it, I knew I was close," he said of the play. "I thought I could roll in, I thought I was going to be in, but it didn't roll that way."

Things didn't roll the way the Patriots' offense wanted them to throughout the day, as a late chance to tie the score amid difficult conditions -- steady rain -- came up short. Amendola said the team was ready for the rain, but the offensive futility ultimately came down to a need to execute better.

"It was raining, but that's something that we practice," he said. "We anticipate playing in the rain, we just need to get better."

Locker Room Buzz: New England Patriots

October, 6, 2013
CINCINNATI -- Observed in the locker room after the New England Patriots' 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

Following up with Tommy Kelly: The veteran defensive tackle, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and didn't return, was one of the last players to leave the locker room. Unlike Vince Wilfork last week, who left Atlanta on the back of a cart after tearing his Achilles, Kelly walked out under his own power and his injury didn't appear, on the surface, to be as serious as Wilfork's. Kelly said he planned to speak with reporters later in the week, but when asked briefly about the knee, he said "everything's good." What that exactly means remains a bit unclear.

Tom Brady on his streak being snapped: The quarterback had his streak of 52 straight games with at least one touchdown pass snapped. When asked about it, Brady said, "I'm bummed that we lost. That's all that really matters."

Crediting the Bengals' defense: As is often the case in a losing team's locker room, there was plenty of focus on the team's mistakes. At the same time, receiver Julian Edelman -- who singled out the red zone as the key area in the game -- pointed out that some credited belonged on the Bengals' side as well. "They were mixing it up, spinning the dial, doing what they do. They flat-out beat us. Sometimes you have to tip your hat," he said. "We have no excuses."

Letting the defense down: Offensive lineman Logan Mankins said, "The truth right now is that we're so inconsistent offensively. ... Today, the defense played great, as they have all year. I think we really let them down." No further explanation required.

Amendola's groin responds well: Receiver Danny Amendola was charted on the field for 38 of 64 snaps (including penalties), as he was managed in his return from a groin injury. He drew a large crowd of reporters at his locker after the game and said he felt good, although there were a few plays he wanted to have back. Amendola also said he felt he had scored on a play in which he was ruled just shy of the end zone.

Locker Room Buzz: Cincinnati Bengals

October, 6, 2013
CINCINNATI -- Observed in the locker room after the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-6 win over the New England Patriots:

Partly cloudy Lewis: As much as Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wanted to enjoy Sunday's win over one of the NFL's last unbeaten teams, he was quick to acknowledge a number of negatives. Andy Dalton's interception in the red zone wasn't a positive. Neither was Giovani Bernard's late fumble that could have set up a Patriots game-tying or winning scoring drive. "A lot to coach from and correct," Lewis said. Using the weather-forecast analogies that Lewis often correlates to injuries, it's safe to say he was partly cloudy about the win.

Quick change: Speaking of the weather, most Bengals were quick to get out of their soggy uniforms and out the stadium. There were monsoon-like conditions late in the fourth quarter as sheets of rain moved across Paul Brown Stadium. The rains came during two of the game's most pivotal drives, then cleared when Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones intercepted a Tom Brady pass to ice the game with 16 seconds remaining.

Crock Marshall'd: Bengals cornerback Chris Crocker held court at his locker with two television crews from Huntington, W.Va. The former Marshall standout recorded seven tackles and broke up two passes.

Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals

October, 6, 2013

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-6 win over the New England Patriots:

What it means: Until the Bengals string together multiple wins, there really is very little that can be gleaned from their performance Sunday afternoon. They have been inconsistent much of the season, trading wins and losses. We'll see whether they can build momentum after the victory over one of the last of the NFL's unbeatens. Otherwise, the win meant Cincinnati did what we already knew it could -- beat a great team.

Stock watch: Rising: BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Four games into the season, many around Cincinnati were questioning Green-Ellis' role in the Bengals' offense and whether or not he should completely take a backseat to rookie Giovani Bernard, whose speed-driven, electrifying style of play has made him an overwhelming fan favorite. Green-Ellis answered the critics Sunday with his best performance of the season, rushing 19 times for 67 yards and one touchdown. The effort came against the team he spent four years with. Ahead of Sunday's contest, the former Patriot had rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns this season, and was among the league's worst with a 2.7-yards-per-carry average.

Identity found? Six days after offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told reporters he felt the Bengals were still seeking their offensive identity, they came out with a more balanced and diverse attack than they showcased in recent games. Cincinnati started the game by running the ball four times on a four-play drive. The Bengals eventually turned the offense over to their tight ends; Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham finished with a combined nine catches. By the middle of the second quarter, on their fifth drive of the game, the Bengals finally got their receivers involved, passing to Marvin Jones and A.J. Green. In all, the Bengals threw the ball 27 times and ran it 39 times.

Defensive pressure: For the first time, the Bengals got a sack from someone other than a defensive lineman, when linebacker Vontaze Burfict came away with a sack on New England's Tom Brady in the third quarter. The sack was for a loss of 10 yards. In all, Cincinnati had four sacks, including two from defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who replaced Michael Johnson (concussion).

What's next: Cincinnati (3-2) travels to Buffalo for its first of two straight road games.

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

October, 6, 2013

CINCINNATI -- Thoughts from the New England Patriots13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: The Patriots’ offense was held without a touchdown as the Bengals’ defense -- and missed opportunities by New England -- was the story of the game. The Patriots, who had two drives with a chance to score a game-tying touchdown, fall to 4-1. Parts of the end of the game were played in a driving rainstorm.

Brady’s streak: Quarterback Tom Brady’s streak of 52 straight games with at least one touchdown pass was snapped. The record was 54 straight games, set by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Had Brady kept the streak alive, he would have had a chance to tie the mark against Brees’ Saints. Brady was intercepted with 16 seconds left to end it on an underthrown pass.

Kelly’s knee injury and defensive tackle concerns: Veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly left the game in the second half with a knee injury, returned briefly, then left for good. A potential Kelly absence would be a big blow in the wake of the Patriots losing defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for the season. The Patriots have rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones next on the depth chart and also have first-year player Marcus Forston and rookie A.J. Francis on the practice squad.

More on the injury front: Veteran running back Leon Washington left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return. Washington, who had a thigh injury that limited him to just one of the team’s first four games, opened Sunday as the Patriots’ primary kickoff returner.

Stock watch, up: Defense. On a day in which the Patriots’ offense was stymied -- and credit goes to the Bengals’ defense for making life so difficult -- the Patriots’ defense kept the team in the game. Safety Devin McCourty’s forced fumble late in the fourth quarter had the team in position to potentially tie. And then the defense delivered another stop to force a punt.

Stock watch, down: LeGarrette Blount. The running back fumbled in the second quarter, ending a promising drive. With top running back Stevan Ridley out with a thigh injury, this was Blount’s time to assume a lead role. The fumble hurt.

Managing Amendola: Receiver Danny Amendola played for the first time since injuring his groin in the Sept. 8 season opener. Including penalties, he was on the field for 38 of 64 snaps (unofficially), which reflects how he was managed in his return.

What’s next: The Patriots return home to face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.




Sunday, 2/2