PHOTO: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (84)
pushes away New England Patriots right corner back Randall Gay (21) after Houshmandzadeh
pulls in a second quarter pass in Foxboro, Mass., Sunday afternoon Dec. 12,
2004. Houshmandzadeh had 12 catches for 145 yards but it wasn't enough to prevent
a Patriots 35-28 win. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Another Year Another Post-Season
Pats Outlast Cincy, Clinch Playoff Berth
by Chris Timoney
Corey Dillon didn’t exactly run all over his former team, but his performance was a nice piece in another victory pie for the New England Patriots. Dillon was certainly serviceable against the Bengals Sunday as his first quarter touchdown contributed to the Pats 35-28 win over Cincinnati. The win, combined with a Jets loss to the Steelers, secured New England a spot in the playoffs and earned them another division title.
Every week the Patriots set new marks and trends in the same old fashion.
Much like has been the case over the previous 20 games the Pats have played New England got out to an early lead and never looked back.
The Bengals looked ready to play and ready to challenge the defending Super Bowl champs from the get-go. Ignited by the running of Rudi Johnson and the passing of Carson Palmer the Bengals marched down the field on the opening drive of the game in rather convincing fashion. A big hit at the line by Ty Warren on the opening play of the game didn’t set the Bengals reeling. They recovered and managed to get the ball down to the Patriots 12 yard line. On first and ten from the 12, Rudi Johnson took the handoff and plunged into the line of scrimmage where he was hit by safety Rodney Harrison and the ball was jarred loose. Veteran linebacker Willie McGinest picked up the loose ball and New England took possession at their own 16.
New England advanced the ball quickly and with ease at the start of the possession, moving into Cincinnati territory by way of a 23 yard pass to Deion Branch and a 16 yard Dillon run behind nice blocking by Joe Andruzzi, Christian Fauria and Patrick Pass. A few plays later New England was faced with a 4th and short situation from the 20 yard line. Instead of bringing in Adam Vinatieri for the sure 3 points, coach Bill Belichick decided to bring in Richard Seymour at fullback and go for it. Dillon plunged behind Seymour for the first down and kept the drive alive. Six plays later with the ball on the 1 yard line Seymour again entered the game in at fullback, accompanied by Mike Vrabel in at tight end and like clockwork Dillon plunged into the endzone behind the all-pro defensive tackle’s blocking for the go-ahead touchdown. The score marked the 21st consecutive game in which the Patriots have scored first. The run also provided Corey Dillon with his tenth touchdown run of the year, tying a career high for the former Bengal.
Up 7-0 early it seemed as though the Patriots would take early control, but the Bengals didn’t crawl back into their cave and hide. With field position in Patriots territory after a Josh Miller punt the Bengals began a scoring drive of their own. Running back Rudi Johnson carried much of the load as Cincinnati etched its way deep into Patriots territory. Johnson accounted for 24 yards rushing as the Bengals moved down inside the 5 yard line. On third and 2 Carson Palmer showed poise and a quick release in hitting tight end Matt Schobel over the middle for the touchdown and tying the score at 7 with ten minutes remaining in the half. On the play Schobel slipped inside unnoticed by the middle of the Patriots defense and found himself wide open just over the goal line.
It didn’t take the Patriots long to respond. It actually only took about a minute and-a-half. Taking possession at their own 30 the Pats began their quick strike with a non-spectacular pass to third string tight end Jed Weaver for 9 yards. Brady followed up the play with a completion to Kevin Faulk that moved New England over midfield. With a fresh set of downs in Bengal territory Brady, off play-action, launched deep down the middle to David Patten for the go-ahead touchdown. On the 48 yard strike Patten was given the inside of the field by the Bengal secondary and had his man beat by 5 yards at the goal line. Just like that New England was up 14-7 with 8:31 remaining in the half and had momentum.
That momentum carried over on defense when Cincinnati took over after the ensuing kickoff. On first down from the Bengal 33 Carson Palmer dropped back in the pocket and fired to the outside for wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The ball was misplaced by Palmer resulting in an interception by cornerback Asante Samuel. Samuel returned the ball 34 yards for a touchdown, whipping the Foxboro faithful into a frenzy. In a matter of 12 seconds the Pats scored 14 points and found themselves up 21-7 with over eight minutes remaining in the half.
The Bengals showed poise and maturity by not completely collapsing after the 14 point swing. Instead, the Bengals responded with a score of their own. On third and 12 from the Cincy 29 Palmer completed down the middle to Houshmandzadeh for 33 yards moving the Bengals into New England territory.
From there head coach Marvin Lewis used a mix of Rudi Johnson runs and Carson Palmer passes to get the ball down to the 5 yard line. On 2nd and goal from the 5 Palmer found Chad Johnson heading to the outside of the endzone and completed for the touchdown. On the play Johnson had sold cornerback Randall Gay on the inside before turning outside for the catch.
The 69 yard scoring drive brought the Bengals back to within a touchdown with 2 and-a-half minutes to go in the half.
A nice return by Bethel Johnson set New England up with field position near midfield as Brady & Co. began work on a half closing drive. Two runs for 17 yards by Dillon(22 rushes for 88 yards) moved the Pats inside Bengal territory to the 36. From there Brady, out of the shotgun, took to the air completing to Patten for passes of 13 and 20 yards. The 20 yard pass, in which Brady had all day, was a strike at the sideline and gave New England possession at the 3 yard line. After losing a yard on a 1st and goal attempt Corey Dillon checked out of the game. Kevin Faulk took Dillon’s place in the backfield on 2nd and goal. Much like the Dillon TD in the first quarter, Seymour and Vrabel were brought in to block on the short yardage play. Faulk found the endzone on the run, aided by a great block by guard Stephen Neal and the Pats again found themselves up 2 scores, 28-14 and that’s how they’d enter the half.
Unfortunately for the Bengals, New England began the second half with the ball and picked up right where they left off. Starting out at their own 25 the Pats began moving the ball in ordinary fashion. Yet, on 2nd and 8 from the 38 Brady converted in extraordinary fashion. On the play Brady dropped back to pass. Corey Dillon did a nice job of picking up a blitzer, but Brady lost his footing and fell onto his backside. Brady was untouched so play continued and with the cool calmness he’s displayed over the past few seasons Brady matter-of-factly continued the play by completing to Patrick Pass to the outside for 7 yards while sitting in the backfield. Brady then went on to convert on 3rd and 1 by plowing forward behind his lineman. From there the Pats proceeded to drive down field getting to the Bengal 17 yard line. On first and ten Brady found Christian Fauria wide open over the middle in the endzone. Fauria’s leaping catch gave the Pats a third quarter 35-14 lead and a romp seemed to be brewing.
For the remainder of the game Cincinnati played with poise and threatened to upset the defending champs. On the ensuing drive Carson Palmer(18/24 for 202 yards) led the Bengals down to the New England 11. On third and 5 Palmer’s day would end early as a result of a low hit by Richard Seymour on a pass attempt to the endzone. Seymour’s low hit, which was a result of an offensive hold, left Palmer with a strained knee and forced him to the locker room for x-rays and observation by the medical staff. Unshaken by the injury to his starting QB, Marvin Lewis surprised the Patriots special teams unit when on the ensuing 4th down field goal attempt holder Kyle Larson took the snap and ran to the left side straight into the endzone.
Marvin Lewis took advantage of the Patriots overloading the right side of the line and sent Larson to the left. The score found the Bengals again down 2 TDs with a quarter-and-a-half left to play.
The Patriots went 3-and-out for the first time of the day on the ensuing possession and the Bengals took over on their own 46 with backup QB and last year’s starter Jon Kitna under center. Aided by fine receiver play by Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, Kitna seemingly picked up right where he left off last year. On a drive littered with Cincinnati penalties Kitna threw for over 90 total yards on his first drive. In doing so he moved the Bengals down to the Patriot's 10 yard line and set them up for a potential score. On 3rd and ten from the ten Kitna threw for the endzone. The ball, thrown late and behind the intended receiver, was picked off by Troy Brown in the endzone. The drive was killed and the Pats took possession on their own 3.
The teams exchanged a few punts before on 4th and 1 at the Bengal 39, Belichick attempted his own special teams fake. Lined up in punt formation, Larry Izzo stepped up behind center and took the snap. The fake failed and Cincinnati regained possession on downs. Down two TDs with just over 6 and-a-half minutes remaining in the game Kitna & Co. knew they had to work quickly. Five plays after taking over possession Kitna(9 of 13 for 126 yards) found Kelly Washington mismatched against Earthwind Moreland in the endzone on first down from the New England 27. The score edged the Bengals to within a TD with 3:50 remaining in the game.
Of Cincinnati’s constant attack Belichick said, “Like expected we got a very explosive game out of Cincy.”
With the poise they’ve showed over the course of the season the Pats were able to successfully pick up some first downs, allowing them to run out the clock for the 35-28 win.
New England has scored 116 points off turnovers this season. Heading into the game the Patriots had allowed an average of 3.7 points/game over the last 6 games in November & December. Troy Brown’s interception marked only the second time in which an NFL wide receiver had 3 interceptions in a season. Roy Green of the ‘81 Cardinals also had 3 interceptions. Brown’s interception also ties him with Eugene Wilson for the team lead. The Patriots have scored 51 points on the opening drive of the second half.
Wide receiver David Givens was declared inactive before the game due to tightness encountered in pre-game warmups.
Chris Timoney provides is a site contributor for the Patriots Insider. You can find him in the forums under the name: jakbrown. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by using the search feature on this site.
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