By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Here are some "ups" and "downs" from a convincing 34-13 Patriots win over the Bengals.
-- CB Stephon Gilmore. Easy. The NFL's best cornerback made an early pass breakup on third down to help hold the Bengals to a field goal, which set the tone for the Patriots' defensive turnaround. Then Gilmore caught fire in the third quarter, picking off Andy Dalton twice and returning his second interception for a touchdown. Throwing at him repeatedly remains a bad idea, and Gilmore remains in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.
-- WR N'Keal Harry. It was, at the very least, something to build on for the rookie. For the third time in four games, Harry made a touchdown catch in the red zone (if you include the play that the officials incorrectly ruled out of bounds against the Chiefs). Only two catches for 15 yards and the score, but Harry also took two jet sweep handoffs for 22 yards. The Patriots vowed to get him more involved in the offense and they certainly delivered in that regard on Sunday.
-- ST Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel. Special teams made a massive difference in this one. Slater forced a muff by Alex Erickson that Bethel recovered, which set up a Patriots field goal. Bethel made good tackles in kick coverage. The duo had one of its more dominant games as a tandem.
-- WRs Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu. Edelman is playing through about 6,000 injuries right now, so maybe he has a bit of an excuse for his down day in Cincy - two catches on five targets for nine yards. But Sanu was removed from the injury report this week after dealing with an ankle sprain, so he has no such excuse. Sanu caught just two of eight targets for 13 yards, had a fourth-down pass attempt go through his hands, and would have lost a fumble if a Cincinnati penalty didn't wipe out the play.
-- LB Jamie Collins. Collins hasn't made the same impact on games in the second half of the season that he did in the first half. He made five tackles against the Bengals, but what stood out more were his missed tackles on Bengals RB Joe Mixon that helped Cincy move the ball early. The Pats will probably need Collins to regain his form from Weeks 1-8 if the defense wants to dominate against good teams in the playoffs.
-- RT Marcus Cannon. Pressure off the edge was an issue for much of the afternoon, which can be traced back to missed assignments and subpar execution by Cannon. At this point in the season, the Patriots' blocking overall up front looks like it's not going to get much better and will be something the Pats need to overcome in order to win in January.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].