FOXBOROUGH — The morning after one of the worst performances for himself and the offense in his Patriots career, quarterback Tom Brady offered his assessment of what went wrong in a 13-6 loss to the Bengals Sunday.
“It was just a day where we never really found any rhythm. It seemed like every series we had a play that kind of knocked us backward and got us off track,” Brady said. “We just couldn’t string together enough good plays to get in the end zone. I said after the game – there’s very few games in the NFL where you can score 6 points and win.
“We just had one of those days where nothing seemed to go right. We had plenty of opportunities out there. We just never took advantage of it. Pretty disappointing to lose the game. Hopefully we can learn from it and move forward this week and have our best game.”
Brady, who made his comments during his weekly contractually obligated appearance on WEEI, pointed to the struggles on third down in particular.
“It was pretty poor all the way around,” he said. “There was not a lot of production in the pass game, in the run game. We only had 250 yards of offense, 1 of 12 on third down. If you can’t stay on the field because you’re not converting third downs, then you never really get a chance to balance the game out running the ball.
“We had some efficient runs, [but . . . ] on third down we just really could never get them into a situation where they started playing defensively. They were able to really do whatever they wanted with us, and we played totally on their terms all day because of our lack of ability to convert on third down.”
New England ran the ball just 18 times, and averaged 4.6 yards per attempt. But eight of the Patriots’ third-down tries were from 7 yards away or farther, including two plays on which they needed 14 yards.
Brady was not willing to pin the struggles on any one part of the offense, noting the Bengals dictated the tempo, which allowed their defense to keep playing to their strengths and continue to go after Brady.
“I thought our offensive line hung in there,” he said. “As a quarterback, as a skill group, we didn’t do enough to help the offensive line out, to stop [Cincinnati] from being able to really dictate their pass rush, dictate their blitzes whenever they wanted to. We had plenty of opportunities on third down to convert. We had some first- and second-down opportunities with a chance to gain more yards than we did. Because we didn’t do that, they can play their style and tempo.”
Brady knows that getting key players back on the field can help, and that rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have been asked to do quite a bit because of injuries to key players.
“We’ve missed Danny [Amendola] for most of the season, we’ve missed Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] for most of the season, we’ve missed Shane [Vereen] for most of the season. Those are some pretty good players that we depend on to play a pretty big role,” Brady said. “Those other guys are forced to do more and they’ve done a great job with it.”
Win or lose, Brady often comments on the offense’s execution, though this season that refrain has been heard a bit more than usual. The receivers have had their share of drops, Brady has had his share of off-the-mark throws, the offensive line has had its shaky moments – all of it adds up to a season that has been frustrating thus far. Brady knows they can do better.
“We’re not executing at the level we need to execute at . . . we scored 6 points,” he said. “We really haven’t played well, up to our capabilities, all season long. At some point we’re going to have to start doing that on a more consistent basis.
“We’re working hard at it in practice and we’re going to try to correct it. It’s not like it gets any easier for us. We’ve played some pretty good defenses, and this week we play the Saints – they’ve got a pretty good defense, too. They’re undefeated.
“We’ve got to start making the plays that NFL players make. If we don’t, we’re going to continue to struggle and not score points and put too much pressure on our defense. We’ve got to start being able to get the ball in the end zone and take advantage of our opportunities.”
No Aaron Hernandez, no Gronkowski to this point, three rookie receivers, and injuries to top running backs. It could be worse, and Brady recognized that.
“The positive is we’re 4-1 after all we’ve been through this year. We’re still in a pretty good position within our division and within the conference,” he said. “We have our whole season ahead of us. We need to develop some strengths that we can really build on. It’s only going to get tougher from here.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.