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Other Week 15 Game Recaps

Week 15 Game Recap: New England Patriots 34, Cincinnati Bengals 13

What you need to know

New England Patriots

Julian Edelmanís health. If heís injured, the Patriots will need their defense to snag 5 takeaways every game, because the passing offense might be the worst in the league without him.

Cincinnati Bengals

-Andy Dalton threw four interceptions in the second half that allowed the Patriots to break open what had been a close game.

-Joe Mixon was outstanding, racking up over 150 yards through three quarters before being sidelined once the Bengals fell way behind.

-Tyler Boyd saw a lot of star cornerback Stephon Gilmore and lost the battle.

-With Auden Tate sidelined, the Bengals used more 12-personnel and it helped get the running game going.

New England Patriots

QB Tom Brady, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 15 - 29 - 128 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0
When your defense has 5 takeaways including a pick six, you may not need to do a ton on offense. That was exactly the case against the Bengals, as the Pats pretty much had the game wrapped up by the end of the 3rd quarter. Tom Brady once again wasnít anything special - only 29 attempts, but didnít even top 130 yards on an inefficient day. He airmailed several throws including a would be-touchdown to Mohamed Sanu, and with Julian Edelman clearly hurting, he really didnít have many places to go with the football. His first touchdown was a simple screen pass to James White, and the Bengals simply didnít have enough defenders who read the play correctly. His second was a strike to NKeal Harry, and for once, Brady had all day to throw. He sat in the pocket for about 6 seconds before Harry broke free. Against a better team, the passing game will still need much more than it showed.

RB Sony Michel, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 89 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (2 targets)
After a clunker in a bad game script, Michel looked fine against the Bengals, especially as the Pats mounted a big lead. He had a couple runs with good vision and decisiveness, and though he still isnít explosive, he hasnít been the major problem like he was earlier in the season. He did drop a pass, but heíll never be relied on much in that area.

RB Rex Burkhead, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 53 - 1, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)
Burkheadís ďrevenge gameĒ saw him scamper for a nice 33 yard touchdown which featured a slow juke, but it was good enough to fool a defender in the secondary. The play was blocked well by the o-line. Beyond that, not a ton to speak of.

RB James White, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 13 - 0, Rec: 3 - 49 - 1 (4 targets)
Your leading receiver on the day with 49 yards, folks. He did have an uncharacteristic drop on a short out, but also had a nice 23 yard screen touchdown in which Patriots blockers simply outnumbered Bengals defenders. Beyond that, it wasnít a day for the passing offense with short fields and big leads.

WR NKeal Harry, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 22 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 1 (4 targets)
Smartly, the coaching staff gave Harry more snaps, often replacing either Dorsett or Meyers in the WR rotation. His key play was a touchdown which didnít create initial separation, but superb pass blocking allowed him to get open after several seconds. He also had a great diving catch on a long shot, but the play was blown dead and the yardage didnít count. Expect him to continue with a good amount of snaps.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (8 targets)
Yet another subpar game for Sanu, who fumbled and dropped a 4th down conversion. He was lucky the fumble was negated by a penalty, but his separation continues to be horrid.

WR Julian Edelman, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (5 targets)
One never wants to speculate, but given how poor Edelman looked on some plays, itís clear his injury designations prior to the game likely played a role in his limited effectiveness. Health will be a huge topic to watch for Edelman. If he is hobbled, the passing game will really struggle.

WR Jakobi Meyers, 7 offensive snaps
Meyers is seemingly being phased out of the offense in favor of NKeal Harry. Itís been a rough season for him.

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Andy Dalton, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 31 - 151 - 1 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 2 - 1 - 0
Dalton did a decent job of managing the offense in the first half. On the opening possession, the Bengals marched it down the field via the running game. Daltonís first pass attempt of the game was on a third down from the Patriots 8-yard line and went for a touchdown. He threw it short to Cethan Carter, who made a man miss and got into the end zone. The wheels really came off in a disastrous third quarter, however. On the opening possession of the second half, Dalton threw slightly behind Tyler Boyd on a slant and Stephon Gilmore was able to wrest the ball away. The very next drive, Dalton Gilmore got Dalton again. Dalton tried to hit Boyd on an out-breaking route along the sideline but Gilmore was able to undercut it and took it the other way for a pick six. After a quick three and out, Dalton his third interception of the quarter. He threw it up deep down the sideline to Alex Erickson who was well covered. The corner was able to go up over Erickson and make a play on the ball. Daltonís fourth interception came late in the fourth quarter on a similar play. This time he threw a deep jump ball to John Ross and the well-positioned defender out jumped Ross for the ball.

RB Joe Mixon, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 25 - 136 - 0, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (3 targets)
The lone offensive bright spot for the Bengals was Mixon, who was outstanding. In fact, Mixon played so well against the Patriots that he had Bill Belichick saying he was probably the best back in the league in his postgame press conference. The Bengals came out committed to getting the run game going, with the first five plays of the game each run plays to Mixon. The fifth was an incredible individual effort by Mixon that went for 29 yards. There was nowhere to go and he was hemmed in behind the line of scrimmage before trying to cut back the other direction, then reversing field again to elude a pair of defenders, and running through an arm tackle to burst into the second level. He was able to rip off chunks of yardage throughout the first three quarters, finding success both up the middle and on toss plays to the outside. His impressive combination of power, elusiveness, and speed was on display throughout the game. Mixon had over 150 yards from scrimmage through three quarters but only touched it once in the fourth quarter due to the Bengals falling behind by multiple scores.

RB Giovani Bernard, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 27 - 0, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)
After five straight Mixon runs on the opening drive, he was winded and Bernard came in to give him a breather. Bernard promptly ripped off a 17-yard gain up the middle to get the Bengals into the red zone. He took the next two carries for a combined seven yards to setup a 3rd-and-short that went for a touchdown. After the three early carries and with Mixon rolling, Bernard didnít get another touch until midway through the third quarter. He was on the field for most of the fourth quarter when the Bengals fell behind by multiple scores but didnít make much of an impact and only managed 13 yards on four touches after the opening drive.

WR Tyler Boyd, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (7 targets)
The Patriots shadowed Boyd with Stephon Gilmore and Gilmore easily won the matchup. Gilmore was in Boydís hip pocket on a slant route and when the ball was thrown slightly behind Boyd, Gilmore was able to pick it off. The next possession, Boyd ran an out rout and Dalton tried to make the long throw from the far has to the sideline. Gilmore again stepped in front of Boyd for the interception and took it the other way for a touchdown.

WR John Ross, 25 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 24 - 0 (3 targets)
Any early-season momentum Ross generated prior to his injury has not carried over. Despite two of the Bengals top three receivers being out, Ross played just 38% of the snaps and wasnít targeted until the game was out of hand in the fourth quarter. He got open on a deep out route for a 20-yard pickup. Dalton later took a shot to Ross on a go route deep down the left sideline. The pass was slightly under-thrown but Ross made a terrible effort to try to come back and make the catch and the cornerback was able to intercept it. It would have taken a spectacular effort for Ross to have come down with the contested catch but he didnít even make much of an attempt to try to knock it away from the corner. It was the type of soft play that has plagued Ross through his first three seasons.

WR Alex Erickson, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (5 targets)
Erickson operated as the Bengalsí WR2 against the Patriots, out-snapping John Ross 50 to 25. He played 76% of the snaps despite the Bengals playing mostly 12-personnel. Erickson fumbled a punt return, his third-straight game with a fumble. However, he was interfered with by a Patriots defender on the catch and the officials missed it. Ericksonís five targets were tied for second-most on the team but he was only able to manage one catch. A couple targets were uncatchable and a jump ball deep down the sideline to Erickson was intercepted when the cornerback made an athletic leaping grab over Erickson.

TE Tyler Eifert, 36 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 44 - 0 (5 targets)
Eifert was the leading receiver for the Bengals. He played 56% of the snaps, his most since Week 8, largely due to the Bengals playing nearly half the snaps with at least two tight ends on the field. He showed some speed to get behind a defender on a go route down the right sideline for a 24-yard catch.

TE Cethan Carter, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 13 - 1 (2 targets)
Carter had played 24 snaps total coming into Week 16. He played 32 snaps (48%) against the Patriots, picking up a lot of the opportunities and snaps that would have gone to Auden Tate. He caught an 8-yard touchdown after catching a short comeback route a couple yards downfield and then beating his defender to get into the end zone.