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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Jordy McElroy

Instant analysis of Patriots’ failed rally in 22-18 loss to Bengals

The New England Patriots fought their way back from a 22-point deficit at halftime, only to fall short on a Rhamondre Stevenson red zone fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Bad teams find ways to lose football games, and such was the case for the Patriots down the stretch of a game they had to claw and scratch their way back into on Saturday.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow looked like Joe Brady in the first half, dropping dimes all over the field to his many receiving weapons. But the Patriots defense stepped up in a big way and shut down the former Heisman Trophy winner by holding one of the hottest teams in football scoreless in the second half.

The comeback was sparked with Marcus Jones scoring a pick-six on Burrow and putting the Patriots’ first points on the board. Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne also suddenly had the game of his life with six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. And then there was the ridiculous deep touchdown pass attempt to reserve tight end Scotty Washington, who pushed the pass into the awaiting arms of Jakobi Meyers for six more points.

How’s this for a bounce-back lateral play?

The Patriots had the game under control with barely a minute left on the clock in a goal line situation, but they continued to force-feed Stevenson, who then put the ball on the ground to sing New England’s lullaby on the afternoon.

Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe a loss of this magnitude, especially after the way things ended last week in Las Vegas. The hits keep on coming for a Patriots team that is no longer the gold standard of professional football.

Coach Bill Belichick, along with every other coach and player within the organization, will have to look into the mirror to decide where they go from here. Change obviously isn’t coming overnight, and the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills are next up on the schedule.

There should be no more talk of the walls closing in on the Patriots. It’s time to face the fact that they’ve already closed.

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