The narrative was a convenient one for the New England Patriots, who found themselves in the eerily familiar position of looking to rebound from a high-profile loss to Kansas City with a road game on tap against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Head coach Bill Belichick’s familiar and tired refrain of “We’re on to Cincinnati” was ready to be queued up from 2014, a soundbite born as the coach’s public means of turning the page following a loss.
Even Tom Brady followed his coach’s lead from five years ago and took to Instagram this week with the very same message ahead of Sunday’s game against the Bengals (1-12).
Unfortunately for the Patriots (10-3), another video-taping incident — involving a Patriots advance scout at Cincinnati’s game at Cleveland on Sunday — arose early this week that raised suspicions around the league and has many drawing comparisons to the “Spygate” saga of 2007.
“The football team, the football staff and the coaching staff had nothing to do with what happened. Nothing. So, we have no involvement in it,” Belichick said during a testy press conference on Wednesday.
While the NFL investigates the latest incident, the Patriots have turned their attention toward punching their ticket to the postseason for the 17th time in 20 seasons with Belichick at the helm. A win or a tie on Sunday will be enough to do the trick.
New England hasn’t been as fortunate over the last two weeks, as it followed up a loss at Houston with a 23-16 home setback to Kansas City on Sunday in a rematch of January’s AFC title game.
Brady was pressured throughout the contest against the Chiefs and completed just 19 of 36 passes for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Brady, who had his right elbow significantly bandaged after the game, was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
While some officiating calls can be called into question, Brady elected to take the high road and point the finger at himself.
“I wish it would go our way. Unfortunately they didn’t,” the 42-year-old said during his Monday morning weekly interview on sports radio WEEI.
“It doesn’t take away from, when you watch the game, all the different things we had in our control that I wish we could have done a little bit better.”
Julian Edelman did his job with eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City, but the Super Bowl MVP’s availability has been drawn into question after he was listed as a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice with knee and shoulder injuries.
Having Edelman at less than 100 percent is of significant concern for the Patriots, who saw fellow wideouts Jakobi Meyers, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Phillip Dorsett combine for three receptions for 60 yards versus the Chiefs.
Harry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice despite nursing a hip injury, while Sanu was limited while dealing with an ailing ankle.
The first-place Patriots also find themselves nursing a one-game lead over Buffalo, with the Bills visiting Gillette Stadium in Week 16.
Now, pardon the phrase … “On to Cincinnati.”
The Bengals’ euphoria following their first win of the season was short-lived, as they fell for the 19th time in 21 games with a 27-19 setback to Cleveland.
Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown versus the Browns, giving the third-year running back two triple-digit rushing performances in his past five games.
“We should’ve won that game, but the best thing about it is we get to see them in three more weeks in Cincinnati,” Mixon said. “They’ve got to come to us. I’m excited, and I can’t wait.”
First things first for Mixon, who faces New England’s fourth-ranked rush defense (93.0 yards per game).
Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton has a bigger hill to climb against the Patriots’ second-ranked pass defense (171.8 yards), and that task became even harder this week after promising wideout Auden Tate (sprained MCL) was placed on injured reserve.
Fellow wideout John Ross was limited in Wednesday’s practice while nursing a foot injury. He made his return from injured reserve last week, catching two passes for 28 yards.
–Field Level Media