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"I feel like we beat ourselves. I feel like it's stuff that we can improve on. It's nothing they did. We just have to improve. You can look around and tell. It's upsetting. We don't want to lose."Of course, any team worth it's salt will have this mentality. Part of being an athlete is that mentality that no one can beat me as long as I take care of business and play well.
With that said, Dobson is only partially right. The Patriots certainly didn't help themselves out, with poor pass protection, a shortsighted decision to abandon the run, drops, miscommunications and errant passes all contributing to the loss.
However, the biggest deciding factor in that game was the Bengals ability to consistently win their one-on-one matchups up front and pressure Brady. Don't say "It's nothing they did" to Geno Atkins, who seemingly lived in the New England backfield all game. Don't say it to Wallace Gilberry, who stepped up in the absence of Michael Johnson to collect 2 sacks and plenty of pressure. Certainly don't say it to Carlos Dunlap, who contributed constant pressure and a forced LeGarrette Blount fumble on a great hustle play.
The Patriots mistakes merely prevented them from overcoming the dominance of the Bengals defensive line. The decision to abandon the run not only made the offense predictable, but also helped create a lot of third and longs (the Pats were an abysmal 1-12 on third downs). Drops, misreads and inaccurate passes got in the way the rare times Brady did have time to throw. Either a catch by Brandon Bolden on a perfectly set up screen or a better throw to Danny Amendola in the red zone could have dramatically altered what was only a 7 point game.
However, it's hard to say the Patriots beat themselves. The game featured a big strength-on-strength matchup between the Patriots O-Line and Bengals D-Line. The Bengals manned up and won those physical battles and deserve credit for the win.