In his Monday press conference, coach Bill Belichick said he thought the team played more consistently, admitting there had been flashes of quality play in previous weeks mixed in with lower-quality play.
"I just felt we were more consistent, closer to throughout the full game than we had been in the other ones," said Belichick. "It's all about consistency. Anybody in this league can go out and make a play or two plays. There's plenty of talent on the field in every team to do that, but if you want to be a good team you've got to sustain it play after play, week after week. That's the big challenge."
The Patriots defense gelled on Sunday against a Bengals offense that showcased Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson, only allowing the star-studded offense to convert two of their 11 third-down attempts.
"Obviously we've been frustrated with our overall third down conversion percentage," said Belichick. "We really put a lot of emphasis on it – we've been emphasizing it, don't get me wrong. It's not like we just started talking about it, but we put an even heavier emphasis on it this week and I think Dean [Pees] really did a good job of taking the players and going over the situations, putting a few more plays in practice on it, getting a few more reps and trying to coordinate the pass rush and the coverage and tighten everything up so we could have it as good as we could going into the game."
Though the players were in shorts at practice all week, it seems that's where the difference was made.
"Everybody's playing together. Guys did their jobs. As far as what we practiced during the week, we got it done on the field," said Jarvis Green, who came up big with a strip-sack and subsequent fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
"It's been a stingy year for us as far as trying to get what we want to get out on defense," said Green, who had a career-high three sacks in the game, which pushed the Bengals back a total of 30 yards. His three sacks earned him a game ball and marked the first time any Patriots player recorded three sacks since October of 2003. "We came out and forced turnovers - the fumble. The next seriesTy Warren made a big play. That was really big for us as a defense, just getting out there and getting together and causing turnovers."
That big play by Warren was also a strip-sack, which Warren recovered for seven yards. It came on the following defensive series.
"It was more than encouraging," said Tedy Bruschi of the turnovers. "It was outright fantastic, to put them away on the road. It really feels especially good when you win on the road, because you've got the atmosphere and the fans are really fired up about the game. And of course, the whole area of Cincinnati felt so great about the team at that point – they hadn't lost a game. So, for us to come in and win a game was great."
Bruschi led the team with seven tackles.
"We put together an entire game," Bruschi said. "Not only did we do that, we played well up until the fourth quarter and then we were able to finished them. Being able to do that was great."
"It was good team defense," said Belichick. "We were able to get either just enough rush or just enough coverage to get the other part of the defense an opportunity to make the play.
"I'm happy to win. It's tough to win in this league, tough to win on the road and certainly tough to win against a good team like Cincinnati. To be able to come out of there with a win, that's the most important thing. I'm proud of the way the players played. They played hard for 60 minutes, all three units, and they complimented each other and were able to take advantage of opportunities. The players, they did a great job. They really did."
Quote of note: Asked what their streak of 53 wins without consecutive losses says about the veterans and the team, Belichick seemed unsatisfied, saying, "I think what's coming up is trying to win consecutive games. I'd really like to see if we can* win* two in a row here."
Comings and goings
The New England Patriots released third-year wide receiver Jonathan Smith today. Additionally, the team released quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan from the practice squad. The Patriots practice squad now stands at six members following O'Sullivan's release and the signing of former practice squad cornerback Antwain Spann to the active roster on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Tully Banta-Cain's 16-yard kickoff return in the first quarter was his third career kickoff return, having recorded one return in both 2004 and 2005. He was in the locker room with what appeared to be a cold wrap on his right forearm. … Reche Caldwell took a crushing hit over the middle in the game from defensive back Kevin Kaesviharn, who received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play. Caldwell walked off the field on his own and re-entered the game. He suffered a season-ending right knee injury in 2004, and the same leg appeared to buckle under him on the hit. He walked through the locker room twice today, looking fine. … There was no practice Monday, and there will be no media access tomorrow as is typically the case on Tuesday.