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Instant analysis: Punchless offense leads to Patriots’ first loss

CINCINNATI – Replacing Vince Wilfork in the middle of the defense appeared to be the Patriots’ biggest concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

Turns out, the defense was just fine. It was the Patriots’ offense that couldn’t provide any punch in a 13-6 loss as Tom Brady’s incredible touchdown streak ended at 52 consecutive games.

Sunday’s loss was the first time the Patriots failed to score a touchdown since Week 2 in 2009. They gained just 279 total yards as Cincinnati’s defensive line overwhelmed the Patriots up front.

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The Patriots rushed for just 70 yards on a 4.1 average, and Brady was sacked four times after not going down once in last week’s win over Atlanta. The Patriots’ last-minute drive ended with Brady throwing a wobbly interception to Adam Jones inside the 10-yard line.

The Patriots, playing with Danny Amendola (four catches, 55 yards) but without Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen, certainly had their chances. They got inside the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, but were unable to punch the ball into the end zone and were forced to settle for a short field goal.

A forced fumble by Devin McCourty late in the fourth gave the Patriots the ball at Cincinnati’s 43, but the offense went nowhere with two straight incompletions and another sack.

Brady looked uncomfortable all game, and completed just 18-of-38 passes for 197 yards and only one completion over 21 yards, a 55-yarder to Aaron Dobson.

The Patriots’ defense did an admirable job without Wilfork, with rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones (1.5 sacks) playing significant snaps and holding their own. Brandon Spikes intercepted Andy Dalton inside the 10-yard line in the first half and the Patriots sacked Dalton four times overall. But Dalton settled down and completed 20-of-27 passes for 212 yards, and led the Bengals 94 yards for the game’s only touchdown.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (67 yards) punctuated the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on fourth-and goal, and rookie Giovani Bernard added 62 yards on 13 carries.

Star receiver A.J. Green did have five catches for 61 yards, but was held in check most of the day by Aqib Talib.

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