Monday, October 7, 2013

New England Patriots 6 at Cincinnati Bengals 13 - October 6, 2013

On Saturday night, the Cincinnati weather was worrisome. It had been raining hard for much of the day, and the forecast was for continued showers into Sunday and possibly a major storm during the game. After getting drenched in Foxboro back in Week 2, I followed my Boy Scout training and prepared. I had bought a rain poncho in Allentown, and brought that, my fall jacket, a hoodie and my Ottawa Lynx baseball cap. I also wore shorts and sandals, so my shoes and one pair of jeans would stay dry. I packed my camera in a towel and put it inside my clear plastic NFL tote, which seems to be quite waterproof. With that done, I headed over the Paul Brown Stadium around 9 am, a full 4 hours before game time.

I had hoped to walk the mile and a half to the stadium, but decided to drive to get a bit closer and stay a bit drier. There is plenty of metered street parking (free on Sunday or after 5 pm) within a few blocks but it was completely filled up on my first pass. As I was about to give up, I saw someone getting into their car. Sure enough, they were not a football fan and they pulled away, giving me a nice spot about five blocks away. It still wasn't raining hard, so the short walk shouldn't have been much of a problem, but by the time I reached Paul Brown Stadium, it had started to come down quite hard. This prevented me from doing my usual lap around the stadium, instead I waited under cover near the gates, which only opened at 11:30, 90 minutes before game time. There was a Jungle Zone but it was mostly uncovered and didn't have much to see. As an aside, gates for NFL games should open 2 hours before game time to allow fans time to see the entire venue should they desire.

Having said that, the Bengals game staff did one thing very smartly - they set up the security perimeter apart from the entry gates, so I was screened when I arrived around 10 am. This allowed the ticket entry process to move very smoothly, something that other teams should adopt. Often the security is only set up when the gates open.

Once inside, I took the usual tour. The entrance is on a mezzanine level, with the lower concourse down a flight of stairs. In the picture below taken from the lower concourse, you can see the ramps in the mezzanine area and the club area above that. This is a good set up as it gives fans more room to wander unimpeded and there are concessions on each level.

Here are some pictures from the lower seating bowl, limited because it was raining at the time.

I love the end zone here, and you will note that there is no shortage of stripes throughout the stadium. I had bought a seat at the top of the stadium as it was covered, so I headed up to check out the view. On the way up the ramps, I was presented with a nice view of the Cincinnati skyline.

Once up top I took the now mandatory panorama shot, as well as a picture from my seat in row 33 of section 336.

As you can see, it was quite far away. By this time, the rain had stopped, so I decided to make my way back down to the lower level to pick up a "Who Dey Melt" which made headlines when it was introduced. This year, you have a choice of filling, and I took beef brisket. At $8.25 it might be a bit much for a sandwich but the bread is grilled in front of you and it sure beats the usual hot dog.

I then found a covered place to stand behind the north end zone (view above), but when the game started, the fans in the section in front all stood, so I had to move a level up where you could see most of the field (below). I ended up nudging a bit to the right and was able to see all but the far left of the far end zone, and remained there for the game.

It was Breast Cancer Awareness Day so the Ben-Gals wore pink. You can see the smoke on the right edge of the photo below; this was from pyrotechnics shot off when the Bengals were introduced and it blew right into the north end, ruining the chance for pictures of the Bengals entering for fans sitting there, as you can see in second photo below.

The rain held off but both teams played a very conservative first half. After a scoreless opening quarter that saw 5 punts and a Patriot interception, the second quarter saw the Patriots' LeGarrette Blount fumble on the carry below. The Bengals recovered at their 30 and managed a decent drive that took 10 plays and 4:42, resulting in a field goal.

New England continued to struggle against a strong Bengal defense who prevented any real running game and thwarted Tom Brady (below) who finished 18/38. The Bengals had trouble moving the ball as well, and when they received a punt at their own 7 with less than a minute to go, it looked like the half would end 3-0. But Bill Belichick had saved his three timeouts and used one after every Cincinnati rush, forcing them to punt with 37 seconds left. The Patriots responded with their longest play of the game, a 21-yard pass to Danny Amendola that got them within field goal range. After a spike and another completion, Stephen Gostkowski knocked through a short kick and it was 3-3 at the half.

In the second half though, Cincinnati took over with a couple of great drives. After both teams punted on their first possession, the Bengals, led by Andy Dalton (below) managed a 13-play, 59-yard march that resulted in another field goal and 6-3 lead. Then their defense went out and forced another Patriot punt and Dalton led his charges on a 14-play, 93-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run for BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

On their next possession, the Patriots drove to the Bengals one-yard line but could not score, forcing them to add a field goal to make it 13-6. When Giovani Bernard fumbled at midfield with 3:26 to go, it seemed like Brady would have another miracle in him. But two more incompletions and a a sack put paid to that thought, and the Bengals had a chance to clinch, needing just a first down with 2:32 remaining.

The rains had started again and Cincinnati tried three rushes for just 8 yards, forcing the Pats to take two timeouts but allowing them one last possession with 1:48 to go. Surely they would tie it now. Well, God must be tired of the Patriots success as suddenly the rains turned torrential, worse than the game in New England. When Brady threw an incompletion on 4th down, it looked like game over, but Chris Crocker was offside - first down New England. A roughing the passer penalty then moved the ball to the Cincinnati 27 with 26 seconds left. On the next play, Brady sent the pass to the corner where it was mercifully intercepted by Adam "Pacman" Jones! Bengals win!

A great ending to what was an old-time football game, with 57 running plays and "only" 65 passes, mostly incompletions by Brady. Cincinnati controlled the clock with their running game and some short passes by Dalton. It wasn't pretty but it was effective and allowed their defense to rest, so when they came on the field, they prevented the Pats from doing anything. The final stats are below.

Those fans who stayed were very wet but very happy. I really enjoyed this experience, especially as the  game lasted only 2:56. I wonder when was the last NFL game to come in under three hours?


There is a giant Pepsi bottle which is totally unappetizing, it looks like sludge (or worse) in there. The Coke bottle in AT&T Park in San Francisco is much better.

I went back to the stadium on my way out of the city and got an external picture.

As mentioned, I wore an Ottawa Lynx baseball cap. The Lynx were a franchise in AAA baseball that moved to Allentown for the 2008 season so I keep that cap as it is now quite rare. As the fans were clearing out, a guy stopped and said "Ottawa Lynx! Why do you have that?" I told him I am from Ottawa and asked him why he knew who they were. His reply "I used to play for them." Turns out it was Ryan Cameron, who finished his career in Ottawa and pitched in their final game, which I happened to attend. He gave up the last opposition run in Lynx history and retired after that season without appearing in the majors; he is now teaching baseball privately. Small world.



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