By John Pinto
Well, that was unexpected. Tom Brady and the Patriots, who have played so badly recently, rebounded Sunday night by capitalizing on forced fumbles to blow out the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals in Foxboro. The Patriots improve their record to 3-2 while the Bengals drop to 3-1.
Brady threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns as well. The Patriots amassed 220 yards rushing in this game, led by Stevan Ridley’s 113 yards and Shane Vereen’s 90 yards. Vereen once again proved himself to be the best running back in the Patriots backfield, earning his yards on just nine carries, while Ridley had 27 yards.
The Patriots offense opened up the game, firing on all cylinders. They scored first on a one yard run by Ridley and a 17 yard Tim Wright touchdown catch later on in the first quarter.
The drive that resulted in Ridley’s one yard run was highlighted by a 4th and 1 quarterback sneak on the Bengals 5-yard line, in which Brady converted the first down and brought the ball to the one yard line.
The Patriots offense slowed down after those first two scores, but the damage had been done. The fans at Gillette Stadium were hyped up, and so was the team.
It only got worse for the Bengals on the Patriots second possession, when Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a 27 yard pass, becoming only the sixth player in NFL history to reach 50,000 passing yards. The fans in the stands chanted “Brady! Brady! Brady!” as the milestone was shown on the videoboard. Brady proceeded to throw a touchdown pass to Tim Wright on the very next play.
The Patriots offense showed up in this game, but the defense did too, most notably Darrelle Revis and the rest of the defensive back corps.
The Bengals wide receivers just seemed to be unable to gain any separation from the defense, and Revis was all over star receiver A.J. Green, even forcing Green to fumble late in the second quarter, giving the Patriots the ball at the Cincinnati 25 yard line and the opportunity to score another three points before halftime.
Stephen Gostkowski made a 19 yard field goal with 12 seconds left before halftime to bring the score up to 20-3.
In the third quarter with six minutes left, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 16 yard touchdown, and on the ensuing kickoff, former Patriot and current Bengals wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Kyle Arrington and returned nine yards for a touchdown. The Patriots had scored two touchdowns in the span of six seconds, and that just sums up how the game was going for New England.
The real question that was answered in this game was whether the Patriots would be able to sustain this level of play, since they looked horrid for the first four games.
I believe the answer to this question is yes, because the offense got back to the two tight end system that had been so prolific when Aaron Hernandez was still around. Rob Gronkowski went off for six receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown, while the newly minted Patriot Tim Wright had his first big game with the team, hauling in five receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.
If we take a trip down memory lane to 2011, we remember how Hernandez had 910 yards and 7 touchdowns while Gronkowski had 1,327 yards and an NFL tight end record of 17 touchdowns in a season. This is the reason why Bill Belichick traded OL Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Tim Wright: he’s trying to bring us back to that 2011 offense.
In next Sunday’s matchup, the Patriots travel to Buffalo, New York on Oct. 12 to face the Bills at 1 p.m. The Bills beat the Lions last week on a last second field goal by Dan Carpenter, and they benched their 2013 first round pick quarterback E.J. Manuel before that game in favor of journeyman Kyle Orton, who has played for five different teams in his 11 year career.
This should be a relatively easy game for New England. The game will air on FOX, which is channel 27.1 on the BSU campus.