In less than a week, the Patriots (3-2) went from owning the status of a “down, out and possibly dead dynasty” right back to the status of an “elite” AFC contender. Meanwhile, the Bengals’ status as the lone undefeated team in the NFL lasted just over three-and-a-half hours.
One of the more emotionally-charged Patriots teams in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era shredded the Bengals, 43-17, Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, just six nights after being blown out themselves by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brady’s first pass of the night was a 20-yard bullet to Brandon LaFell and the Pats quarterback actually ran it himself for six yards four plays later, firing up the typically murmuring Gillette Stadium crowd and giving the Pats instant momentum against one of the top defenses in the league. Stevan Ridley would cap an efficient opening drive for the Pats with a one-yard touchdown run. The Pats would go up 14-0 on their next offensive series as Brady connected with Tim Wright for a 17-yard score.
The Pats held a 20-3 lead at halftime but Cincinnati (3-1) cut the Patriots lead to 10 early in the third quarter when Mohamed Sanu beat the Pats secondary and Andy Dalton connected with him for a 37-yard touchdown. But New England responded immediately thanks to some shifty running by Shane Vereen. Fourteen and 19 yard runs by Vereen set up a Brady touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski from 16 yards out.
Much of the credit for the Pats’ defensive dominance can be given to cornerback Darrelle Revis, who blanketed Cincy star receiver A.J. Green. Green was held to just two catches for 19 yards in the first half and coughed up the ball late in the second quarter when Revis was wrestling him to the ground. The fumble was picked up by Jamie Collins and led to an extra three points for the Patriots.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS