Sunday's 35-17 win by the Patriots over the Bengals was a Bill Belichick classic.
The Pats head coach used the first half as not much more than a "feeling-out process," and in the second half at Gillette Stadium the Pats looked like the Pats. The strong finish enabled New England to move to 5-1 on the season. The Pats are on the road the next two weeks as they will face the Steelers in Pittsburgh next Sunday and will be at the Bills on Oct. 30. New England's bye week is the weekend after the Buffalo game.
Here are three things we learned in the Pats' victory Sunday:
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1. Adjust and advance
Tom Brady felt constant pressure in the first half as the offensive line reverted to 2015 form. Brady was rushed on throws in his first two drives and the offense looked out of synch, only registering a Stephen Gostkowski 46-yard field goal in the first quarter.
But as they typically do, the Patriots made key adjustments at halftime and came out on fire in the second half. Rob Gronkowski found the end zone for the first time in 2016, catching a four-yard TD pass from Brady with five minutes left in the third to give the Pats a 19-14 advantage. James White, who also scored in the second quarter with a 15-yard TD reception, caught a 4-yard TD pass from Brady with 2:58 left in the third to give the Pats a 25-14 lead.
Brady ended up near-flawless again, completing 29-of-35 passes for 376 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
2. Do your job
The Patriots' defense was again stout, allowing just 17 points to Cincy. The Bengals weren't exactly the 2007 Patriots coming into Sunday's game, averaging just 18.4 points per game, but New England's effort on Sunday was admirable nonetheless. Dont'a Hightower ripped down Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone with 7:05 left in the third as the Pats earned a sack and safety. Hightower and Pats defensive end Jabaal Sheard also sacked Dalton on a big third down with just under four minutes left.
Cincy's Pro Bowl receiver AJ Green showed flashes of brilliance, but the Pats' secondary did a decent job on him - limiting him to 88 yards receiving on six catches and zero TDs.
3. Get nasty
The Patriots were all business against Cincy, but had time to show a mean streak. When Brady came onto the Foxboro field for the first time since his suspension, he did not even wait a second to motion to the standing and vocal crowd to quiet down. And in the fourth quarter, Gronkowski shredded the Bengals defense and let the Cincy players know about it - consistently talking trash to Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Gronkowski finished with a career-high 162 yards receiving on seven catches.
LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, also got into it with the Bengals defense at the end of the game.