Dressing only four healthy linebackers, the Bengals lost another one, Lemar Marshall, likely for the season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Rookie safety Chinedum Ndukwe and end Robert Geathers took turns playing outside linebacker, rounding out a threesome with Dhani Jones and Anthony Schlegel, both signed in September.
Starting tailback Rudi Johnson missed the game with a hamstring injury. Third receiver Tab Perry was out for the second game in a row with a hamstring problem. Right tackle Willie Anderson played only the first series.
Still, after the Bengals were man-handled by the Patriots, head coach Marvin Lewis blew up at his team. His anger pierced the steel locker room doors at Paul Brown Stadium.
"If you don't want to be on the team, don't show up at 4 o'clock," Lewis yelled in a profanity-laced tirade toward his Bengals players. The Bengals were to have a 4 p.m. team meeting Tuesday.
The Bengals, buried in last place in the AFC North, dropped to 1-3 and lost for the sixth time in the past seven games, dating to the three-game losing streak that ended 2006.
"I'm just as upset, obviously, as I can be," Lewis said in his post-game news conference. "Right now, we're finding a way to play not well enough to win. We're going to see who we're going to fight with. If we have to make changes, we'll make changes."
New England, 4-0, used a balanced offense to keep the ball away from Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and his playmakers. New England had the ball for 37:24 and ran 66 plays to the Bengals' 51. The Patriots ran up 404 yards; 173 on the ground and 231 through the air. The Bengals had no sacks.
The attendance of 66,113 was a Bengals franchise record and the 30th consecutive home sellout, but Paul Brown Stadium crowd had emptied except for boo-birds by the time New England took two kneel-downs to end the game.
There was plenty of booing in the locker room.
"We have to stop reading our own press clippings," Anderson said afterward. "I'm tired of hearing we're better than them. We need to quit saying that. Guys are working extremely hard. It's even more frustrating when you go 1-3 and put in that kind of performance."
Since losing to New England on Oct. 1, 2006, the Bengals are 6-11.
The Bengals reach a bye at a good time. They next play Oct. 14 at Kansas City.
"We're not going to get an easy game from here on in," captain John Thornton, the defensive tackle, said. "We can't tank it now. We have to see if we can get on a run, but we have to win one.
"We're 1-3. We're a 1-3 team. There's no sugar-coating it. Everybody saw it tonight. Everybody has seen the last three games."
--Trailing 17-7, the Bengals had a chance late in the half to pull closer. But wide receiver Chad Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a communication breakdown. On second and nine from the New England 20-yard line, Johnson ran deep on a crossing pattern, and Palmer thought Johnson would run short. Cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front for the interception.
Johnson, in a show of what might have been coach Marvin Lewis' post-game reference to "selfishness," jawed with Palmer on the bench and as they walked off the field at halftime. Palmer would take the heat for the error in his post-game press conference.
"I made a mistake. I threw a ball into where I shouldn't have thrown to," Palmer said. "I got on Chad, but I made a mistake. We're both passionate players, and in the heat of things, sometimes you lose your cool, and I lost my cool. Like I said, I made a mistake and threw a ball I shouldn't have thrown. I should've taken a check-down there. But I got on Chad and I shouldn't have."
--Coming off the field in the first half, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh jawed with head coach Marvin Lewis. "Personally, I am going to come to the sideline ... I am an emotional player, and I am going to voice my opinion. That's what I do. In my opinion, I don't think that it's a bad thing. I just voice my opinion. I'm not disrespectful at all."
-- LB Corey Mays was claimed off waivers from New England. Mays played in the Patriots' season opener, with one special teams tackle, was inactive for Games 2 and 3 and was waived prior to the Monday night game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mays entered the NFL with New England in 2006 as a college free agent. He played in eight games, with two tackles on defense and eight on special teams. He was on the practice squad for a portion of 2006.
-- LB Lemar Marshall was placed on the injured reserve list. Marshall suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in Monday's game against New England. He started the first four games at strong-side linebacker and closes his season 10 tackles, including a sack, and a forced fumble.
--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 10 receptions for 100 yards and one touchdown. In four games, he has 39 receptions for 360 yards and five touchdowns. He caught a one-yard toss from Carson Palmer for the Bengals' only touchdown of the night.
--RT Willie Anderson started but played just one series. A nagging heel problem, exacerbated by a knee injury the previous week at Seattle, made it nearly impossible for Anderson to continue.
--LB Ahmad Brooks, the Bengals' top linebacker and most physical player, missed a second consecutive game with a groin injury. Backup Caleb Miller also did not play because of a back injury.
--RB Kenny Watson, starting for the injured Rudi Johnson, ran 13 times for 55 yards but was disappointed in his performance.
--WR Antonio Chatman made his second appearance this season and, after being blanked in Seattle, had three receptions for 28 yards against New England.