The Patriots went to Cincinnati and not only cruised to a 38-13 victory, but also delivered a stern message to the Bengals: We're still the Patriots and the king isn't dead quite yet.
New England had to face the high-flying Bengals offense without starting defensive backs Ellis Hobbs and Eugene Wilson. Yet, somehow, someway, the Patriots spit in the face of adversity as they have so many times in the past and beat what most people considered to be the best team in the NFL after three weeks.
"When you have so much turnover in terms of guys, you just don't know," safety Rodney Harrison said. "It's early in the season, it's only the fourth week coming into this week, and you just don't know. You have to go out there and get some experience, and see what the guys do. This is a big win for us, confidence wise. We know we can come out and play well. We know we can stick with the best teams, play with the best teams. We have to continue to build on it."
The Patriots physically dominated the Bengals on both sides of the ball, rushing for 236 yards, allowing only 13 points and causing 2 turnovers. Rookie running back Laurence Maroney gashed the Bengals defense for 125 yards on 15 carries. It was an overall dominant effort by a Patriots team that looked lifeless against the Broncos at home one week earlier.
Maroney and former Bengal Corey Dillon combined for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns, as the duo battered the Bengals on the ground from the Patriots' first possession of the game. When Dillon scored from a yard out in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a commanding 31-13 lead, he tossed the ball into the stands and celebrated on the Bengals logo.
Linebacker Brian Simmons said Dillon didn't disgrace the Bengals; the Cincinnati defense took care of that on their own.
|T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball after a reception during the NFL game against the New England Patriots on October 1, 2006 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Patriots won 38-13. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)|
" They don't have anything we don't have other than three Super Bowls. It's sure not talent. Anyone can see that " - T.J. Houshmandzadeh
"Hey, if we don't want Corey celebrating in our house, we should do a better job of keeping him out of the end zone," he said. "Those guys are both great backs but the way we played today, you could have put anyone back there and they would have had success."
The Patriots' 236 rushing yards on 41 carries is the team's highest rushing total in 13 seasons. The New England offensive line dominated in the trenches, while Maroney and Dillon ran over a number of Bengal would-be tacklers in the open field, racking up most of their yards after contact.
"If you don't do the fundamentals like tackling, you aren't going to beat a good team," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We have to tackle. Everyone thinks it's magic but it's just tackling. That's what it's all about and when you can't tackle, you can stop anyone from running the football."
The Bengals were the talk of the NFL after three games. They looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders after discarding the Chiefs, Browns and Steelers. However, after getting throttled at home by the Patriots, they'll have to try and get back on track during their bye week.
"Everyone needs to take this week and look at themselves in the mirror," Rudi Johnson said. "Maybe we're not as good as we think we are. Something has to change, I can tell you that much."
The Patriots, on the other hand, may be better than people thought after their lackluster play in their first three games. Despite all of their problems early in the year, New England is sitting at 3-1 and atop the AFC East, a familiar spot for the Patriots in recent years. Still, after beating the Bengals by 25 points on their home field, not everyone is sold on the Patriots being a great team. Just ask Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"It's just frustrating because I think we're the better team by far and the score doesn't show that," Houshmandzadeh said after the game. "It shows that they're the better team by far and I don't think anyone believes that. They don't have anything we don't have other than three Super Bowls. It's sure not talent. Anyone can see that."