Patriots Playmakers Showing Up

Two years in a row, the Patriots snuffed out any hope the Bengals had of showing that they were as good as New England. Monday night's 34-13 drubbing was more about the Patriots players stepping up than it was about the Benglas' prospects to become contenders. New England's playmakers not only showed up, they turned in solid performances -- something the Bengals playmakers were unable to do.

The Patriots continued their dominance this season by rolling the Bengals for the second consecutive season, 34-13. New England went to the ground despite not having Laurence Maroney and rolled up 173 yards rushing on the Bengals.

"Good win for our football team tonight," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I thought the players really did a good job all the way around. It wasn't perfect, and Cincinnati certainly gave us some problems, but I thought our guys really responded well. I'm proud of the way our guys played."

New England marched down the field on the opening drive to take the 3-0 lead on a 31-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The teams traded punts later in the first quarter, but the Patriots extended the score to 10-0 on a Tom Brady to Mike Vrabel goal-line touchdown pass late in the period.

After an acrobatic touchdown reception by Randy Moss, the Patriots' lead swelled to 24-7 on the team's opening drive of the second half and the Bengals couldn't do anything to answer back.

As has been the case throughout the first month, the Patriots remained balanced throughout on offense. While the Bengals got decent pressure on Brady at times, and forced the Patriots into 12 third downs, he and his team responded. New England converted an impressive seven times to move the chains (58 percent) and Brady continued his fast start, completing 25-of-32 passes for 231 yards with three scores and just the one interception for a 115.0 passer rating.

"Any time you can convert on third down," said Wes Welker, who did just that with a 27-yard reverse on the third quarter touchdown drive, "and keep drives going, that's huge."

Moss was once again Brady's favorite target through the air. For the fourth time in four weeks in a Patriots uniform he eclipsed the 100-yard mark with nine receptions for 102 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

Morris (21 for 117 and one touchdown) led the way for a ground game that pounded at a banged up and undermanned Bengals front to the tune of 34 carries for 173 yards (5.1 avg.). Morris ran with a sense of urgency as he filled in more than admirably for the injured Maroney.

"Any time you have balance like that it helps you out a lot," Welker continued. "Any defense they play you can do multiple things and have multiple threats at different positions.

The defense was just as dominant as Cincinnati didn't convert a single third-down attempt, rushed for just 57 yards on 15 carries (3.8 avg.) and wasn't able to hit the big play down the field in the passing game. Palmer (21-of-35 for 234) threw a pair of interceptions, including a key Asante Samuel pick near the end of the first half that ended a potential scoring drive and allowed the Patriots to take a 10-point lead into the break.

"I kind of read the quarterback through the receiver and broke on it before he did," Samuel said of his coverage of Chad Johnson's skinny post. "I got a good jump and made the play. And like you said, it was a big play right before the half."

Many of those on the defensive side of the ball also agreed that playing with an offense that has been consistently balanced, has controlled the clock (37:24 time of possession against Cincy) and has put up at least 34 points in each of the first four weeks certainly makes things easier on the whole team.

"All we have to do is go out there and stop them," Hobbs said. "They are doing a great job for us as far as resting. We are sitting on the sideline just waiting our turn, trying to stay warm actually."

Next up for the Patriots is the surprising 2-2 Cleveland Browns and old friend Romeo Crennel. However, with the way the Patriots are playing right now, it might not be a warm homecoming for New England's one-time offensive coordinator.


--QB Tom Brady became the third player in NFL history to throw three or more touchdowns in each of the first four games of a season. Brady has totaled 13 touchdowns through four games. He joins Kurt Warner (1999) and Steve Young (1998) as the only NFL quarterbacks to throw three-plus scoring passes in four straight games to begin a season. Young threw three touchdowns in each of the first five games of the 1998 season (setting an NFL record) and Warner threw three or more in each of the first three games in 1999.
--RB Sammy Morris exceeded the 100-yard rushing mark, totaling 117 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries (5.6 avg.). The 100-yard game was the second of Morris's career; he also broke that barrier on Dec. 10, 2006 while playing for the Miami Dolphins against the Patriots, totaling 123 yards on 25 carries (4.9 avg.).
--LB Mike Vrabel caught his seventh regular-season touchdown pass and his ninth overall touchdown pass (including two in the playoffs) on a 1-yard scoring catch from Tom Brady in the first quarter that gave the Patriots a 10-0 lead. Each of Vrabel's nine career receptions have been for touchdowns -- including one in Super Bowl XXXVIII and one in Super Bowl XXXIX.

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