FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The Patriots, as they always seem to do against the Bengals, responded in vintage fashion to two unanswered touchdowns Sunday when they kept the ball for the first 7:19 of the fourth quarter in a 14-play drive capped by quarterback Tom Brady’s one-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski that upped the New England lead to 38-17.
Bengals running back
It was the most points the Bengals had allowed in an opener since 1991 and a 45-14 loss in Denver.
After a brutal first 30:12 of the season that included Brandon Tate’s 97-yard kick return to open the second half, two third-quarter touchdown passes by quarterback
Bengals wide receiver
But it was one of those games that wasn't clear which unit came out flatter.
The Bengals offense and defense had to share the blame as the Bengals fell behind, 24-0, with just two first downs and no rushing yards. By the time Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found wider receiver Wes Welker threading through the middle for a four-yard touchdown pass on third down for a 17-0 lead, the Bengals defense had allowed five plays longer than 20 yards.
Special teams also took some blame because on the second half’s opening kickoff, Tate, the Pats rookie wide receiver, picked up a rolling, bouncing kick at his 3 and took it up the middle for a 97-yard kick return that made it a stunning 31-3 disaster.
The offense also gave up a big one when Palmer dropped back on first down and tried to hit rookie tight end
The misery continued when the next snap from scrimmage got fumbled, but the Bengals recovered.
After Palmer’s bid to hit wide receiver
The half could only end like this: With both Owens and Ochocinco in the locker room when there was one second left after the Pats’ failed 56-yard attempt, Palmer’s 51-yard Hail Mary to rookie wide receiver
The stat sheet held the carnage. The Bengals had just 156 yards at the half, 28 from Benson while Owens had five catches for 30 yards and The Ocho two for 23. Most of Palmer’s 130 yards came on the fling to Shipley as he finished the half 12-of-19 for a 61 passer rating. Meanwhile, Brady sifted the Bengals at 112.8 and 178 yards. But the stunning stat on a stunning day was the Pats’ seven yards per run on 10 carries.
All anyone had to do was look at that last, clinching fourth-quarter drive. Pats wide receiver Wes Welker looked like he had never been lost to a blown ACL. Working against cornerback
Although the offense and special teams each gave up a touchdown, it was a shockingly under-achieving effort by a Bengals defense that finished fourth in the NFL last season.
The Ocho became the 33rd player in NFL history (and sixth with one team) to go over 10,000 yards when he caught a 19-yard pass over the middle early in the third quarter as Palmer pinballed around the pocket. Then a few plays later Gresham bookended the effort when he caught his first NFL touchdown pass on a one-yard flip with safety James Sanders hanging off him in the back of the end zone to make it 31-10 with 7:54 left in the third quarter. Defensive tackle
Palmer kept grinding despite the score. He scrambled out of the pocket for seven yards and took a hard shot from cornerback Devin McCourty in the side of the bread basket on the sideline as he went through the air out of bounds.
About five minutes after The Ocho hit his milestone, Owens became the third man to hit 15,000 receiving yards when he slid over the middle for a 13-yard catch with Palmer hanging in against an unblocked corner blitz.
Also in the third quarter, Bengals WILL linebacker
The Pats went up, 17-0, with 8:58 left in the half when the Bengals couldn’t figure out how to get pressure on Brady. On third-and-six a four-man rush allowed Brady to pat the ball forever until Tate got wide open on the right side for a 20-yard catch. Then on a Bengals blitz Brady found wide receiver Randy Moss one-on-one with cornerback
Then on another third-down, Brady patted the ball again, sidestepped, and found running back Kevin Faulk on the sidelines for a 21-yard catch to set up the four-yard TD flip to Welker.
The Patriots, who were supposed to have an invisible running game, did what the Bengals were supposed to do and pounded the ball for a 10-0 lead and then went for the jugular with the defense when they dumped Benson to force a fumble at the Bengals 28 as the first quarter and Sunday’s opener rapidly slipped away.
Benson had no place to go as three Pats were unblocked on the left edge. He avoided the first one, but got hit by outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich and he forced the fumble that he recovered on a 10-yard loss that resulted in no points when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yarder.
On their second series Pats running back Fred Taylor gouged the Bengals on a 24-yard run aided by missed tackles at linebacker and safety and Gostkowski hit a 32-yarder to make it 10-0.
It took Brady just 5:13 into the new season to catch the Bengals napping on their first series with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Welker.
With Welker split wide to Brady’s left with two other receivers and the Bengals countering with just cornerbacks Hall and
The play was set up when the Bengals blew coverage on a 45-yard pass to uncovered rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez on his left sideline.
The first Bengals series ended on a sack on third-and-two when the Pats worked a stunt inside with outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and end Myron Pryor. The Bengals did get a 14-yard pass to Owens on the second play after McCourty knocked a deep ball away from Owens.
The second Bengals series was worse. After a nine-yard screen to Ochocinco, Benson lost a yard when he got pushed to the left edge and on third down Palmer hurried a pass against the blitz and overthrew tight end
The Bengals couldn’t get their top 10 running game going against the revamped Pats defense. Benson had no yards on his first six carries and they couldn’t take advantage of New England’s young secondary. On a third-and-five after Gostkowski’s miss, Butler came up to stop Owens well shy of the first down.
Bengals defensive end Jon Fanene, who had a hamstring issue last week in practice, left with a right hamstring injury after he got taken down on a rush and his return was questionable.
PREGAME NOTES: Wide receiver
The Patriots had a key inactive with running back Laurence Maroney on the shelf.
Also down for the Bengals were a pair of rookies, linebacker