Brady, Patriots quiet doubters with 43-17 rout
By HOWARD ULMAN
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The critics pounced after the second-worst loss in Tom Brady's career.
The New England Patriots just went back to work.
Their focus resulted in a 43-17 rout of the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals just six days after the Patriots fell apart in a 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
"We don't sit around listening to what everybody else says," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We try to do the best we can."
Brady did well enough in his best game of the season and reached a major milestone.
With a season-high 292 yards passing, he became the sixth player to throw for 50,000 yards. His total of 50,232 left him behind John Elway with 51,475 yards. The top four spots are held by Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Drew Brees.
"I'm a lucky guy," Brady said. "50,000 yards means, you know, I've played in the best place in the league for a long time.
"We always talk about what Patriots football is and I think you saw that tonight."
The Patriots (3-2) scored on their first two possessions, a 1-yard run by Stevan Ridley and a 17-yard pass from Brady to Tim Wright. They led 20-3 at halftime and extended that lead with the help of three of Stephen Gostkowski's career-high five field goals.
The Bengals (3-1) gave up 41 points after allowing just 33 all season.
"You are going to face adversity in the season," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. "So you aren't going to sit around and be psychologists about that. We've got to play through anything that happens."
Just like the Patriots.
"We don't pay attention to anything outside of here," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said in a happy Patriots locker room. "It just goes to show you we're capable of doing it."
Other things we learned as the Patriots snapped out of their season-long offensive slump:
BALANCED PATRIOTS: Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 292 yards and the Patriots ran 26 times for 220, led by Ridley's 113 yards. Brady completed passes to eight receivers after spending most of the season focusing on finding Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. On Sunday, Gronkowski led the team with six catches and 100 yards receiving and caught his fourth touchdown pass.
"The offensive line protected, Tom threw great balls - went through his reads," Wright said, "and the wide receivers ran great routes and he delivered it."
DALTON'S DOWN DAY: Andy Dalton was sacked for the first time this season. By the time that happened early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals already were behind 37-17. Dalton completed 15 of 24 passes for 204 yards with no interceptions and scoring passes to Mohamed Sanu and A.J. Green. But Cincinnati lost three fumbles, including one that resulted in a 9-yard touchdown return by Kyle Arrington that put the Patriots ahead 34-10.
The Bengals also failed to convert any of their seven third-down plays.
"If you turn the ball over and don't make any third downs, you have a chance to have this happen to you," Lewis said.
PERFECT NO MORE: The Bengals failed in their attempt at their first 4-0 start since 2005. At least they were the last unbeaten team in the NFL after the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Denver Broncos 41-20 earlier Sunday.
"It doesn't surprise me" to lose the perfect record, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "I know it was possibly going to happen at some point and we are just going to have to respond."
The last team to go unbeaten in the regular season was the Patriots in 2007. Then they won two playoff games before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
BIG TURNAROUNDS: New England's 53-point turnaround from its 27-point loss at Kansas City to its 26-point win over Cincinnati was huge. But it was just one point more than another reversal 11 years earlier when the Patriots began the 2003 season with a 31-0 loss in Buffalo. Then they won 31-10 at Philadelphia and went 16-1 the rest of the way, including a 32-29 Super Bowl win against Carolina.
"I think we've always done a great job putting losses behind us quickly and trying to move forward," Brady said. "As disappointing as last Monday night was, this one is great. We all feel great, but we've also got to get back to work (Monday) because we've got a huge game this week."
COMING UP: The Patriots next two games are against teams in their weak AFC East. They're tied for first place with the Bills and visit Buffalo next Sunday. Then they're home against the hapless New York Jets (1-4), who are in last place in the division. Cincinnati plays its next three games against three teams with 3-2 records - at home against Carolina, at Indianapolis and back home against Baltimore.