Sunday, October 5, 2014

Brady silences detractors as Patriots stomp Bengals

New England quarterback Tom Brady reacts to his touchdown pass to tight end Tim Wright in the first quarter.

Suddenly, everything makes sense.

Or nothing does, depending on your point of view, but one thing is for sure when it comes to the New England Patriots: count them out at your own risk.

For certain, their blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Monday night was enough to give pause to the fan base, and also provided enough ammunition for the notoriously negative and sensationalist Boston press to fire their yellow salvos directly at quarterback Tom Brady...

...and at head ball coach Bill Belichick, the offensive line and the entire defense - heck, the blood was in the water and the aggressive Boston media were like hammerhead sharks in the midst of a feeding frenzy, and nothing - not even the hallowed persona of Brady - were beyond their vice-like jaws.

Well, after the Patriots performance on Sunday night, the Patriots have a question for the media: How did that taste?

How did nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns from Brady taste?  How tantilizing were the 46 carries that established the power running game?  And didn't those bulls up front offer up some bodacious grub, complete with all the trimmings?

Brady passed for nearly 300 yards and was sacked just once, while running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen powered through the Cincinnati Bengals' stout front seven for 220 yards on the ground, controlling the clock to the tune of a nearly two-to-one advantage as New England started fast and stomped the bewildered and previously undefeated Bengals by a score of 43-17.

Ridley carried the heavy load for New England on the ground, going a season-high 27 times for 113 yards and a touchdown, while battery mate Shane Vereen stole the ground show with 90 yards on nine flashy carries behind an offensive line that may have stumbled upon the right combination to both drive block for the backs and to keep Brady clean.

How clean?  Brady was sacked just the one time, which was an anomaly given that it was the result of tight end Rob Gronkowski trying to block Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers one-on-one, Geathers reaching around Gronkowski and pulling Brady down - but Brady was not even so much as inconvenienced either before or after that.

Brady had clean pockets most of the night, as did Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton - the Patriots' pass rush unable to penetrate the Bengals' excellent offensive line until defensive tackle Chris Jones hit paydirt on a sack of Dalton in the final period.

Dalton was 15 of 24 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but got little help from the running game as Cincinnati found themselves in an early 14-0 hole, and all but abandoned the ground game in the second half, which is unfortunate for them as running back Giovani Bernard was getting close to five yards a pop...

...but a Ridley run and a Tim Wright 17 yard catch for early scores and two Stephen Gostkowski field goals put the Bengals in full pass mode, Dalton's 24 official pass attempts a bit misleading as five New England defensive penalties bailed him out of incompletions and at least one interception, extending Cincinnati drives.

Dalton did, however, throw a touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu to get the Bengals to within two scores early in the third quarter, but Brady responded with a seam job to Gronkowski to extend the lead back to three possessions, then running back Brandon Bolden delivered the dagger on the ensuing kickoff, forcing a Brandon Tate fumble that cornerback Kyle Arringotn scooped up and returned to the house.

But the best part of the night was when Belichick and Brady took a little orchestrated stab at the media, sending in rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to run the victory formation - the move in reference to the media's collective assertion that there may have been a quarterback controversy brewing as the result of Brady being benched late in the blowout loss to Kansas City.

There was even talk of Brady being dealt to one of as many as ten teams in search of an upgrade, but all of that lunacy was put to rest on Sunday night, at least until the next time that Brady struggles or Belichick makes a personnel move that is baffling - but when offered the opportunity to take a verbal jab at the media during his post-game presser, Belichick wouldn't be suckered in.

"Look, we have a job to do" Belichick siad when asked if the win was especially gratifying in light of all the criticism from the media this past week, "We're not going to sit around listening to what everybody else says.".

And just like that, we're on to Buffalo.

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