By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — The word on the Bengals under Marvin Lewis is that they’re an undisciplined team that’s prone to letting emotions get the best of them and thus cost them in crucial moments of football games. January’s playoff loss against Pittsburgh provided the most perfect example imaginable to really make that point.
Yet on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, when the two teams on the field started engaging in some post-whistle contact and when the yellow flags started flying, it was the Patriots who ended up getting penalized the yards, and it was the Bengals who were walking away knowing they had at least won those particular confrontations.
It was very uncharacteristic for a team so disciplined, and Rob Gronkowski showed contrition when discussing his 15-yard personal foul penalty for taunting.
“I’ve got to take full responsibility on that personal foul on me. I can’t be letting that happen,” said Gronkowski, who turned in a career-high 162 receiving yards. “It’s a good thing that it didn’t hurt the team in this situation. I mean, we got the win, but down the road it can always hurt the team getting a personal foul. I’ve definitely got to be more aware of that and take responsibility on behalf for that penalty.”
Gronkowski said he wasn’t entirely sure what he actually did to Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfice to draw the taunting flag. As he put it, “I was just bobbing my head I think and they gave me a personal foul.”
Burfict, it should be noted, took a dive directly at Martellus Bennett’s knee when Bennett did not have the ball prior to the Gronkowski penalty. Gronkowski later said that he hadn’t seen that play when asked about it directly.
Bill Belichick said he didn’t have the best view of whatever transpired between Gronkowski but instead focused on the end result.
“The bottom line,” Belichick said, “we need fewer of those [penalties].”
Gronkowski’s penalty proved to be somewhat damaging, as it pushed the Patriots back from a first-and-goal at the Cincinnati 8-yard line to a first-and-goal at the 23-yard line. They had to settle for a field goal.
But once the game was all wrapped up with a LeGarrette Blount touchdown five minutes later, the Patriots’ running back got his money’s worth. He didn’t merely “bob his head” at Burfict. Blount simply emerged from his touchdown celebration to shove Burfict to the turf.
Blount cost the Patriots 15 yards on the kickoff, but in the final minute of a 35-17 game, it proved to be meaningless.
Blount said the Bengals are an emotional squad and a better team than their record indicates, but he also said this: “Tempers flare whenever things aren’t going their way.”
He added: “You play football, there’s a lot of guys, testosterone, egos. You’re losing the game, you’re winning the game, you’re celebrating, everybody sees that you’re having fun, and ultimately when you have guys that are losing games, it’s not easy to take. So that goes for anybody. We’ve just got to keep our composure and just continue to play football.”
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was also on the receiving end of Gronkowski’s suggestive head bobbing, and he spoke after the game to the “B.S.” that the Patriots were pulling.
“That’s football. Tempers are going to flare,” Kirkpatrick said. “At the end of the day, I feel like they had all the personal fouls. So y’all need to talk to them about that.”
The Patriots were indeed asked about the dust-ups, and after the 35-17 win, they weren’t all that upset.
“They do that every game,” Gronkowski said. “If you watch film, they’re always baiting everyone to do that. They’re a tough, physical team. They’re physical football players. They’re big, and they hit hard. I feel like that’s the style that they play, so I kind of gave into it when I got my penalty, and I’ve got to watch out for that. But after that [penalty], I just had to stay away. I didn’t need a second one and to get thrown out of the game, so I was good. I was just clearing myself out. After we scored that one touchdown, I let everyone else celebrate. I was just clapping so I didn’t get a penalty, so it is what it is.”