BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots were victorious in the Tom Brady home opener, a game that went south towards the end.
The good news for New England is nobody got hurt in their 35-17 win over the Bengals, and they are now the top team in the AFC at 5-1. Here are your gold stars and penalty flags from Sunday’s victory:
– Rob Gronkowski gets a gold star after hauling in seven catches for a career-high 162 yards. Gronk was battling a stomach flu at the end of the week but he came out on Sunday and had that performance.
Better than those ridiculous numbers was how he stood up for his teammate. Vontaze Burfict threw a cheap shot on Martellus Bennett and Gronk took it upon himself to be the enforcer. LeGarrette Blount also joined in afterwards but big 87 took the torch.
The Pats have to show they are not afraid to mix it up and when their best skill player doesn’t back down, that lights a fire under the whole team. It looks like Gronk is finally healthy.
– Dont’a Hightower gets a gold star. For the second week in a row, Hightower was in the middle of a safety. The Pats were sort of sleepwalking through this game before Hightower did his thing, sacking Andy Dalton in the end zone in the third quarter to set the tone the rest of the way. Everyone in the locker room talked about how that was the play that got everything going.
Hightower finished the game with 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pair of quarterback hits. He was a star on defense and it’s just a reminder that the Pats are going to have to pay him at the end of the year.
– Running back James White gets a gold star. White has always been a star in the passing game but on Sunday he also ran between the tackles. It’s hard to be a third-down back in this offense but James White is finally adapting. He finished with eight catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns to go with seven carries for 19 yards, an all-around good day. He his one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, and his two touchdown afternoon was a testament to that.
– Stephen Gostkowski gets a penalty flag. I think everyone in New England understands what can happen if you miss an extra point, but this is more than that. Before, Gostkowski was automatic, but now that’s not the case. The Pats have had the luxury of not worrying about their kicker for years. This is what everyone else in the league deals with. Gostkowski better get his game together. One more miss and I think there may be some kickers coming through Foxboro for a look.
– Vontaze Burfict gets a penalty flag. There is no explanation that he can give that won’t make me think he’s not a dirty player. Bennett was engaged in a block and Burfict hit him low at the knee from behind. Luckily, Bennett didn’t get hurt.
The league loves his aggression but it doesn’t need his vindictive behavior. I’m sure a fine will be coming his way before the week is over.