BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots actually trailed the Bengals for a stretch of time on Sunday. That was certainly not something that anybody expected to happen.
Nevertheless, the Patriots shook off a slow start to improve to 11-3 on the year and hand the Bengals their 13th loss of the season, with a 34-13 final score.
With the win, the Patriots clinched a playoff spot for the 11th straight season. They have not yet, though, clinched the AFC East.
Stephon Gilmore as the star of the game, intercepting passes on consecutive Cincinnati drives and returning the second one 64 yards for a touchdown.
Tom Brady completed 15 of 29 passes for only 128 yards, but he did throw two touchdowns with no interceptions. Sony Michel ran for 89 yards on 19 carries, while Rex Burkhead rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown on just six carries.
Andy Dalton completed just 17 of 31 passes for 151 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
The game opened with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive for the Patriots. James White had two catches for 45 yards, including a 23-yard screen pass that went for a touchdown on a third-and-10. Sony Michel also had two rushes for 20 yards, while receiver N’Keal Harry took a jet sweep for 10 yards, the first rush of his NFL career.
The Bengals answered immediately with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Joe Mixon ran for 43 yards on five carries, including a 29-yarder after breaking a Jamie Collins tackle in the backfield. Giovani Bernard also ran for 24 yards on the drive. Dalton threw just one pass on the drive, an eight-yard connection with Cethan Carter for a touchdown, with a stumbling Jonathan Jones in coverage.
After forcing a Patriots three-and-out, the Bengals then put together a lengthy drive before stalling out in the red zone and settling for a field goal to take a 10-7 lead.
The Patriots attempted to convert a fourth-and-4 on the ensuing drive, but Mohamed Sanu let a pass bounce off his hands, leading to a turnover on downs. The Patriots’ defense answered with a fourth-down stop of their own on the next drive.
The Patriots tied the game late in the second quarter, and after a muffed punt by Alex Erickson, Nick Folk kicked a 46-yard field goal to take a 13-10 lead into halftime.
The second half began with Stephon Gilmore intercepting a Dalton pass, and then Brady hitting Harry for a 7-yard touchdown strike to give New England a 20-10 lead.
Gilmore then came up with his second interception of the game, returning this one 64 yards for at touchdown to make it a 27-10 lead for the Patriots.
The Bengals converted a fourth-and-4 midway through the fourth quarter but ended up settling for a field goal on the drive.
The Patriots nearly had a costly turnover, as Sanu fumbled while running after a catch in the fourth quarter. But three Cincinnati penalties on that play negated the turnover. Rex Burkhead broke a 33-yard touchdown run up the middle on the very next play, making it a 34-13 lead for New England.
Cornerback Jonathan Jones left the game with a groin injury late in the fourth quarter.
J.C. Jackson made his second interception of the game with 3:43 left on a deep shot by Dalton.
Chants supporting Brady echoed throughout the stadium on multiple occasions, as numerous Patriots fans made their presence felt in Cincinnati.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 15, 2019
The day began with Fox’s Jay Glazer sharing video of Bengals security confronting the Patriots’ videographer in the press box last week in Cleveland. The video appears to show that the Patriots’ story has been the truth, but the league is nevertheless expected to levy some serious punishment against the team.
The Patriots now have a short week before they host the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.