Patriots open with a bang, beating Bengals, 38-24


Patriots open with a bang, beating Bengals, 38-24

By Art Martone

FOXBORO -- The glass-is-half-empty crowd will have stuff to chew on, certainly. The worries about the defense, put to bed momentarily with a dominating first-half performance, were resurrected in the last two quarters as the Bengals put together scoring drives of 73, 80 and 76 yards and were one possession away from turning a one-sided rout into a nailbiter.

Statistics and summaries Play by play

But the glass-is-half-full crowd . . . man, their cup runneth over.

The Patriots' offense was better than advertised, running up and down the field almost at will. There was a special-teams score from the remarkable Brandon Tate. The defense even chipped in with a 59-yard pick six from Gary Guyton.

It all added up to an impressive 38-24 Opening Day rout of the Bengals Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, the Pats' seventh straight Opening Day victory. They haven't lost a season opener since the Lawyer Milloy Bowl in Buffalo seven years ago.

"I'm really proud of the team," said coach Bill Belichick. "We came out ready to play, and made plays in all three phases of the game . . . Certainly there's a lot of things we can work on, things we can do better, but this was a good win."

The fun started early. The Pats went 72 yards in 5 plays on the first drive -- the big play being a 45-yard pass-and-run from Tom Brady to rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez -- and Brady capped it with a 9-yard scoring pass to Wes Welker. Seven minutes later, a 32-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal increased the lead to 10-0.

Another Brady-to-Welker TD pass -- this one finishing a 10-play, 80-yard march -- with 6:02 gone in the second quarter put the Pats in front, 17-0. On the next series, Guyton swiped a Carson Palmer pass intended for Jermaine Gresham and sprinted 59 yards down the left sideline for a 24-0 New England lead.

"All I could think of was , 'Run, Gary, run. And get the touchdown,' " said Guyton. "There was definitely a fear. If I get caught by the quarterback, I won't hear the last of it."

The Pats held the Bengals' high-octane offense to just over 100 yards total offense until a Hail Mary pass to the 3-yard line on the last play of the half increased that number by about 33 percent.

"I was happy with the way we played in the first half," said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. "We were able to neutralize them in the running game and the passing game. For us, that's just a confidence booster because we wanted to play with a lot of energy. We wanted to make plays early in the game to get energy on our defense. And that's what we did."

Cincinnati was shocked . . . and impressed.

"We knew their defense was young, but they surprised us," said Bengals halfback Bernard Scott. "We knew they were going to be physical, but I didn't expect them to make the plays they made . . .

"I take my hat off to them, they are a hell of a team."

Cincinnati finally got on the board on Mike Nugent's 54-yard field goal late in the first half, but Brandon Tate returned the second-half kickoff 97 yards and put the Patriots ahead, 31-3.

"Two returns for touchdowns," said Belichick. "You hope for that, but you can never really count on that."

It was here that the wheels came off the wagon a bit, as Palmer led the Bengals on two long third-quarter scoring drives and another in the fourth quarter.

"We actually did well in the first half and not good enough in the second half," said cornerback Darius Butler. "Like I said, some things you learn from."

"It was far from perfect," admitted Belichick. "It was no Picasso . . . The Bengals have a pretty good attack. We had trouble with them in the second half."

But the Pats got a touchdown of their own, on a 1-yard scoring pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, and their lead was never seriously in jeopardy.

"This is probably the best team we're going to face all year," said Bengals cornerback Adam Jones.

"Now it's on to New York for a meeting with the Jets next week," said Belichick. "We know that's a big challenge, but we're going to enjoy this one for a while."

Art Martone can be reached at

Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron


Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron

In searching for answers on what might be going on with Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, coach Bill Belichick was asked on Monday if there was any chance that Gostkowski's mechanics on kickoffs may be affecting his field goals. With the new touchback rule encouraging the Patriots to use more "pop-up" kicks to the goal line this season, might Gostkowski's swing have been altered?

Belichick said that the two plays are separate and that the Patriots expect Gostkowski to be able to execute a whole series of different types of kicks as part of his job.

"Well, I think they’re definitely different," Belichick said on a conference call. "I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, it would be like a golfer. You’ve got to be able to hit a sand wedge. You’ve got to be able to hit a five-iron. You’ve got to be able to drive. You’ve got to be able to putt.

"That’s what kickers and punters do. There’s plus-50 punts, there’s field goals, there’s kickoffs, there’s backed-up punts, there’s punts against a heavy rush, there’s punts against a six-man box where the gunners both are getting double-teamed. And just like golf, there’s wind conditions and not wind conditions and so forth. So it’s not like like you’re standing out there in a driving range and just banging the ball away every time. Especially on place kicks, you’re dealing with a center and a holder and timing on the play. It’s not like you’re just placing the ball down there on a tee and kicking it like you are a golf ball or a kickoff.

"Yeah, they’re definitely different, and whether it’s a punter or a kicker you’re talking about, they have to master different skills, different kicks, different types of kicks, different things that are specific to their position, just like every other player and every other athlete, for the most part, has to do. If you’re a basketball player, you just can’t shoot free throws. You’ve got to be able to make some other shots, too. That’s part of the position, being able to do the things that are required of that position, and they’re not all the same. I don’t think they’re all the same for anybody."

Belichick was also asked about how Gostkowski is coached. There are position-specific coaches with every NFL franchise, but when it comes to special teams, there is typically a special-teams coordinator and little else. There is no kicking coach, generally, nor a position coach dedicated to punting or snapping. 

Belichick said that he feels the team has enough support in place, starting with special teams coach Joe Judge, in order to help Gostkowski through his difficult stretch.

"I think Joe’s very knowledgable about the techniques of kicking," Belichick said. "I know when I became a special teams coach and coached special teams for many years as an assistant coach, and I continue to be involved with it as a head coach, that’s one of the things I had to learn. I had to learn how to coach those individual specialists, the snappers, the kickers, the punters, the returners. I don’t think it’s any different than coaching any other position. Things you don’t know, you need to learn. The things you do know, you need to be able to teach to the players, however you acquire that information.

"Some of that certainly comes from the players, especially when you coach good players at the position that you’re coaching, you can learn a lot from them, just like I learned a lot from many of the players that I coached. Going back to people like Dave Jennings as a punts or Carl Banks or Lawrence Taylor or Pepper [Johnson], guys like that, as linebackers with the Giants. However you acquire that information, you acquire it and you have to be able to convey it and teach it to the players and recognize technique or judgment.

"There’s a whole host of things that go into performance, but all the things that are related to those; be able to figure out which ones are the most important and which ones need to be corrected and so forth. I think Joe’s very knowledgeable on that, as was Scott O’Brien. I have a lot of experience with that myself. That’s what coaching is. You don’t know, then you’ve got to find out. Nobody knows everything. No coach knows everything about every position. Maybe a guy’s played it for a decade, he might be well-versed in that position. But I’d say for the most of the rest of us that haven’t done that, things you don’t know, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to find out, you’ve got to figure them out."

Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers


Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers

How quick was Tom Brady's release in the New England Patriots win over the The Pittsburgh Steelers? Glad you asked. 

On average, Brady took 2.11 seconds to release the ball. That’s not as quick as he was against Cleveland, when averaged 1.86 seconds, but still pretty flippin' quick.

2.05 - Gun. Edelman crosser 9 yards
0.80 - WR screen to Edelman - 2 yards
5.34 - Gun. Flushed. 13 yards to White
2.04 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 6 yards
1.59 - Gun. Screen to White. 19 yards. TD
1.65 - Gun. Edelman at the hash. 9 yards
1.72 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 11 yards
3.17 - Gun. Hogan outside the numbers. 13 yards
2.25 - Play action. Incomplete short left to White
1.24 - Edelman right flat. 6 yards
2.37 - Gun. Deep in to Gronkowski. 13 yards
2.20 - play action. Happy feet, Incomplete to Bennett
2.90 - Gun. Bolden drop
1.53 - Gun. Incomplete to White at the numbers
1.79 — Gun. Edelman crosser. 7 yards
1.36 - Gun. Short right to Blount. 7 yards
1.66 - Gun. Edelman drop 
3rd Quarter
3.44 - Gun. Awful backhanded flip throw. Incomplete to White
2.25 - Gun. Crosser to Bennett. 5 yards
1.39 - Gun. Short right to Edelman. 3 yards
2.18 - Gun. Ground seam. 36 yards. TD
1.59 - Gun. Short middle to Edelman. 11 yards
1.33 - Gronkowski. short right. 7 yards
3.16 - Play action. 37 yards to Gronkowski
3.89 - Gun. Pressure. Incomplete deep left to Mitchell