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

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

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

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 amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Is Tom Brady mentally ready to finish his career elsewhere?

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Is Tom Brady mentally ready to finish his career elsewhere?

The discussion on the future of Tom Brady is only going to intensify as the days, months or years tick off his career. Will that legendary career end as a member of the New England Patriots? Listen to the insightful discussion on this week's "Quick Slants The Podcast". Tom E. Curran says Tom Brady is mentally prepared to finish his career elsewhere.

Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry, and guest Mike Giardi have a spirited discussion about which quarterback should start against the Bills.

Curran and Bills columnist Tim Graham put Rex Ryan on the couch.

SUBSCRIBE Audioboom | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

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Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

FOXBORO -- It's looking more and more like the Patriots will have options at quarterback Sunday against the Bills. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett threw at practice on Wednesday, and it appears that at least one of them, if not both, will be available for the final game of Tom Brady's suspension. 

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is the likely candidate to jump behind center should the team run into an emergency, but on Wednesday another player threw his hat into the ring. 

"Yeah, I'll play," said linebacker Jamie Collins. "Whatever it is. I don't care what the level is. I don't care what the level is. Whatever it is they need me to do, I'm doing it."

That would be some kind of show.

At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and with remarkable closing speed, Collins would be an intimidating run-first signal-caller. He's listed at two inches shorter and five pounds heavier than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and his NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash time was only 0.05 seconds slower than Newton's. 

Just to take this pie-in-the-sky idea even further, Collins can throw, too. Or he could at one point in time. He played quarterback at Franklin County High in Meadville, Miss. before heading off to Southern Mississippi to play all over the Golden Eagles defense. As a high school senior, he cracked 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air.

Asked if he saw himself back then as a future star in the NFL as a passer, Collins shook his head.

"Nah," he said. "I ain't even see myself as a quarterback in the NFL."

The Patriots would be just fine with Collins sticking at linebacker. He had one of the best games of his career against the Texans last week, racking up 14 tackles and picking off Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler. He also made the calls in the middle of the defense, which is a job that typically falls to Dont'a Hightower, but Collins took over with Hightower out with a knee injury.

"Jamie Collins, he's a beast, man," said safety Duron Harmon after the game. "I tell you what, I've seen a lot of football players play, and he's definitely one of my favorite players to just watch. You just get caught up sometimes seeing all the amazing stuff he does on the field, you just sit in awe. I'm so happy he's on my team, I'll tell you that."

And the team is happy he's at linebacker. But imagine him at quarterback?