CINCINNATI – Quarterback Andy Dalton threw a career-high four interceptions while Tom Brady fired two touchdowns as New England trounced the Bengals 34-13 at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.
Brady’s two TD passes moved him to within one of the NFL’s all-time career mark, while cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s two picks secured a playoff berth for the 11th straight season for the Patriots (11-3)
Gilmore picked off Dalton twice in the third quarter, with his second being a pick-six to put New England in control of the game.
“I should have had three. Should have had four,” Gilmore said. “As soon as (Dalton) threw it, I knew I had it. They got to switch up the play. I don’t know. I’m not going to say it was easy, but I knew the route, so …”
The Patriots lead the league with 25 interceptions.
“He made a great play on the ball and a great catch,” New England Coach Bill Belichick said. “He went up there and high-pointed another one. He is playing well right now.”
The Bengals (1-13) got a touchdown pass from Dalton that ended a 20-game streak of games without a touchdown on its opening drive to tie the game 7-7. With 6:17 to go in the opening quarter, Dalton connected with Cethan Carter for an eight-yard TD pass.
Dalton finished the game with 151 yards passing and completed 17 of 31 attempts, but also fired four interceptions.
“I felt like, for me, I was trying to give my guys a chance, and their guys ended up making the plays,” Dalton said. “They were great plays by them, so that’s what it came down to.”
From that point on, Cincinnati managed two field goals the rest of the game.
“We have to get down to the red zone,” Dalton added. “We go to ‘plus’ territory a couple of times in the second half, but just couldn’t do anything with it. I think we just have to make plays. That is what it comes down to.”
Cincinnati’s Alex Erickson muffed a punt that set up a New England field goal. Then one of Dalton’s interceptions led to Brady’s second TD pass and Gilmore’s pick-six put the game out of hand at 27-10.
Brady, who finished the game 15 of 29 for 128 yards and two TDs, said the team is playing well as the post-season approaches.
“It was a good win,” he said. “This team has been working hard and trying to put ourselves into good positions. Good to win – we are 6-2 on the road this year. Last year we were 3-5. It was good. The defense played great and got five turnovers.”
Yes, five. That number did not set well with Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
“When you turn the ball over that many times against a great football team, that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” he said. “And despite the fact we’re going to watch the tape and see a lot of guys had some winning performances, I felt like our defense did what we intended to when we came into the game. We came out and established the run the way we wanted to. In all started downhill at the end of the half.”
The only bright spot for Cincinnati was Joe Mixon. He ran for 136 yards on 25 carries.
Brady has thrown at least 20 TD passes in 17 seasons and moved ahead of Peyton Manning for the NFL record. Drew Brees needs three more touchdown passes this season to tie Manning for second place.
New England will host Buffalo next week and travel to Miami to finish the season while the Bengals go on the road to Miami then return to host Cleveland.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
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