FOXBOROUGH — Make no mistake; Sunday night was a statement game for the New England Patriots.
In routing the Cincinnati Bengals, 43-17, the Patriots proved that they would not give up on the season, even if some folks in New England were ready to do just that.
The Patriots offense racked up 256 yards of offense and 15 first downs in the first half. For context, they picked up 290 yards of offense and 13 first downs in the entire game against the Kansas City Chiefs last week. The defense played one of its best games of the season, and kept the Bengals quiet — short of a couple long passes that went for touchdowns.
As with any big game and resounding win, there were plenty of players who brought their A-game. That being said, as usual, Bill Belichick will probably find more than one nitpick from the game, so here's a look at some who shone and others who struggled on Sunday night.
Tom Brady: Tom Brady faced questions all week as to whether he was in decline, and he answered with a resounding "no" on Sunday night. Not only did Brady hit the milestone of 50,000 passing yards, but he also hit 23-of-35 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, earning a 110.7 passer rating on the night. The Patriots' opening two drives were a thing of beauty, marching 80 yards in 4:57, and 58 yards in 2:33, both on drives that ended in Brady scores. It's safe to say Bill Belichick won't be facing any questions about whether he will be evaluating the quarterback position this week.
Tim Wright: To say it was a coming-out party for Tim Wright would be a massive understatement. Before Sunday night, Wright had caught four passes on five targets for 35 yards. On Sunday night, he caught five passes on five targets for 85 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The Patriots offensive game plan looked to expose the Bengals' linebackers over the middle, and Wright took advantage. He has been with the team for a little over a month now, and seems to be getting the hang of the offense.
Stevan Ridley: With 27 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown, Stevan Ridley further solidified his status as a bell cow back for the Patriots offense this season. He ran hard every time he touched the ball, getting around the edge and running upfield or following blocks up the middle. He also had a 43-yard run, his longest of the season by 37 yards. If the Patriots offense is going to remain successful, the running game will likely play a big part in that success.
Alfonzo Dennard: It was not a banner night for Alfonzo Dennard, who was flagged for two defensive holding penalties and gave up a 37-yard touchdown pass to Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. The Patriots may be growing anxious for the return of cornerback Brandon Browner, but he remained out of the lineup on Sunday.
Brandon LaFell: With 10 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown in the previous two weeks combined, Brandon LaFell seemed to have found his stride. Against the Bengals, LaFell caught only one of the four passes thrown his way. He watched one pass sail over his head after letting up on a downfield route, and missed a chance at a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Patriots offense played so well that LaFell's shortcomings went unnoticed initially.
Jerome Boger: Because really, what is a catch?