Stephon Gilmore’s two interceptions help lead Patriots over Bengals, 34-13

All of the updates from the victory at Paul Brown stadium.

Stephon Gilmore heads for the end zone with a pick six against the Bengals on Sunday.
Stephon Gilmore heads for the end zone with a pick six against the Bengals on Sunday. –/FRANK VICTORES/FR170726 AP VIA AP

 

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The New England Patriots (10-3) take on the Cincinnati Bengals (1-12) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium.

It was a little dicey in the first half, but 20 unanswered points from the Patriots paved the way for a 34-13 victory over the Bengals Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati.

With the win, New England snapped a two-game losing streak, and clinched a playoff spot in the process.

As has been the case for most of the year, the Patriots’ defense and special teams were equal to the task – specifically Stephon Gilmore (two interceptions, including one pick-six) and JC Jackson (two interceptions). In addition, Justin Bethel and Matthew Slater combined to force a fumbled punt at the end of the second quarter that set the stage for a go-ahead field goal at the end of the first half.

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Tom Brady was 15-for-29 for 128 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Sony Michel had 19 carries for 89 yards, while James White added three catches for 49 yards.

New England turned a 10-10 game late in the first half into a 27-10 lead by the end of the third, thanks to a late second-quarter field-goal from Nick Folk (which made it 13-10), a 7-yard touchdown pass from Brady to N’Keal Harry, and Gilmore’s third-quarter pick-six, which made it a 17-point lead midway through the third. The Bengals got a fourth-quarter field goal to cut the lead to 14, but a late 33-yard touchdown run from Rex Burkhead – the longest run of the season for the Patriots – finished the scoring.

4:06 p.m.: That’s it — 34-13.

3:48 p.m.:

3:45 p.m.: The Patriots are now up 34-13 with 5:31 to go after that Rex Burkhead run for a touchdown. This isn’t to fill cynics with false hope, but that 33-yarder is the longest run of the season for New England.

3:39 p.m.: Randy Bullock nails a 48-yard field goal to make it 27-13 with 6:33 to go in regulation. Andy Dalton was almost picked by Gilmore, who continues to have a heck of a ballgame.

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3:34 p.m.: So the Bengals are putting up an honest effort here down the stretch. I’m nore sure it’s going to do any more than put a scare into the oddsmakers, but this (relatively) young and scrappy team is putting up a good fight down the stretch. The Patriots still hold a 17-pont lead as we pass the halfway point of the fourth quarter.

3:17 p.m.: What was that we said about the Bengals not wanting to throw it? Basically, you have left Cincinnati with one option to try and come back from a 17-point deficit, and that’s throwing the football. The Pats know it, and they’re playing the situation accordingly. That’s the fourth pick of the year for JC Jackson. With 24 seconds left in the third quarter, New England has the ball and a 17-point lead. NOW is the time to run the ball and starting bleeding that clock if you are the Patriots — the truth of the mattter is this could really set Michel up to get over 100 yards today, which would be a season-high for him.

3:12 p.m.: Multiple things at play here for the Patriots, as they have a 17-point lead here with just over three minutes left in the third quarter. You aren’t quite trading clock for yards, but you are more than happy for the Bengals to use 30 seconds on each play and allow them to get 3-4 yards per play. There’s very little urgency right now for the Bengals’ offense. The other thing? You’re getting into a field-position battle — make Cincinnati go the length of the field. Basically, the clock is really starting to work in your favor here if you are New England.

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3:07 p.m.:

2:59 p.m.: Gilmore with a pick-six, and it’s 27-10, Patriots. Not saying you start trading clock for yards this early, but New England is starting to settle into the drivers’ seat here. (What was that we said about the Bengals having no faith in their passing game?) Anyway, we’re reiterating what we’ve said before — Gilmore deserves to be the first New England player to win DPOY honors.

2:49 p.m.: Not sure that sequence could have gone any better for the Patriots — a Gilmore interception sets them up with excellent field position, and they cash in with a Brady-to-Harry touchdown pass to make it 20-10 with 11:17 left in the third quarter. New England can really put its stamp on this one with a 3-and-out here by the defense. A double-digit lead would force them to try and throw the ball to get back into it, and if the first half was any indication, the Bengals have very little faith in their passing game.

2:43 p.m.: Wrote about it for the Friday edition of Point After — Stephon Gilmore could be the first Patriot to win Defensive Player of the Year. That pick ties his career-high for most interceptions in a season. Starting to feel a momentum shift for New England here.

2:29 p.m.: The Patriots hold a 13-10 lead at the half. A few thoughts:

•The New England offense has been bailed out so many times by its special teamers this year, and it happened again at the end of the first half with that COLOSSAL play on the part of Justin Bethel and Matt Slater. They combined to force the fumble, and the Pats cashed in with a field goal at the end of the first half. A big moment for New England, which will take some momentum into the locker room. (You add a pair of deep field goals for Nick Folk, and it was a very good first half for the Pats’ special teamers.)

•Other than that? Not a great first half for the Pats, who are struggling with the Bengals’ ground game. Cincy has already topped 100 rushing yards, and had command of this one for most of the first 30 minutes. Stack the box, leave your defensive backs alone in single coverage, and roll the dice.

•On offense, Brady is 10-for-21 for 95 yards and a touchdown. There are some signs of life from the ground game, as Michel has eight carries for 46 yards. (His season-high is 91 yards.) James White has three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. It also looks like Brady and Edelman are fighting through injury.

2:11 p.m.:

1:56 p.m.: Big stop there on fourth down for the New England defense, as the Pats will take over after the turnover on downs. Is that the sort of thing that could provide a spark for New England here as he near the end of the first half? We shall see.

1:49 p.m.: This isn’t going the way the Patriots had hoped. They trail 10-7 with 11:21 left in the second quarter, and now, they’ve just turned it over on downs near midfield after a fourth-down misfire. Cincinnati has the ball and the lead. Oh, and the Bengals will get the ball to start the second half. We’ve said it a ton over the last month or so, but this New England offense desparately needs some sort of jolt. This is usually the point where we’d see some sort of trickeration on the part of New England — let’s see what the Pats might have in store.

1:35 p.m.: A nine-play, 49-yard drive for the Bengals ends in a field goal and gives them a 10-7 lead with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. More ground work for Cincy — the Bengals have 13 carries for 96 yards.

1:29 p.m.: Bengals singular focus today is running the ball — 12 of the first 13 plays for Cincy have been running plays. Clear directive for the Bengals. Mixon passes the 65 yard mark and there’s still more than three minutes left in the first quarter.

1:19 p.m.: Cethan Carter’s first NFL catch goes for a touchdown. Not the sort of answer you were looking for with the Patriots’ defense. Cincy pretty much rumbled its way down the field and punched it in to tie the game with 6:13 left in the first quarter without really being tested. First time all year the Bengals scored on their opening drive.

1:17 p.m.: Bengals run the ball seven straight times to open the game, five of them going to Mixon and two to Bernard.

1:15 p.m.: Patriots offensive starters: Brady, Michel, Edelman, Sanu, Harry, LaCosse, Wynn, Thuney, Karras, Mason, Cannon.

Defensive starters: Guy, Shelton, Simon, Van Noy, Collins, Hightower, Gilmore, Jackson, Harmon, Chung, D. McCourty.

1:10 p.m.: Good drive for the Patriots, as they go 75 yards and end with a touchdown pass to James White to make it 7-0 with 11:44 left in the first quarter. While the TD came through the air, as we said this morning, it’s a smart play to try and beat the Bengals on the ground — four carries for 30 yards on that opening drive for New England. All in all, a positive start to the game for the Pats.

1:01 p.m.: Patriots lose the toss and will defer. They will start with the ball. Time for the foosball!

1:00 p.m.: Here’s a link to the story we referenced previously about the Fox report.

12:40 p.m.: The official Price pregame prediction: New England is going to win, and it will cover. I’m going to say Patriots 21, Bengals 7.

12:30 p.m.:

Chris Price: Brandon Chase is in the process of writing up the latest on the Fox pregame show airing a portion of the Patriots’ videotaping of the Bengals’ sideline. I watched it like many of you guys probably did and found it … a bit underwhelming. We’ll see what sort of penalties will be handed down to New England as a part of what happened. Not saying it wasn’t a colossal goof on the part of whoever did it, especially given the history of the franchise in these sorts of situations. Just don’t believe it was as nefarious as the initial reports have made it out to be.

12:25 p.m.: Few numbers to watch for today:

•Julian Edelman needs one catch to tie Wes Welker for most regular-season receptions via Tom Brady. Welker finished his New England career with 562 regular-season catches from Brady, while Edelman enters Sunday game with 561.

•As a team, the Patriots are averaging 3.5 yards per carry. The last time New England finished with an average of 3.5 yards per carry or lower was 2005, when the Patriots’ averaged 3.4 yards per carry as a team.

•On average, the most productive play in the New England arsenal is a deep-right pass play. The Patriots have called that play 35 times this season, and have gained an average of 14.71 yards per play attempt.

•According to the NFL’s Game Statistics & Information System, the Pats average 3.5 yards when they call a running play around left end this year. It’s their least productive play. New England has run that play 46 times this year, and their 3.13 average yards per play is the lowest in the league.

12:14 p.m.: Looks like most betting outlets have the Patriots as anywhere between a nine- and 12-point favorite, which feels about right, given the circumstances. If this game was in Foxborough, I’d consider it a slam dunk if you’re talking about a New England cover. There is a danger of a late Cincy score to sour things, but if I was you, I’d still roll with the Patriots as a 10-point cover in this one.

12:14 p.m.: Looks like most betting outlets have the Patriots as anywhere between a nine- and 12-point favorite, which feels about right, given the circumstances. If this game was in Foxborough, I’d consider it a slam dunk if you’re talking about a New England cover. There is a danger of a late Cincy score to sour things, but if I was you, I’d still roll with the Patriots as a 10-point cover in this one.

12:10 p.m.:

12:03 p.m.: In terms of weather, it looks like it’s going to be a perfect December afternoon for football — clear and cool, with no chance for rain or snow and highs in the mid-30s.

11:34 a.m.: For the Patriots, the following players are inactive for this afternoon’s game against the Bengals: Damien Harris, Cody Kessler, Korey Cunningham, Byron Cowart, Ryan Izzo, Jason McCourty and Jermaine Eluemunor. The bigget surprise (which really isn’t all that much of a surprise, given the fact that he’s been hobbled by injury the last few weeks) is McCourty. As a result, I’d expected rookie Joejuan Williams to get a little more action in his place this afternoon. The other six have either had injury issues which have left them sidelined (like Izzo and Cowart) or full-on healthy scratches, like Harris, Kessler, Cunningham, and Eluemunor. One good bit of news is that Brady’s receiving corps — including Mohamd Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman — are as healthy as possible.

10:48 a.m.: Pregame reading list: