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Bengals have no answers for Gronkowski, Patriots

Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for a career-high 162 yards and a touchdown, leading the New England Patriots to a 35-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6. Here's what we learned:

  1. Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Bengals had the Patriots on the ropes until a pair of penalties instigated an onslaught for New England. A frustrated Tom Brady was pressured and forced to flee the pocket until Dre Kirkpatrick's illegal contact call on third-and-18 gave him new life late in the second quarter. Brady hit James White for a 15-yard touchdown six plays later. After Andy Dalton led an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the second half, the Bengals defense forced a punt and Cincinnati appeared to be in the driver's seat. A holding penalty on right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi not only negated a 15-yard pass to A.J. Green, but also led to a crucial safety on a delayed blitz by Dont'a Hightower -- his second in as many weeks. The Patriots scored 24 points on their next four possessions, pulling away from a Bengals team that simply lacked the offensive firepower to keep up.
  1. Gronkowski and James White exposed the coverage woes of the Bengals linebackers, combining for 209 yards and three scores on 15 receptions. The All Pro tight end was a big-play machine, generating four plays of 25 or more yards in addition to his 4-yard touchdown. Gronkowski was also whistled for taunting after yelling at the Bengals sideline during a two-play sequence that involved an extended back-and-forth with Vontaze Burfict. Cincinnati's incendiary linebacker and cornerback Adam Jones had gone at the knees of Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on separate plays, perhaps raising the ire of Gronk.
  1. A.J. Green is having an All Pro-caliber season, but Andy Dalton needs more help for an offense that has managed just 10 touchdowns this season -- fewer than any teams save the Seahawks and Texans. Ogbuehi, an early-season liability despite his first-round draft pedigree, was benched for Eric Winston in the third quarter. Emblematic of the Bengals' rushing woes, Giovani Bernard was stuffed on three separate tries at the goal line in the second quarter. Bernard and Jeremy Hill have combined to average just 3.53 yards per carry this season. Cincinnati still has a chance to turn the season around with Pittsburgh and Baltimore each losing on Sunday and Cleveland next on the schedule. If the ground attack doesn't start showing signs of life, though, the chances of playing catch-up in the AFC North will dwindle.
  1. Brady generated an 82.9 completion rate and a 140.0 passer rating on an afternoon in which he couldn't get comfortable in the pocket for nearly two full quarters. In two games since returning from his two-game suspension, Brady has completed 57 of 75 passes (76.0 percent) for 782 yards (10.4 YPA), six touchdowns and a 135.5 passer rating. The future Hall of Famer said last week that he feels better at age 39 than he did at age 29. We've seen no reason to be skeptical of that declaration.
  1. The bizarre struggles of Stephen Gostkowski continued Sunday, as the All Pro kicker missed an extra point. Gostkowski has been off since the preseason, leading to conjecture in New England that he's either haunted by last year's playoff miss at Denver or altering his mechanics for shorter, higher kickoffs this season. As the best kicker of the past decade, Gostkowski should have a long leash. Still, this is a situation to monitor.
  1. The Patriots have a late-round steal in rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts, who was all over field in last week's victory at Cleveland. Roberts flashed that playmaking ability again on Sunday before leaving with a head injury sustained on an impressive goal-line tackle of Bernard.
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