Fay: Desperate for a W, the Bengals must conquer a revitalized New England team

And face Brady returning to his home turf
Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-14 09:00:49-04

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals are in about as tough a spot as they could be. They're 2-3. They desperately need a win.

To get said win, they've got to go to New England, where they'll face arguably the greatest quarterback of this generation and the greatest coach of this generation.

And it's the aforementioned quarterback's home return after his Deflategate suspension.

As good as Tom Brady, the quarterback, is, you get the impression that facing Bill Belichick, the coach, is the more daunting task. In the NFL, you can count on a certain amount of predictability from most coaches.

Not the guy in the hoodie.

"We played them my first or second year," Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworh said. "We prepared for them to play one way. For the first snap, they were. For the next 68 snaps, they weren't. I was shocked."

That was 2006. Not surprisingly, the Patriots won that one 38-13. The Bengals have two wins against the Patriots in the Belichick era. Both came in Cincinnati.

The last two results are about as different as can be. The Bengals beat the Patriots 13-6 in Cincinnati on Oct. 6, 2013. Brady had a mediocre game -- really terrible for him. He went 18-for-38 for 197 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked four times.

The Bengals lost to the Patriots in New England on Oct. 5, 2014, 43-17. Brady was 23-for-35 for 292 yards, three TDs and no interceptions. He was sacked once.

That was a big game for the Patriots. They came in 2-2 off a bad loss in Kansas City. New England went on to win the Super Bowl that year.

Bill Belichick

Current Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell was on that New England team. The Patriots handled the loss the Belichick way.

"We got on the plane. It was a clean slate," LaFell said. "Work on us. We felt like, against Kansas City, we beat ourselves. We worked on ourselves. We came out and played well (against the Bengals). It showed the rest of the season."

Belichick dropped the "We're on to Cincinnati" line in the postgame press conference.

"That's typical Bill: We're not going to dwell on it. We're not going to listen to the media. We're going to come in and do our jobs," LaFell said.

The Bengals are trying to apply that philosophy this week. While they heaped praise on Belichick and Brady, the Bengals also used one of the oldest cliches in the football book: "We've got to worry about us."

That's true. The Bengals took a 28-14 beating in Dallas last week. They fell behind 28-zip in that one. Get down 28 or even 14 to the Patriots and it's over.

"The biggest thing you can do is, you've got to get on the board early," Whitworth said. "We've had slow starts. In games we haven't had slow starts, we've played better. … We've got to play better. We've got to put up points and do a better job in the first quarter. Put ourselves in a position to be able to maintain the game plan throughout the game and play our style football."

"You turn things around with a W," wide receiver A.J. Green said. "We can't let this affect us. We've got to stay focused and take each game week-by-week and see what happens."

That's pure Belichick.

"(He has) the ability to get the football team to adjust and adapt the football team to understand what's important at the moment," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Not worry about last week, next week. You learn that as you follow him."

Again, this is no ordinary week. Playing the Patriots in New England on the day of Brady's return to his home field ranks highly on the list of tall tasks in the NFL.

But the Bengals desperately need a win, and the only place to get it is in New England against Brady and Belichick.