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Bengals hang with Patriots for 2 1/2 quarters, but mistakes, Brady doom them to 35-17 loss

Gronkowski gives them fits
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Posted at 5:15 PM, Oct 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 05:50:55-04

FOXBORO, Mass. --  At least it wasn't that bad.

Maybe that should be the Bengals' new rallying cry after they hung for 2-1/2 quarters with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Sunday.

It wasn't as bad as their blowout loss in Dallas last week, but it showed again that these Bengals, now 2-4, aren't the prime time team their fans thought they would be.

The Bengals made too many mistakes and costly penalties, and in the end, it was too much Brady and Rob Gronkowski that led the Patriots to a 35-17 victory in Brady's home debut.

Brady threw for three TDs and 376 yards and tight end Gronkowski had one of his best days ever, catching seven passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. The Pats' other tight end, Marcellus Bennett, had five catches for 48 yards.

Gronk even rubbed it in at the end after beating Adam Jones on a  29-yard catch in the fourth quarter.  Gronk had some words with Jones, and later the big tight end mixed words with Vontaze Burfict after consecutive plays. That got Gronk a penalty for taunting, but the Patriots already had the game in hand,

If you're looking for a silver lining, at least the Bengals competed. They sacked Brady three times and led early in the third quarter, 14-10, after former Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell caught a 4-yard TD pass from Andy Dalton on their first drive after halftime.

But the offense only managed three points after that. Early in the game, the Bengals couldn't score a TD on three tries from the 1-yard line.

 "It's disappointing," said coach Marvin Lewis. "We're doing a lot of things right, and doing things good, and correct. But we're not finishing things. We continue to be our own Achilles heel, way too often. Whether it's a penalty on defense, which sets us back, or a key third-down conversion. It turns out to be the key to the football game."

After the Bengals took the third-quarter lead, a  holding penalty by Cedric Ogbuehi pushed them back to the goal line and set up a safety. That led New England  to two quick touchdowns and a 25-14 lead.

An earlier penalty by Dre Kirkpatrick set up the Patriots' first touchdown after it looked like the Bengals were going to hold them to three-and-out. Burfict sacked Brady for an 8-yard loss on second down, and Brady threw an incomplete pass on third down. But Kirkpatrick's illegal contact penalty kept the drive alive. The Patriots marched 78 plays over the next six plays and scored on a 15-yard pass from Brady to James White.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals drove to the Pats 7 but had to settle for Mike Nugent's 24-yard field goal. And that was that.

It wasn't Dalton's fault. He was 21 of 31 for 245 yards with a 103.4 rating. The O-line cut down on Dalton's sacks from four to two. The Bengals rushed for 120 yards. Neither team had a turnover. But it wasn't enough.

"We have a lot of season left and we've got to get back on track this week," Dalton said, referring to the next Sunday's home game against the winless Browns. "We've got to take this thing and try to get to 3-4 and then we'll move from there."

The Bengals lost center Russell Bodine to an ankle or foot injury in the third quarter. He was driven off the field in a cart. The team didn't comment on his condition.

The Bengals haven't been 2-4 since 2010, when they finished 4-12 - their worst season under Lewis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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