Heading into Week 5 of the 2013 season, the Cincinnati Bengals were 2-2. Solid wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were spoiled by losses to the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns, and heading into a matchup with the 4-0 New England Patriots, expectations were not high.
Tom Brady was surgical through the Patriots' first four games, completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,014 yards and seven touchdowns. The quarterback only threw two interceptions, despite playing without Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. He'd also thrown a touchdown pass in 52 consecutive games, a streak that could surpass Drew Brees' NFL record of 54 a year after it was set.
But things didn't go New England's way.
The Patriots elected to receive the opening kickoff, and immediately, the Bengals made their presence known.
Cedric Peerman made a huge tackle on Leon Washington's first return, pumping up the crowd and setting the tone on a day in which the Patriots simply couldn't move the ball.
The Patriots offense got started from its own 13-yard-line, and Cincinnati immediately settled in on defense. On 2nd-and-5, Geno Atkins burst through the Patriots' line unblocked and sacked Tom Brady.
The sack would set up a 3rd-and-14, and the Bengals would get a stop. Vontaze Burfict sniffed out a screen pass to Brandon Bolden and secured the tackle, forcing New England to punt.
The Bengals offense started on its own 22-yard-line, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis started things off right by taking his first carry for 13 yards. Cincinnati's offense looked like it came ready to play, and Paul Brown Stadium started to get excited. Green-Ellis toted three more carries, but he came up just short of the first down, killing the Bengals' momentum as they punted the ball back to New England.
New England started at its own 11-yard-line, gaining eight yards on two plays to set up a 3rd-and-2. But the Bengals defense again stopped the Pats' momentum. Wallace Gilberry ate left tackle Nate Solder's lunch and got to Tom Brady for Cincinnati's second sack of the day.
The sack came on a beautifully designed blitz by Mike Zimmer. Vontaze Burfict blitzed toward the left side of New England's line, and left guard Sebastian Vollmer extended out to block him. But Solder flinched, thinking that Gilberry would stunt inside, only to watch the defensive end run right past him for the sack.
The Bengals got the ball back on their own 48-yard-line, thanks to a nice little return from Adam Jones. But again, Cincinnati's offense stalled and was forced to punt. New England then took over from its 12-yard-line, advanced to its own 37-yard-line and punted again.
After a boring spurt, things finally started to get interesting. The Bengals got the ball on their own 19-yard-line and quickly got to work. Andy Dalton strung together some passes to Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham; Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard added some nice runs, and in seven plays, Cincinnati was on New England's 10-yard-line.
Then, this happened.
Dalton rolled right, threw a pass across his body and got picked off. "Bad Andy" was back. It seemed so unfortunately typical of the quarterback to make his biggest mistakes when the game mattered most. Fans began booing the quarterback, and Dalton got into a yelling match with Jay Gruden on the sidelines. Surprisingly, this was the Red Rifle's first red zone pick in his three-year career.
The Bengals defense bailed Dalton out on the ensuing drive, forcing a punt, and yet again, the Bengals got forced into punting on the following drive. The game had turned into a complete slobberknocker. While New England's offense couldn't get anything going, the Bengals offense was just as bad--and losing momentum.
But finally, the Bengals made another big play.
After the Patriots entered field goal range, Carlos Dunlap clubbed the ball out of LeGarrette Blount's hands on a 7-yard run, leading to a Reggie Nelson recovery.
On the ensuing drive, the Bengals offense finally re-gained momentum. Marvin Jones took a reverse for eight yards and caught an 11-yard pass, Dalton connected with A.J. Green on two passes for 29 yards and Mohamed Sanu caught an 11-yard pass. Ultimately, Mike Nugent drilled a field goal to make the score 3-0 in Cincinnati's favor.
After the field goal, the two teams swapped possessions until Stephen Gostkowski finally answered with a game-tying field goal. At halftime, the score was 3-3, and the Bengals looked like they had an actual shot at knocking off the undefeated Patriots.
The Bengals received the second-half kickoff but couldn't get momentum, punting for a fifth time. And again, the Patriots offense stalled, giving Cincinnati yet another opportunity. Finally, they made the most of it. Cincinnati moved the ball down the field, setting up a 50-yard Mike Nugent field goal.
The Patriots punted again, and yet again, Cincinnati made the most of its opportunity. The Bengals got the ball with poor field position, and Andy Dalton took a sack at his own 2-yard-line. But he fired back at New England, rifling a 30-yard pass to Marvin Jones on third down.
Dalton's pass left the announcers in awe and sparked an eruption inside Paul Brown Stadium. It looked as though the Bengals could actually win this game. And the drive wasn't over yet. Dalton drove the offense all the way down to New England's 1-yard-line. And on fourth down, Marvin Lewis decided to go for it.
Running behind Domata Peko, Green-Ellis took a handoff right up the gut and scored a touchdown, giving the Bengals a 13-3 lead.
But the Patriots wouldn't give up that easy. Brady marched his team right back down the field to kick a field goal, making it a one-possession game.
The Bengals got the ball back and started to drive, until Bernard coughed up the ball on Cincinnati's 50-yard-line. At that point, the game looked over. After all, Brady is the best quarterback in football and the Patriots had momentum. At the very worst, the Patriots would tie the game and send it to overtime.
Until this happened.
Adam Jones picked off Brady, ending a 52-game touchdown streak and securing a Bengals victory. Promptly afterward, a light shower of rain turned into an all-out downpour as Tom Brady walked off the field.
Seeing an opposing quarterback walk off the field after a Bengals victory has almost never been this sweet.
What made this game special was Cincinnati's defense preventing Brady from breaking an NFL record, Dalton connecting with six receivers and statistically speaking, outplaying Brady, the Bengals defense blowing up one of the best offensive lines in football, sacking Brady four times and, Cincinnati didn't fold when under pressure. In fact, the Bengals played like they wanted the win. And ultimately, they came out with the victory.
Without this win, it would have been hard to see Cincinnati winning the AFC North title in 2013. The win sparked momentum and gave the Bengals confidence in their ability to beat good teams. The victory also helped Cincinnati jump out to a 3-2 record and sparked a four-game winning streak.