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Turnovers cost Bengals in 34-13 loss to Patriots

Three interceptions in four drives killed the Bengals’ chances to steal a win from the Patriots.

NFL: New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots were on to Cincinnati, and came away with a decisive victory to end their skid. After losing two straight, the Patriots defeated the Bengals 34-13.

Tom Brady didn’t play his best, completing 15 of 27 passes and two touchdowns. Andy Dalton played much worse, going 17-for-31, but tossing four interceptions, which tied a career high.

The interceptions played a huge role in this game, as 17 of the Patriots’ 34 points came off of turnovers.

The rushing game was the strength of teams, with the Patriots surpassing their season-high in yards on the ground. The Patriots gained 177 yards on the ground, compared to the Bengals’ 166.

The Patriots started with the ball and leaned on their running backs to move their offense. James White and Sony Michel combined for 42 total yards their first four touches. Even though Tom Brady didn’t complete a pass that traveled beyond the line of scrimmage, his final pass of the drive was a screen pass to White that went for a 23-yard touchdown. Nick Folk’s extra point was good, and the Patriots had an early 7-0 lead with 11:46 to go in the first quarter.

The Bengals force-fed the Patriots defense with a steady diet of Joe Mixon. The Bengals running back carried the ball on the first five plays and gained 43 yards. On the sixth play, Giovani Bernard ran the ball for 17 yards. Andy Dalton didn’t throw the ball until the ninth play of the drive, which was an eight-yard touchdown to Cethan Carter. It was Carter’s first career reception, and after the Bengals’ first opening drive touchdown since 20 games ago, the score was tied at 7-7 with 6:13 remaining in the first quarter.

After a Patriots’ punt, the Bengals didn’t deviate from their script: keep feeding Mixon. On five carries, he gained 29 yards on the drive, but the offense couldn’t convert a key third-down situation, so Randy Bullock came in for a 34-yard field goal. With 14 seconds left in the quarter, the Bengals took a 10-7 lead.

The Patriots offense never looked all that impressive in the first half. Following their opening drive, their best possession resulted in only 47 yards. Brady went two-for-four with 20 yards, while Michel had 16 rushing yards. But they had to settle for a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 3:51 until halftime.

Upon getting the ball back soon after, the Patriots got the ball back but were forced to punt the ball away with 1:45 left in the half. Matthew Slater forced an Alex Erickson fumble on the return and just like that, the Patriots got the ball on the Bengals’ 23-yard line. Carlos Dunlap sacked Brady to keep the turnover to only three points, following Folk’s 46-yard field goal. The Patriots led at halftime 13-10.

The Bengals pounded the ball, and they had 19 rushes for 109 yards. Mixon had 16 carries and 83 yards on his own, and Bernard added 26 yards in the first half. Dalton only had eight attempts, but completed seven of them for a rating of 134.1 in the first half.

Brady, on the other hand, only completed 10 of his 21 passes, with a rating of 76.5. His running backs did most of the work, accounting for 95 of the Patriots’ 153 offensive yards.

The Bengals got the ball back at halftime, but Dalton threw an interception right at Stephon Gilmore on his second attempt of the half. The Patriots took over at the Bengals’ 43-yard line. They turned that turnover into more points, after a 7-yard touchdown to N’Keal Harry with 11:23 left in the third quarter. The extra point made the score 20-10.

The Bengals kept feeding Mixon, but Dalton kept trying to find Tyler Boyd to no avail. Gilmore picked him off again and took it to the house, giving the Patriots a 27-10 lead with 7:21 to go in the third.

Dalton finally moved the ball down the field with his arm and found Tyler Eifert for a 25-yard pass down the sideline. He tried to push the ball downfield again, but overthrew Erickson and threw the ball right to J.C. Jackson at the Patriots 10-yard line. This was the third drive in the third quarter that ended in an interception, with the only other drive of the quarter ending in a three-and-out.

The Bengals finally moved the ball down the field without turning it over. The 12-play drive went for 46 yards, but they couldn’t get a third down conversion, so they settled for a field goal. Bullock’s kick was good from 48 yards, and the Bengals cut the deficit to 27-13 with 6:33 left in he game.

The Patriots got the ball back with good field position after a failed onside kick. After a fumble was erased by a penalty, Rex Burkhead broke loose for the longest run of a career, a 33-yard touchdown. The Patriots then led 34-13 with 5:26 to go before the final whistle.

The Bengals tried to keep pushing the downfield in a last-ditch effort to score. But Dalton lofted one deep, and threw his fourth interception of the game to Jackson.

The interception sealed the game, and the Patriots went on to win 34-13.

In Week 16, the Bengals will face the Dolphins in Miami at 1:00 PM.