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Tom Brady and the Patriots routed the Bengals and quieted the doubters.
The three-time Super Bowl winner finally looked like a quarterback who has thrown for 50,000 yards in his career as New England dominated the NFL's last unbeaten team, beating Cincinnati 43-17 Sunday night.
Just six days earlier, the Patriots lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 41-14, unleashing criticism that Brady had regressed and lacked talented teammates to help him.
"It's hard to be oblivious to things. We all have TVs or the internet or the questions I get and the emails that I get from people that are concerned," Brady said after throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions. "Nobody died or anything. It's just a loss and I think we've always done a great job putting losses behind us quickly."
Brady did it in 2003 when the Patriots lost the opener to Buffalo 31-0, then beat Philadelphia in the next game 31-10 and went on to their second Super Bowl win in three years.
Sunday's win had special significance for Brady, as he became the sixth quarterback to pass the 50,000-yard mark.
"It's awesome," he said.
Brady threw for a 292 yards after not passing for more than 249 in his first four games, and Stevan Ridley had 113 of the team's 220 yards rushing against a team that had allowed an NFL-low 11 points per game.
The Patriots (3-2) surpassed that by scoring on their first two possessions on Ridley's 1-yard run and Brady's 17-yard pass to Tim Wright. They led 20-3 at halftime before the Bengals (3-1) cut it to 10 points on Andy Dalton's 37-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu.
But Cincinnati came no closer and became the last team to lose a game this season. The Arizona Cardinals also began the day at 3-0, but lost to the Denver Broncos.
The Bengals were coming off a bye and had trailed for just 48 seconds in their first three games. But they never led Sunday as Ridley scored just 4:57 into the game.
"We think about coming into New England against a team that just got their teeth kicked in and they were going to play their best game possible," Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said.
Stephen Gostkowski added five field goals for New England, the most in his nine-year career.
Brady completed 23 of 35 passes. His 27-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski put him over the 50,000-yard mark and he connected for Wright's touchdown on the next play.
The fans then chanted "Bra-dee! Bra-dee!"
Brady boosted his total to 50,232. John Elway is fifth with 51,475.
"It was a long week. We dug deep. (I'm) proud of everybody," Brady said.
Dalton was 15 of 24 for 204 yards and was sacked for the first time this season when Chris Jones tackled him 3 minutes into the fourth quarter. Dalton's second touchdown pass, a 17-yarder to A.J. Green, made it 34-17.
"We didn't underestimate anybody," Green said. "We just had a bad game."
The Bengals lost three fumbles and failed to convert their seven third-down plays.
"If you turn the ball over and don't make any third downs, you have a chance to have this happen to you," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Patriots were surrounded by questions all week.
Was Brady no longer one of the NFL's top quarterbacks? Did he have enough solid players around him with a rebuilt offensive line and mediocre receivers?
For one night, at least, he did.
"We don't sit around listening to what everybody else says," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We try to do the best we can."
Brady was sacked just once and completed his first two passes, 20 yards to Brandon LaFell and 30 yards to Wright, who had his best game since being acquired from Tampa Bay just before the season for six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.
Not a bad start for a quarterback who had led the Patriots to only 46 points in the previous 14 quarters.
Brady got plenty of help from his defense, which allowed just 121 yards in the first half, and his special teams, as Kyle Arrington scored on a 9-yard return after recovering Brandon Tate's fumble on a kickoff. That made it 34-10 just 6 seconds after Brady's 16-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski.
"We know we're a good football team," Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "It was important for us to stick together as a team."
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