CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals had an awful time trying to slow down Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. The next challenge is trying to beat Tom Brady in New England, something they’ve never done.
And they know this one could get ugly, too, if they don’t get their act together.
The Bengals’ defensive front got pushed around during a 28-14 loss in Dallas last Sunday, a game that wasn’t even close. The Cowboys lead 28-0 in the third quarter and essentially ran out the clock.
Now it’s Brady’s turn in what amounts to his homecoming after missing the first month of the season, when he served an NFL suspension for deflated footballs. He got some of the rust off in Cleveland last week during a 33-13 win.
Cincinnati (2-3) couldn’t even slow down the NFL’s top running game.
Now it has to try to stop one of the best quarterbacks in its history.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, watching video of Brady having his way with Cleveland’s defense. “Watching the game here, he threw for 400 yards and they had 500 yards of offense.”
The overriding question in Cincinnati: What’s happened to a defense that ranked among the league’s best last season? It gave up the second-fewest points in the league but ranks 12th overall this week in points allowed.
The Bengals had breakdowns everywhere on defense during the 28-14 loss in Dallas . Elliott ran up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown that essentially ended it, and the Cowboys rushed for 180 overall.
Cincinnati thought the defense would get back in form when linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned from a three-game suspension, but there were problems throughout the unit in Dallas.
“I really haven’t been in this situation before,” fifth-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “This is my first time since I’ve been with the Bengals. It’s a little challenging. Are we going to answer the bell? Are we going to rise up for the challenge?”
The Patriots (4-1) made it through their most challenging stretch and figured a way to go 3-1 during Brady’s suspension. Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns in Cleveland even though he later acknowledged he was getting back in the flow.
The previous time the Bengals went to New England, they had one of their worst games in recent years. Brady threw for a pair of touchdowns and the Patriots ran for 220 yards overall in a 43-17 win. Cincinnati hasn’t won at New England since 1986, dropping their past six there.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that were here (in 2014) and played in that game,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “We know what to expect when we go there and the atmosphere we’re going to get.”
Notes: The Bengals haven’t lost back-to-back games by 14 or more points since 2010, when they finished 4-12. That’s also the previous time they opened a season 2-3. … TE Tyler Eifert didn’t work out with the team on Wednesday, an indication he’ll miss another game while recovering from offseason ankle surgery. He’s also got a sore back. … G Clint Boling (shoulder) and A.J. Green (calf) also were held out of practice as a precaution. … RB Jeremy Hill (shoulder), S George Iloka (shoulder) and TE C.J. Uzomah (ankle) were limited.