CB Logan Ryan (36 tackles, two passes defended, one forced fumble), LB Jamie Collins (32 tackles, one sack, two intecerceptions, three passes defended, one forced fumble), FS Devin McCourty (26 tackles, one pass defended), SS Patrick Chung (26 tackles, one interception), CB Malcolm Butler (20 tackles, four passes defended), DT Alan Branch (16 tackles, one sack), DE Jabaal Sheard (14 tackles, three sacks, five quarterback hits, three passes defended), DE Chris Long (12 tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits, two passes defended, one fumble recovery), DT Malcolm Brown (12 tackles, two sacks), DE Trey Flowers (11 tackles, three quarterback hits, one fumble recovery), LB Jonathan Freeny (10 tackles, one forced fumble), LB Dont’a Hightower (10 tackles, two quarterback hits).
If the Cincinnati Bengals were hoping a Week 6 game against New England might result in catching the Patriots while quarterback Tom Brady was still shaking off the rust from a four-game suspension, they now know better after watching Sunday’s performance in Cleveland.
VIDEO: Marvin Lewis on the one good thing that came from loss to Cowboys
Brady came off the couch — or beach, or wherever else he was while barred from contact with the team for his role in Deflategate — and threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-13 trouncing of the Browns.
The future Hall of Famer directed touchdown drives on the first three possessions and had 271 passing yards by halftime before the Patriots took their foot off the gas midway through the third quarter.
The Patriots went 3-1 without Brady and will carry an AFC-best 4-1 record into Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium, where the atmosphere is likely to be at playoff level with perhaps the most popular athlete in the region’s history reveling in his homecoming from what most Patriots fans still believe was unwarranted persecution.
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Beyond Brady, New England also will be celebrating Rob Gronkowski’s return … to form. The Pro Bowl tight end missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury and was limited to one catch for 11 yards in the next two. But upon reuniting with Brady, Gronkowski caught five passes for 109 yards for his first 100-yard game since Week 9 last year.
Fellow tight end Martellus Bennett, who leads New England in receiving yards (314) and is second in catches (21), added six receptions for 67 yards and caught all three of Brady’s touchdown passes.
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Running back LeGarrette Blount ranks third in the league with five rushing touchdowns and seventh in rushing yards (389).
The Patriots rank a middling 13th in total defense and feature a couple of rarities with a cornerback leading the team in tackles (Ryan Logan, 36) while a linebacker has the most interceptions (Jamie Collins, two).
New England’s lone loss this season was two weeks ago at home in a 16-0 blanking by Buffalo. New England hasn’t lost consecutive home games since 2008.
Bengals WR Brandon LaFell played for the Patriots from 2014-15. … Patriots TE Greg Scruggs is from Cincinnati (St. Xavier High School), … Patriots DB Nate Ebner played at Ohio State. … Patriots RB James Develin was on Bengals practice squad for part of 2010 season and all of ’11 season; he also was with Bengals during ’12 training camp. … Patriots OL Joe Thuney is from Centerville, (Alter High School). … Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle played at the University of Massachusetts, and coached at Holy Cross from 1984-90. … Bengals strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton is from Hamden, Conn. … Patriots cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer coached at the University of Dayton in 2001.
AFC North outlook
Baltimore (3-2) at New York Giants (2-3) Sunday afternoon. The Ravens, who will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak, will play their first game with Marty Mornhinweg calling the plays after Monday's firing of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
Cleveland (0-5) at Tennessee (2-3) Sunday afternoon. The Browns will try to avoid their first 0-6 start since 1992 when they began the year 0-7.
Pittsburgh (4-1) at Miami (1-4) Sunday afternoon. The Steelers have won five of their last six against the Dolphins and haven't lost in Miami since 1998.
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