Wes Welker will no longer have to answer questions about how his knee feels, his two touchdown catches will easily do the talking for him as the Patriots rolled to a 38-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. And as the doubts of whether Welker was back to strength faded away, so too did the doubts facing a new-look Patriot team.
Welker, who faced questions over his surgically repaired knee, closed the day with eight catches for 64 yards and quickly silenced any doubts that his torn ACL was long behind him.
Tom Brady was also able to put a rough week behind him and go 25-for-35 with three touchdowns and 258 yards in a Pats victory that was never in doubt.
Overall, it was a game that could be considered and early statement by a New England team that faced many big questions heading into the season. They answered those questions on all fronts, this biggest of which being how a new look defense would fare against the NFL’s elite.
It was a question that was answered late in the second quarter by Gary Guyton when he snatched a Carson Palmer pass intended for Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham and returned it for a 59 yard touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach for Cincinnati.
Though the defense showed some growing pains in the second half, allowing Palmer to throw for 345 yards, it was a unit that managed to hold the dynamic duo of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens 212 receiving yards and only one touchdown. Quite the feat considering Ochocinco promised a big game that may or may not have involved some actual fireworks courtesy of an End Zone Militia musket that may have gotten into his hands.
No, on Sunday the only fireworks coming out of Foxboro were courtesy of a Patriots team that delivered on all fronts. The offense had its way with the Bengal defense, converting nine of their 13 3rd downs and three of their five red zone drives.
The defense only showed signs of weakness after the game was out of Cincinnati’s reach, their three second half touchdowns proving to be too little too late especially after a 97 yard kickoff return by Brandon Tate opened the 3rd quarter and shut the door on the Bengals.
By the end of the game the only people left happy by Cincinnati’s performance were eager fantasy football owners who got all the flash they needed from Palmer & Co. Unfortunately, that flash lacked the substance needed to come away with the victory, leaving the Bengals with only more questions on how exactly to get production from a still talented roster.
The Patriots find themselves on the opposite side of the scale as they now look forward to the bigger test that will be Rex Ryan and the Jets next Sunday; the only questions left with them now being whether the teams’ performance was just a flash in the pan or a true sign of an improved group.
Fluke or not the Pats not only walk away with their seventh opening day victory but a message to the rest of the NFL as well. Like the cool breeze of the New England weather the Patriots are back, and they are looking strong early.