After doing everything right for 6 weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals finally got a taste of reality.
Boomer Esiason, who threw just 3 interceptions as the Bengals went 6-0, threw 5 Sunday and the NFL’s last undefeated team went down to a 27-21 defeat to the New England Patriots.
Cincinnati, whose 8 turnovers in its first 6 games were the fewest in the AFC, had 5 on its first 7 possessions.
“Any time you turn the ball over as much as we did today, I don’t care how bad the team is that you’re playing, they’re going to beat you,” Esiason said. “We got ourselves in trouble.”
The Patriots (3-4) lost 4 of their previous 5 games and were the second-lowest scoring team in the NFL. But, with 4 first-half interceptions and 2 second-half touchdowns by Reggie Dupard, they built a 20-0 lead and held off a comeback by the Bengals (6-1).
Esiason cut the deficit to 20-14 with 59 seconds left in the third quarter when he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Brown.
Then the Patriots and quarterback Doug Flutie grabbed the momentum back for the Patriots on a 9-minute 33-second drive covering 80 yards. Flutie completed 6 of 7 passes for 65 yards.
On third and 13 from the Bengal 15, his pass was incomplete in the end zone. But a defensive holding penalty gave the Patriots a first down at the 10. Dupard turned the right corner to score on the next play with 6:26 left in the game.
Esiason threw his second touchdown pass to Brown, a 16-yarder, with 4:17 to go. The Bengals got the ball back with 19 seconds left after Teddy Garcia missed a 43-yard field goal, Esiason’s desperation pass on the last play was intercepted by Jim Bowman at the New England 5-yard line.
“We needed this one desperately,” Flutie said. “We used the run because it was something we needed,” Flutie said. “We tried for ball control to keep Boomer on the sidelines.
“It’s a long season,” Flutie said. “We plan on being there.”
Flutie completed 10 of 14 passes for 165 yards and didn’t throw an interception. Esiason was 18 of 28 for 239 yards.
The Patriots’ plan was to run, and they gained a season-high 158 yards. In the first half, New England caught twice as many passes from Esiason as it did from Flutie, who completed 2 of 4.
The Bengals lost a chance to improve on their best previous start, a 6-0 beginning in 1975.
The Patriots had capitalized on 2 interceptions to take a 14-0 halftime lead. The first touchdown came when John Stephens fell on teammate Bob Perryman’s fumble in the end zone after Johnny Rembert’s interception on Cincinnati’s second play of the game.
Mosi Tatupu scored on New England’s last series of the half on a 3-yard run. Tim Jordan’s 31-yard interception return gave the Patriots the ball at the Cincinnati 9.
Dupard’s 3-yard run on the opening series of the third quarter made the score 20-0. Garcia missed the extra point.