Unbeaten Patriots Setting The Early Pace

Tuesday, October 2nd 2007, 7:37 am
By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) _ After watching Randy Moss show his stuff in practice, New England Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs has coined a term for what the receiver does to anyone who gets in his way.

``They get Mossed,'' Hobbs said, breaking into a knowing grin.

Mossed. Mangled. Manhandled. Pick any term. It would apply to what the Patriots did to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.

Tom Brady threw three more touchdown passes, Sammy Morris had one of the best games of his career, and New England's defense had its way in a 34-13 victory that was more efficient than elegant.

The Patriots (4-0) didn't have to do anything fancy to remain one of the NFL's four unbeaten teams _ and, so far, the best of the bunch. They're off to their best start since 2004, when they won the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.

Like that Patriots team, this one has the look of something special.

``I think right now guys understand after four games that if we get off to a fast start, we can keep the momentum going out there,'' Hobbs said. ``One guy makes a great play, then another guy makes a great play.''

And, like the old Bungles teams, this one has the look of something dreadful.

They're 1-3 for the first time since 2004, when they were touted as an up-and-coming team that would be a playoff contender every year. The strain of underachieving is showing.

Pro Bowl MVP Carson Palmer had angry words with Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson after he ran a route different than expected, resulting in an interception near the goal line. Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh had some words with coach Marvin Lewis on the sideline after an incompletion.

Sound like old times?

Afterward, Lewis lashed into his team behind closed doors, his words so loud they could be heard clearly by reporters outside. He ordered a team meeting on Tuesday _ usually, the players' day off _ to get things aired out.

``I'm disappointed where we are now,'' Lewis told reporters. ``We have to take a look personally at ourselves and see who we're going to fight with. If we need to make some (personnel) changes, we will make some more.''

While Lewis struggled to keep from losing control of his team, the Patriots showed they can do pretty much anything they need in order to keep winning.

Running back Laurence Maroney was out with a strained groin, so Morris _ an eighth-year veteran playing for his third team _ got to show what he has left. He ran for 117 yards, the second-best total of his career, and had a 7-yard touchdown run that essentially put it out of reach.

The Bengals were missing their two middle linebackers to injury, and were so depleted at the position that they had to move rookie safety Chinedum Ndukwe into a linebacker's spot.

Telling vignette: New England had more linebackers on its offense on some plays than the Bengals did on their defense on many plays. New England used linebackers Mike Vrabel and Junior Seau to block near the goal line, and Vrabel caught a 1-yard touchdown pass.

``We go into the game and see what's working,'' Morris said. ``We were able to grind it out, so we kept at it.''

So did Moss, who has been sensational with his new team.

Moss caught touchdown passes of 7 and 14 yards, giving him a league-leading seven. He totaled 102 yards, making him the first receiver in NFL history to have 100 yards in each of his first four games with a new team.

``He was a great player before he got here,'' said Brady, who leads the league with 13 touchdown passes, the best four-game total of his career. ``He's still a great player. He adds a lot to this offense.''

The Bengals also have a lot of talent on their offense, but haven't been able to translate it into consistent points or wins. Now, they're at an early crossroads _ last in the AFC North, all by their lonesome.

``This is about as embarrassing as it gets,'' Pro Bowl tackle Willie Anderson said.

Anyone who knows their history is aware it can get a whole lot worse.