FOXBORO -- The Patriots let Cincinnati, and their emotions, get to them toward the end of their 35-17 win on Sunday.
Both Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount were tagged with flags for extra-curricular activity in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski's came after his final catch of the day, giving him a career-high 162 yards. Blount's came after he scored the final touchdown of the game and was celebrating with teammates when he found himself tangled with Bengals.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he didn't have a good look at Gronkowski's penalty since it occurred near the visitor's sideline, but his attitude toward those flags coming out late was predictable: "Bottom line, we need fewer of those."
Gronkowski seemed to take issue with a hit he took from Cincinnati corner Adam Jones over the middle when Jones dove at the big tight end's ankles. Words were exchanged back and forth, and the conversation continued moments later after Gronkowski's next catch. Or at least it appeared to continue.
After the game, Gronkowski said he wasn't doing much in the way of talking.
"There was really nothing really said," he said. "I was just bobbing my head, I think, and they gave me a personal foul."
Another similar penalty, by rule, would have forced officials to eject him from the game. Gronkowski made his way to the Patriots sidelines after the play, spoke to Belichick and then to tight ends coach Brian Daboll. They didn't appear to have much in the way of sympathy for the All-Pro, but Gronkowski came back onto the field soon thereafter, receiving a huge ovation from the Gillette Stadium crowd.
Gronkowski indicated that he should have been aware that the Bengals may try to coax him into a bad decision. Their recent history -- most notably last season's Wild Card Round game with the Steelers -- suggests that they may try to bait opponents into playing a certain style.
"They do that every game," Gronkowski said. "They’re always baiting everyone to do that. That’s the style they play . . . I kind of gave into it when I got my penalty. Got to watch out for that."
Fellow tight end Martellus Bennett said after the game that Gronkowski was not pleased with a hit that Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict dished out away from the football in the fourth quarter. On a completion to receiver Danny Amendola, Burfict rolled into Bennett's legs. Bennett thought Gronkowski's emotional reaction may have been sparked by that questionable play.
"We were just playing football, man," Bennett said. "It gets like that sometimes. We've got guys who don't back down from anyone and play hard throughout the whole game. That's just the way it is. We don't back down. We're not looking for trouble, but we don't walk away from trouble, either."
Blount, like Gronkowski, said he wasn't surprised by what the Patriots saw from the Bengals in the way of after-the-play decorum.
"We know that they're an intense team," Blount said. "They're emotional. They're passionate. They love the game. Tempers flare whenever things aren't going their way. We just gotta continue to play ball, and we just gotta continue to stick to our game plan and try to win games."
Blount added: "You play football, it's a lot of guys, testosterone, egos, you know. You're losing the game. You're winning the game. You're celebrating. Everybody sees that you're having fun. Ultimately, when you have guys that are losing games, it's not easy to take. That goes for anybody. We just gotta keep our composure and continue to play football."