FOXBORO -- Tom Brady returned to Gillette Stadium and was extremely accurate, helping the Patriots to a 35-17 victory over the Bengals to move to 5-1 on the season. Here are some quick impressions from Brady's homecoming . . .
-- Brady's ability to place the football has long been one of the strengths of his game, and that facet of his game was on display yet again Sunday. He finished 29-for-35 for 376 yards and three touchdowns. He hit on the first seven passes he threw to Rob Gronkowski and was a combined 13-for-13 when targeting Martellus Bennett and James White. Brady's touchdown pass to Gronkowski was a short one -- just four yards -- but it was spotted perfectly, low and away, so that Gronkowski, who was well-covered, was the only player who could get his mitts on it.
-- Gronkowski provided the Gillette Stadium crowd with his share of hold-your-breath moments as a few of his catches -- leading to a career-high 162 yards -- ended with hits to the knees or ankles. Gronkowski too exception to one hit over the middle from Bengals corner Adam Jones when Jones got Gronkowski down around the ankles. Gronkowski stood up, had words for Jones, and then several Bengals crowded around Gronkowski as words continued to be exchanged. On Gronkowski's next catch, he went out of his way to say something to corner Dre' Kirkpatrick, causing linebacker Vontaze Burfict to get involved. Gronkowski was eventually slapped with a taunting penalty and came off the field for a snap, pleading his case to both Bill Belichick and tight ends coach Brian Daboll. It didn't appear as though there was much sympathy for Gronkowski coming from the coaching staff after the flag. Had Gronkowski picked up another similar penalty, the rules would have called for his ejection.
-- LeGarrette Blount, who was involved in the scuffle that led to Gronkowski's penalty, was later flagged for unnecessary roughness after running in a one-yard score. Teaching moment for the Patriots players and their coaching staff.
-- The Patriots defense allowed the Bengals to win the time-of-possession battle, and they gave up touchdown drives of 60 and 80 yards, but they came up with a goal-line stand in the second quarter that proved crucial to the victory. Rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts stuffed their first attempt, which was followed by Malcolm Butler's pass-breakup on an Andy Dalton attempt to AJ Green. On fourth down, the right side of the defensive line, including Alan Branch and Chris Long, caved in the Bengals offensive line, and Dont'a Hightower finished off the play to turn the ball over on downs.
-- Hightower put together his most dominant performance of the season thus far with 1.5 sacks, one of which resulted in a safety -- his second forced safety in as many weeks -- and three run stuffs. Butler had a strong game for himself as well, allowing just two catches on eight targets. He also broke up four passes and dropped one would-be interception. The Patriots mixed up their coverages throughout the afternoon in order to slow down Cincy's passing attack. While Green found soft spots in zones and beat one-on-one coverage on occasion, he never broke the game open for the visitors, finishing with six catches for 88 yards. One of the two catches Butler allowed went to old teammate Brandon LaFell on a five-yard touchdown that was a well-executed pitch and catch.
-- Stephen Gostkowski's up-and-down stretch continued on Sunday. He made both of his field-goal attempts, but he missed one of his three extra points on the day. Gostkowski came into the game having missed three field goals in New England's last four games.