Tom Brady hopes to snap out of slow start when Patriots face unbeaten Bengals

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FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — Tom Brady tries not to get too high when things are going well or too low when they're not.

Good thing, considering how poorly the season has gone for him and the New England Patriots offense.

The winner of two MVP awards in both the regular season and the Super Bowl is ranked 27th in completion percentage, 29th in passer rating and 33rd in the 32-team NFL in average gain per attempt.

Now, coming off the second most lopsided loss in his 15 NFL seasons, he'll face the team that has allowed the fewest points per game (11) this season, the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals, on Sunday night.

"It's important not to ride the wave of emotion of, 'Yeah, we're really great,' and, 'Yeah, we're terrible this week,'" Brady said Wednesday. "It doesn't serve any purpose other than to understand the things that you need to correct."

There are plenty of those.

The offensive line has struggled with frequent personnel changes. Only one wide receiver has more than 10 catches.

In the last 14 quarters, Brady has led the offense to just 46 points. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo produced seven more when the rookie replaced Brady with just over 10 minutes left in Monday night's 41-14 rout by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since, then Brady has been criticized by television analysts.

He said he's not listening as he prepares for the Bengals (3-0).

"I probably don't pay attention too much because I understand what's going on," Brady said. "I know probably a lot more information than you guys have, a lot more information than they have, and we're just trying to focus on the things we can to do to get better."

But is he past his prime?

"I'm trying to do the best job I can do," he said.

The Patriots (2-2) have little depth at any offensive position and the usually positive Brady was restrained in assessing the team.

Does he have the talent around him and blocking protection to succeed?

"We'll see," he said.

Does the team have "the intestinal fortitude" to fight through its current adversity?

"We'll see," he said.

Still, he said: "I trust all the guys in the locker room."

Coach Bill Belichick was even more repetitive.

How difficult is it to recover from Monday's loss? What about Brady's age? How about having a 37-year-old quarterback?

"We're on to Cincinnati," he said in answering each question.

"Right now," he added, "we're preparing for Cincinnati."

The Patriots hope that single-minded focus will get their offense rolling and restore the solid defense they played in their two games before the loss to the Chiefs.

"It's not the time to tense up and call it a season," Brady said. "We're tied for the best record in our division, not that that is a great feat by any stretch. But we'll see what we're made of as we continue to fight through these tough weeks, and, hopefully, it builds character and builds resiliency."

A loss would leave the Patriots at 2-3 for the first time since 2001. They won the Super Bowl that season.

That poor start didn't generate such hand-wringing because expectations were low after a 5-11 record in 2000. But in the last 11 full regular seasons, they're 138-38.

"Like (Belichick) always says, ignore the noise and just stay focused on what we need to do, stay focused on what our process is to try to make the improvement," Brady said. "We've got an important job to do this week and the clock is ticking."

Brady hasn't thrown for more than 249 yards this season after averaging 271.4 last season. Against the Chiefs, he completed 14 of 23 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and two sacks.

Safety Devin McCourty isn't surprised by the criticism of his quarterback.

"I think we all understand it's all about what people think you've done lately," he said. "We're not worried about Tom. He's a guy who's a leader of this team."

So far he's led the team to a sputtering start.

"I can definitely do a better job (but) it's not an individual sport," Brady said. "This isn't like hitting home runs or playing golf and not making par. We're all trying to do a better job."


Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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