CINCINNATI (AP) — Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes to move within one of the NFL career record, Stephon Gilmore returned one of his two interceptions 64 yards for a score, and the New England Patriots clinched a playoff berth Sunday with a 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
A week that started with intrigue — a Patriots crew videotaping the Bengals’ sideline in Cleveland — concluded with more New England history. The Patriots have made the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, extending their NFL record.
Brady had touchdown passes of 23 and 7 yards that left him with 538 for his career, one shy of Peyton Manning’s record.
The Patriots (11-3) haven’t been as overwhelming in this playoff push, getting just enough out of the 42-year-old Brady and more than enough out of the league’s top-ranked defense.
Thousands of Patriots fans filled the stadium and chanted Brady’s name as the minutes ran off. Brady was 15 of 29 for 128 yards and a pair of sacks.
The Patriots broke a two-game losing streak with four interceptions in the second half.
Gilmore picked off Andy Dalton twice in the third quarter, with his second pick-6 of the season putting New England in control. The Patriots pushed their league-leading interception total to 25.
The Bengals (1-13) got a touchdown pass from Dalton that ended a streak of 20 straight games without reaching the end zone on their opening drive. All they managed the rest of the way was a pair of field goals.
It was the second time Bengals coach Zac Taylor was on the opposite side against Bill Belichick. Taylor was the Rams’ quarterbacks coach last season when the Patriots thwarted them to win the Super Bowl.
This time, with Taylor calling the plays, the Bengals held up for a half before it all fell apart, leaving them as the league’s only one-win team.
Alex Erickson muffed a punt that set up a field goal, Dalton’s interception led to Brady’s second touchdown pass, and Gilmore’s return made it 27-10.
Dalton went 17 of 31 for 151 yards and tied his career high with the four interceptions.
Belichick is in the playoffs for the 18th time, tying Tom Landry for second all-time, one behind Don Shula. His 11th straight postseason berth broke a tie with Tony Dungy for the league record.