Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and the New England Patriots forced five turnovers en route to securing a playoff berth for the 11th straight season with a 34-13 victory over the host Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Stephon Gilmore returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and fellow cornerback J.C. Jackson also had two picks as the Patriots (11-3) averted their first three-game losing skid since 2002.
Former Bengals running back Rex Burkhead had a career-long 33-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to highlight New England's season-high 175 yards on the ground.
Gilmore jumped a route to intercept Andy Dalton on the opening drive of the third quarter. Brady, who threw for just 128 yards, capped the ensuing seven-play drive by firing a strike to rookie N'Keal Harry in the back of the end zone to give New England a 20-10 lead.
Gilmore wasn't done as he stepped in front of Tyler Boyd and raced 64 yards for his second career interception return for a touchdown. The 29-year-old's six interceptions this season are a career high.
New England got out of the blocks in a hurry after James White capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive by catching a dump off from Brady and scampering 23 yards for a touchdown just 3:16 into the game. The early scoring strike allowed Brady to become the first quarterback in NFL history with 17 seasons of at least 20 TD passes.
Cincinnati (1-13) answered on the ensuing drive, which began with eight consecutive running plays before Dalton found tight end Cethan Carter for an 8-yard touchdown pass. The reception was the first of Carter's career, while the score was the Bengals' first in an opening drive in 21 games.
Randy Bullock booted a 34-yard field goal with 18 seconds left in the first quarter to stake Cincinnati to a 10-7 lead, but Nick Folk answered with 40- and 46-yard kicks to put New England ahead at intermission.
Folk's latter field goal was set up after Justin Bethel recovered a muffed punt by Alex Erickson, however Bengals coach Zac Taylor was irate on the sideline that Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater wasn't penalized for interference.
--Field Level Media