Bengals need big upset to turn season

CINCINNATI – The kickoff meanders out of bounds. The defense gives up another touchdown. The game is sealed by a fumbled kick return.

Sounds like the old Bungles, doesn’t it?

During a loss in Seattle last Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) tripped all over themselves while letting another one get away in the closing minutes. Now, they need a big upset to avoid falling into a familiar predicament.

If they don’t beat the New England Patriots (3-0), it could be curtains already.

“We have put ourselves in a hole we need to dig out of badly,” said receiver Chad Johnson, whose lack of frivolity during the week underscored his team’s dire situation. “It’s a good thing it’s early. It’s time to go on a roll and put things back together.

“We’ve got to get our swagger back. I’m looking to put up 45 points Monday night, regardless of whether we’re playing the No. 1 defense or the No. 32 defense.”

Uh, Chad? That would be the No. 1 defense coming to town. And the No. 1 offense, too. And some of the NFL’s best special teams.

The Patriots have been so dominant during their best start since 2004 – when they won their third Super Bowl in four years – that they’ve had to nitpick to find areas to improve.

“You don’t want to kick a lot of field goals, and that is something we haven’t been doing very well,” said Tom Brady, who has thrown a league-leading 10 touchdown passes. “Getting the ball inside the 5-yard line three times and kicking three field goals, once not scoring. And a few other times inside the 10 and not scoring.”

Oh, please!

The Patriots can ditch all the we’re-not-that-good bluster. They’re the league’s best team by far so far, scoring 38 points in each of their first three games while giving up only 35 overall.

And Brady has been the best of this impressive bunch.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP has put together three opening games that make other quarterbacks marvel. He has completed a stunning 79.5 percent of his passes – 70-of-88 for 887 yards – and thrown 10 touchdown passes in a three-game span for the first time in his career.