Tom Brady set about earning his big new contract with 258 yards and three touchdowns to lead the New England Patriots to a 38-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener on Sunday.
Wes Welker made his return from a knee injury with a pair of touchdown catches and Brandon Tate returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the Patriots, who have won seven consecutive home openers.
Brady, who signed a four-year extension that could pay him as much as $18 million per season earlier in the week, found his favorite target Welker on New England’s first drive for a 9-yard score.
Stephen Gostkowski added a 32-yard field goal later in the first and Brady found Welker again with 8:58 left in the half, hitting him over the middle to push it to 17-0.
The Patriots’ defense got into the act next when Gary Guyton intercepted Carson Palmer’s pass and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown.
Tate took some more wind out of the Bengals when he opened the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that extended the edge to 31-3.
Cincinnati got back into it with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, but Brady found rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski midway through the fourth for another touchdown to make it a three-score game.