Make no mistake about it, Bill Belichick dominated this 38-13 win.
He embarrassed Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis, outschemed him, outclassed him and outcoached him into submission. ...
A first-round knockout, a 30-second pin, a Kobayashi-like victory with deli franks in his hands.
Doubt Bill Belichick for ignoring weaknesses at linebacker and defensive back in the offseason and for letting Deion Branch and David Givens go.
Then watch the replay of this game and keep check out the talent differential on the two sidelines.
Quickly, you realize why Belichick has won three of the last five Super Bowls and Lewis has gone from "Hot young coaching talent" to "Is he ever going to get it done?"
Let's start with all the positives on Mr. Belichick's docket:
1. The defensive gameplan was superb. As expected, Carson Palmer saw zone coverages that forced him to think-and-throw instead of just throw. Receivers ran free between zones and Palmer missed them, a credit to Belichick, who had the likes of Chad Scott, Artrell Hawkins and Hank Poteat with which to work.
How confused was Palmer? Did the near-interception by Rosie Colvin on Palmer's quickie audible look like he had any idea what the Patriots were running?
2. Belichick watched the Steelers run through Cincinnati in defeat and stayed big. And thanks to Lewis' feeble defense, the Pats brutalized them for 235 rushing yards. That was plenty, thanks to the overwhelmed Lewis.
The NFL is supposed to be a copy-cat league, right? Mike Shanahan showed the world how to defense the Pats last week.
He crowded the box with eight and nine defenders and single-covered the wideouts.
The Pats ran for 50 yards in the 17-7 loss.
Lewis and Co. came up with the brilliant idea that they would rush four men all day, play soft with the linebackers and play three-deep zone in the secondary.
They gave Brady all day to pick-and-choose his receivers. Sooner or later, somebody flashed open. Brady carved them up.
Two calls stick out in this one.
Down 8 points, facing a fourth-and-two in Patriots territory, Lewis chose to punt. It was the move of a cowardly coach, one with a ton of talent on his sideline, who is headed for yet another early playoff exit.
Belichick, up 11 and facing fourth-and-one at the Bengals 1, could have moved to a 14-point lead with a Steve Gostkowski chip shot.
He put the ball in Corey Dillon's hands and let him incite a near-riot in the Bengals cheap seats with his second TD of the game.
The final was crushing. The Bengals, Palmer and most of all Lewis were unmasked as impostors.
According to the record books, this was win No. 102 for Belichick.
Somehow, this one just seemed to be worth a little bit more.