FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The New England Patriots can’t keep receiver Troy Brown out of their own secondary.

Short on defensive backs for a showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals’ high-flying offense, the Patriots on Sunday again turned to Brown, their two-way threat. The 14-year veteran took about 10 snaps at cornerback as the Patriots routed the Bengals, 38-13.

“I really haven’t wanted to use him on defense in either of the last two years,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Brown, 35. “But we’ve gotten into situations where we were thin and I felt like (putting him on defense) was what was best for the football team.

“Troy’s always ready. He’s very, very professional. Nobody’s more team-oriented than Troy is, and (Sunday) was a great example playing on offense, defense and special teams.”

With cornerback Ellis Hobbs (wrist) and free safety Eugene Wilson (hamstring) sidelined by injuries, the Patriots seemed destined for trouble against a Bengals’ passing game featuring quarterback Carson Palmer throwing to receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Yet New England survived.

Palmer threw for 245 yards, but he had no touchdown passes a week after burning the Steelers with four. Two Palmer incompletions on third down forced the Bengals to settle for field goals on their opening two drives, and their offense never seemed in sync after that.

Along with Brown, the Patriots leaned on veteran cornerbacks Chad Scott and Hank Poteat, the latter re-signed just four days before the game. This is the third straight year that Poteat, 29, has joined the team after the start of the regular season.

“He’s got good instincts,” Belichick said. “He’s been able to get thrown into the fire, pick it up in a hurry and execute at a pretty competitive level. We were fortunate that he was still available and we were able to get him back on the roster.”

The Patriots also benefited from the return of veteran Artrell Hawkins, who had missed the previous two games with a thigh injury. Hawkins subbed for Wilson at safety.

“We were thin in the secondary,” Belichick said. “But those guys really answered the bell.”

“I’d be surprised if we hadn’t done it before, but we have,” linebacker Tedy Bruschi said of the defensive backs. “Guys around here, we sort of just see who’s coming in and make sure they know what to do. Then we just play. We roll with whoever’s in there.”

Through the first three weeks of the season, the Patriots offense had received most of the attention as quarterback Tom Brady adjusted to a new-look receiving corps. But the defense often hadn’t been up to its usual standards, either.

The Patriots addressed many of those concerns on Sunday, limiting the Bengals to 2 of 11 on third down and forcing fumbles on two of their four fourth-quarter sacks.

Defensive end Jarvis Green created and recovered the first fumble at the Cincinnati 13. That set up Corey Dillon’s 1-yard touchdown run that put New England ahead, 31-13.

On the first play of the Bengals’ next drive, defensive end Ty Warren jarred the ball loose from Palmer again and recovered it at the Bengals’ 29. Five plays later, Brady hit tight end Daniel Graham with a 3-yard touchdown pass for a 38-13 lead.

The Patriots had forced only one turnover in their first three games.

“That’s the first goal in the game, to win the turnover battle,” Bruschi said. “And we hadn’t been doing that the last couple of weeks. To finally get a couple of turnovers is something that we want to keep going.”

AP-ES-10-02-06 2013EDT


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