Bill Belichick: Bengals are better this year

CINCINNATI -- Bill Belichick has tracked Marvin Lewis' Cincinnati Bengals teams from afar for years.

So the New England Patriots coach wasn't surprised to learn this week that Lewis' group ranks among the best in turnover margin and point margin. Belichick also wasn't too surprised the Bengals are 3-0 and in the discussion for being among the league's best teams.

"They're very well balanced, very well coached," Belichick said during a Wednesday conference call with Bengals media. "They have explosive players and that's in all three phases of the game. They have a lot of good players and a lot of depth. They're sound."

They're also playing the Patriots this weekend.

Cincinnati takes its undefeated record to Foxborough, Massachusetts, for this week's Sunday night game. The 2-2 Patriots are coming off a 27-point loss at Kansas City on Monday night.

This week's game also comes nearly one year to the day after the Bengals held on to beat the Patriots amid a driving late-afternoon rainstorm. The 13-6 win marked the first time in 53 games that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had not completed a touchdown pass.

As good as the Bengals were that afternoon, Belichick believes this year's bunch is even better.

"The Bengals are physically tough," Belichick said. "They have a tough playing style. They run the ball, they're tough on defense, they're a good tackling team. They cover kicks well. They're aggressive. They play hard for 60 minutes. They don't give you any plays off. You've got to earn everything you get from them. They've been good in the turnover area which is always critical with winning and having a good team."

Lewis, the league's second-longest tenured head coach behind Belichick, drew praise from his counterpart for the way he has prepared all three phases of the team.

"Those things that Marvin emphasizes are things I've heard him emphasize for years and years," Belichick said. "They're exactly the way the Bengals are playing: they're not turning the ball over, they're taking it away, they're running the ball, they're stopping the run, they're making explosive plays, they're not giving them up. They're doing a lot of things well.

"That's as good a team as I've seen in a while; a better team from last year. They're complete in all three phases of the game and they produce on a consistent basis."

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was glad to hear Belichick's thoughts about how complete the Bengals were.

"That's what you want to be," Dalton said in his Wednesday news conference. "If things don't happen offensively the way we want them to, the defense has our back. The same thing defensively. If things happen, they know the offense has their back. It goes along with special teams, as well. That's what we're striving to be: a complete team. ... If he's seeing that, that's good. We've had a good start, but it's only been three games."