Brandon Tate defends return decisions, not third-quarter fumble

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Brandon Tate has had better nights than he did Sunday.

So give the Cincinnati Bengals kick returner credit. When asked to comment about his role in the Bengals' 43-17 loss at Gillette Stadium, he accepted some blame.

The former Patriot was bugged by his third-quarter fumble and its subsequent touchdown return that came just 11 seconds after another New England score. The touchdown that resulted from his turnover effectively sealed the game, putting momentum fully into the Patriots' hands.

"It's just one of those things, it just came out," Tate said of the fumble. "I just have to hold onto the ball."

Tate's fumble came with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter. Just like he had been doing all night, Tate brought the kick return out from deep in his own end zone. As he approached the 10-yard line, he was hit and lost his grip on the ball. It squirted free and in a spot where Kyle Arrington could pick it up for the Patriots and return it. Jumping and leaping awkwardly into the side of the end zone, he had traveled nine yards for the score.

"Man, my eyes got huge," Arrington said. "As soon as that ball came out, I put it in second gear. I saw a couple guys try to dive on it and it squirted even further, I guess closer to me. We do turnover tackle drills at the beginning of practice every day as far as scooping and scoring and things of that nature, so it just came second [nature]. I tried to put some style points toward the end of it."

On five of Tate's seven kick returns, he came out of the end zone. According to him, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons gave him the OK to continue bringing the ball out of the end zone.

"If I can catch the ball in the front without backing up, Coach said I can take it," Tate said. "I just have to hold onto the ball if I am going to take that chance."

Tate had seven returns for 141 yards, giving him an average of 20.1 yards per return. His longest return was 31 yards.