Former Pats receiver blending into Bengals offense

New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell runs for a touchdown after breaking a tackle by Buffalo Bills' Leodis McKelvin . (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell runs for a touchdown after breaking a tackle by Buffalo Bills' Leodis McKelvin . (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Brandon LaFell finally had a touchdown catch with the Bengals — two, no less. The goal now is to make one or more when they really matter.

The Bengals made LaFell their main offseason acquisition for an offense that lost its No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in free agency.

The former New England Patriot has provided everything except touchdowns in an offense that has uncharacteristically struggled to score points.

Heading back to New England (4-1) for what amounts to a pivotal game, the Bengals (2-3) are looking for LaFell to emerge and take some of the defenses’ attention away from A.J. Green.

“Through the course of the season, you’ll see that development continue,” offensive coordinator Ken Zampese said. “The faster that happens and the better we do with it, the better off we’ll be offensively.”

Heading into their game at New England , LaFell got to reminisce about his two seasons with the Patriots, which included a touchdown catch during their Super Bowl win over Seattle during the 2014 season. A foot injury limited him last year.

The homecoming is less about personal memories and more about saving a season. The Bengals got shoved around during a 28-14 loss in Dallas last week, with LaFell catching two late touchdown passes after the game was decided.

“Especially the way we played last week, everybody’s got to come out and play big,” LaFell said.

LaFell’s locker was next to Tom Brady’s in New England, so they spent a lot of time talking. The two of them stay in touch — LaFell texted Brady after he threw three touchdown passes in a 33-13 win in Cleveland on Sunday in his first game back from a suspension for deflated footballs.

“He’s a spectacular player,” Brady said during a conference call. “I saw he had a big week last week.

“We were next to each other the whole time here. I always enjoyed being around him. It was tough to see him go.”

LaFell had four catches for 91 yards in an opening win over the Jets, but was limited to 44 yards or less in the next three games. With the Cowboys focusing on Green last Sunday, Andy Dalton threw toward LaFell 11 times. He had eight catches for 68 yards, including touchdowns of 7 and 5 yards.

“Hopefully we can continue to build on that and continue to connect more, and more so in crucial moments of the game, not when the game is out of hand,” LaFell said.

The Bengals need more points out of their offense. When they opened last season 5-0, they scored at least 24 points in each game. This season, they have yet to score 24 in any game.

Dalton leads the AFC with 1,503 yards passing, but the Bengals are among the league’s worst at getting touchdowns when they cross the opponent’s 20-yard line. LaFell has 21 catches for 276 yards and a 13.1-yard average, second only to Green on the team.

“Things have been good with Brandon since he’s been here,” Dalton said. “He had a lot of opportunity in that game. We’re very, very confident with what he’s doing for us.”


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