CINCINNATI — N’Keal Harry is feeling groovy.
The Patriots rookie receiver had his biggest day as a pro in Sunday’s 34-13 win over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Harry had two catches for 15 yards (he also had a nifty deep reception negated by a penalty) and a touchdown, and also had a pair of jet sweep rushes for 22 yards.
“It felt good to get out there and contribute,’’ said Harry. “Just getting out there, just starting to get my groove back out there. So, it felt good.’’
Harry’s 7-yard touchdown reception came in the back of the end zone and showed why the 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pounder can be effective in the red zone.
“Kind of a broken play, so tried to do what I could to get open,’’ he said. “On those types of plays you just have to find a way to get open — whatever it takes. So, glad I could do that.’’
Tom Brady said it’s the type of play that helps to build chemistry.
“Yeah, he’s fighting,’’ said Brady. “He’s been working hard for weeks to learn. He’s a very hard-working guy. It’s fun to see him make those plays.’’
It was just Harry’s fifth game and he said he’s starting to get more comfortable in the offense.
“Whatever opportunity I get, I really take pride in running with it,’’ he said. “I’m starting to get more confident out there, game by game, play by play.’’
James White and Giovani Bernard had a game and a reunion Sunday.
“It’s always cool to see him and compete against him because we grew up competing against each other, little league, went to high school together, were teammates so any time you get to compete against him it’s cool,” White said.
White and Bernard played on the same Pop Warner teams and then shared the backfield at St. Thomas Aquinas in high school. They were close, so close that when Bernard’s family struggled after his mother died from thyroid cancer, Bernard regularly had meals at the White’s home and essentially lived with them for stretches.
White’s parents, Tyrone and Lisa White, came to Cincinnati for the game and got to spent time with both James and Bernard.
“I had dinner with them, lunch, all that kind of stuff, but it’s just one of those things,” Bernard said. “They’re like a mom and a father to me, Tyrone and Lisa, they’re just great people. They’ve done a lot for me in my life, especially in high school when I was living with them for a couple years, it’s just one of those things where it’s just family.”
It was harder for Bernard and White to see much of each other over the weekend since they were with their respective teams, but they said hello after the game and traded jerseys once they got back to their locker rooms. Bernard said they do their best to keep in touch and are still close.
“It’s a little tough during the season but we’re always talking back and forth,” Bernard said. “He just had his first child so I’m calling him randomly just to see the little man, so it’s definitely something, we definitely keep in touch a lot more. It’s just one of those things as soon as we pick up, wherever, it’s like nothing happened.”
Bernard had five carries for 27 yards plus two catches for 10 yards. White had 13 yards on three carries and a bigger day in the passing game with three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Of course they were both playing to win, but they were happy to see each other stay healthy and to have the opportunity to catch up.
Edelman toughs it out
Julian Edelman went through a rigorous pregame workout after entering the game with injuries to his shoulder and knee. Edelman fought through the pain, but played only 39 of 63 snaps, and had just two catches for 9 yards. It was his lowest catch total since Week 4 of 2016, and his fewest yards since Week 8 of 2013.
Edelman had five passes thrown his way.
“Feel all right,” Edelman said after the game. “I think everyone is banged up. This is going into Week 15. This is a tough sport, it’s a grind. I’m sure you could talk to everyone else and everyone is dealing with something.”
Jason McCourty led the list of Patriots inactives as the veteran cornerback continues to deal with a groin injury. McCourty previously missed the Cowboys and Texans games. He returned in Week 14 against the Chiefs but played only four snaps.
Also sitting out were offensive linemen Jermaine Eluemunor and Korey Cunningham, running back Damien Harris, tight end Ryan Izzo, and quarterback Cody Kessler. Rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart (concussion) was ruled out on Saturday.
The Bengals were without receivers A.J. Green and Damion Willis, quarterback Jake Dolegala, offensive linemen John Jerry and Isaiah Prince, cornerback Torry McTyer, and defensive end Anthony Zettel.
Rex Burkhead’s return to Paul Brown stadium wound up including the longest run of his career.
Burkhead, who played for the Bengals from 2013-16 before joining the Patriots in 2017, had six carries for 53 yards and capped it off with a 33-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“I think what was great about it, it gave us a chance to close out the game and really put it away,” Burkhead said. “We were trying to get another score there to end it and so to do that here, I’ve got a bunch of family here from Kentucky, it’s special.”
Burkhead said he felt the Patriots played well and got back on track after two losses with the 34-13 win. He said he was proud of the New England special teams units, who fared well against the Bengals units coached by longtime Cincinnati special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, who had an impact on Burkhead during his Bengals days.
Brady closing in
Brady’s two touchdown passes gave him 538, one behind the all-time leader, Peyton Manning. Drew Brees has 537 going into Monday night’s game . . . Bengals running back Joe Mixon had 136 yards on 25 carries — enough to catch the attention of fellow Bay Area native Brady. “[Brady] was like, ‘great player, hell of a runner,’ ” Mixon said after the game. “And you know, I was like dang, Tom Brady said that. I was like, ‘Appreciate it,’ so I was like, ‘Great job, keep being you, keep being great.’ ” . . . The Patriots have won 11 games for the 10th straight season . . . They’ve won 11 or more games in 17 of Robert Kraft’s 26 seasons as the owner . . . Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson became the first Patriots teammates with multiple interceptions in a game since Ronnie Lippett and Steve Nelson had two each at Indianapolis Nov. 9, 1986 . . . In literally a sign of the times, fans at Paul Brown Stadium hung a banner that read: “Eye on the Tiger Geaux Bengals!” It was a reference to the fan base’s hopes of landing LSU’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow in the NFL Draft.