Brady throws 2 TDs, Patriots beat Bengals to clinch playoffs

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) gives autographs after an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

CINCINNATI, OH – Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes, closed in on a notable career record, and was rewarded with tens of thousands of Patriots fans cheering his name as the minutes ran down.

“That was pretty sweet,” Brady said.

Yes, New England was back in the playoffs after a season that has been very uneven by its lofty standards.

And yes, the Patriots' 42-year-old quarterback was able to give them just enough and let the league's top-ranked defense do the rest, just as it has done all season.

Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes to move within one of the NFL career record, Stephon Gilmore returned one of New England's four interceptions 64 yards for a score, and the Patriots clinched a playoff berth Sunday with a 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

A week that started with intrigue — a Patriots crew videotaping the Bengals' sideline in Cleveland — concluded with more New England history. The Patriots have made the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, extending their NFL record.

“That's what you play for — you play to keep playing,” said Bill Belichick, the first NFL coach to reach the playoffs in 11 straight seasons.

Brady had touchdown passes of 23 and 7 yards that left him with 538 for his career, one shy of Peyton Manning's record. He finished 15 of 29 for 128 yards and missed open receivers numerous times, a performance below his career standards.