FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady’s place in NFL history is already secured with his three Super Bowl championships. Sunday night, however, he joined a rather elite group.

With a 27-yard completion to – fittingly – Rob Gronkowski late in the first quarter, Brady became only the sixth quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 50,000 career yards, prompting the crowd at Gillette Stadium to chant, “Brady, Brady, Brady.”

The 37-year-old Brady, off to the slowest start of his career, needed just 60 yards to reach the milestone coming into Sunday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium.

Brady completed both of his passes on the Patriots’ first drive, to Brandon LaFell for 20 and Tim Wright for 30. He hit Julian Edelman with a 4-yard completion to start New England’s second drive. Then on a third-and-8 from the bengals 44, he found Gronkowski on a crossing pattern to the left and the big tight end broke away for a 27-yard gain.

The announcement hadn’t even finished when Brady stepped back and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wright – Wright’s first as a Patriot – to give New England a 14-0 lead with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter.

Brett Favre is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards with 71,838. He’s followed by Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Drew Brees, John Elway and Brady.

All except for Marino have won Super Bowl championships.

LINEBACKER DONT’A HIGHTOWER was the most notable player on the inactive list for the Patriots.

Hightower, the second-leading tackler on New England with 22 (including two sacks) was out with a knee injury sustained in the loss to Kansas City last Monday.

Hightower’s injury may have led to the release of wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins on Saturday. In the pre-game radio show, Bill Belichick said the team needed linebacker depth against the Bengals.

That meant activating Ja’Gared Davis from the practice squad.

A corresponding roster move had to be made and it was Thompkins who was cut. Belichick said on the pre-game show that he hoped to work with Thompkins again, a sure sign that the Patriots are looking to bring him back next week if another team does not sign him off waivers.

New England’s other inactive players were defensive backs Malcolm Butler and Nate Ebner (finger), running back James White, offensive linemen Josh Kline and Cameron Fleming (finger) and defensive lineman Zach Moore.

The Bengals’ inactive players were halfback Rex Burkhead, cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, guard Kevin Zeitler, wide receiver Marvin Jones and defensive linemen Will Clarke and Brandon Thompson.

WHEN BRADY connected with Brandon LaFell for a 20-yard completion on the game’s first play, it represented the first first down the Patriots have picked up on their opening drive all season.

And when Stevan Ridley bulled in for a 1-yard run to compete the 80-yard, 10-play drive, it represented the first time the Patriots scored first in a game this year.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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