New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 5 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It’s been a long short-week where just about everything that can be criticized on a football team has been ripped to shreds by every media outlet. The Pats always have some early-season drama but they’ve never looked quite as bad as they did against the Chiefs.
Now an undefeated Bengals team comes to town, setting the Pats up for another national broadcast dogfight. The Patriots have almost always bounced back after bad losses during the Belichick regime. Can they do it again? The odds have never seemed more against them.
In reality, so much of this week’s game plan will be wrapped up in the idea that the Patriots get to an early lead. It’s always a point of emphasis for New England, but as was the case last Monday against Houston, you don’t want to dig yourself an early hole when facing the Niners, because they are very tough when they have a lead: on offense, that allows them to play to their strengths (running the ball and grinding the clock). And on defense, if they know a team needs to throw the ball to stay in the game, they can unleash Smith and a very good pass rush.
If there’s vulnerability in the Houston defense, it’s in the secondary — specifically, at corner. Cornerback Brice McCain fractured his foot during Sunday’s win over the Titans and is lost for the year, while fellow cornerback Johnathan Joseph (who has traditionally been matched against the opponents’ best receiver) has been battling a hamstring issue. As good as the Texans are when it comes to getting after the passer, they are strictly middle of the road when it comes to overall pass defense — Houston yields an average of 235 passing yards per game, 19th in the NFL. (Things have deteriorated to the point where the Texans signed defensive back Stanford Routt off the street on Tuesday.) Most times, Houston has compensated for injuries (or substandard play) in the secondary by dialing up the pass rush. It’s questionable as to whether or not it can do it again on Monday night against the best passing offense it will face all season.
Beating man coverage a key. Welker noted that the Bills mix things up coverage-wise and “play a lot of different type of man coverages, and they do a good job with that.” Welker and fellow receiver Brandon Lloyd had success beating man coverage Sunday night in Baltimore, so this will be an area to watch once again. “You’ve got to make sure you’re not sloppy with them, and run great routes,” Welker opined, later adding that the game has added importance because it’s the team’s first AFC East contest.
Bills pressure will be different than what the Patriots faced last week vs. Baltimore — Baltimore brought more pressure from different looks, where they would overload a side and bring rushers from different places. Buffalo is built to get pressure with their front four. They will look for match-ups and try to use inside rushes to prevent Brady from stepping up in the pocket and allow big-money edge rushers to get there against the Patriots tackles.
Sometimes scout’s breakdowns actually make me think I almost know what I’m talking about…
“The Patriots must disrupt timing of Buffalo passing game and make Ryan Fitzpatrick uncomfortable. The Buffalo offense is based off quick reads and decisions. C.J. Spiller has added speed in the running game, and the difference between Spiller and Jackson is the speed to exploit defense. Jackson runs hard, has vision and is a quality back, but Spiller speed exploits creases in defense created by the spacing of Buffalo’s offense. If Spiller is out, an explosive element is gone from Buffalo’s game plan. New England must gang-tackle Jackson — he’s strong enough to break through the initial hit — and hit Spiller often.”
Will Patriots attack the Cardinals like they attack the Steelers?
There’s been a lot of talk this week of how much like the Steelers the Cardinals are in their scheme and style, and thus it’s been helpful to take a look back at the Pats games against Pittsburgh recently to get a sense of what the game plan might be.
The tough thing is that the Pats are one of the few teams not afraid to try and run on the Steelers. In 2010 the Pats averaged 4.3 yards per carry and went over 100 yards. But will they be willing to do the same thing against Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, the unquestionable strongholds of the Cardinals D? Tough to say, especially since they lack a true power back like they had with Benjarvus Green-Ellis who pounded the Steelers in 2010.
Offensively the one element that has almost always been present against the Steelers is the use of misdirection and trick plays, most memorably the Brady-Moss-Brady-Gaffney TD bomb from 2007. This can be a good way to get an over-aggressive defense to hurt themselves, and it’s a safe bet the Pats will have some surprises ready for the Cardinals.
But the biggest element offensively to me seems that we should expect a lot of spread and hurry up. The Cardinals would love nothing more than to line up across from the Pats and have a drag-out fight, and what the Pats usually do against teams like that is never give them a chance to get settled.
Force Campbell and Dockett to be on their heels, spread their defense out and pick the best match-up. So for this reason I think it’s safe to say we’ll see a lot more of Wes Welker this week.
Defensively I think we’ll continue to see what we’ve seen all year from the Pats. Their Double Nose 4-3 was dominant against the Titans in every facet so there’s no reason to try and protect that from the Cardinals running or passing games.
The most interesting match-up of the day will of course be Larry Fitzgerald against the Pats secondary. We can’t forget New England was the worst team in the NFL last year against #1 wide receivers, so this is a real chance to show some improvement over 2011.
The question will be if they try to match up one DB the whole time on him, or maintain sides like they usually do and just try to execute regardless of who is on him.
There’s no question that Pittsburgh is a more talented team than Arizona, especially on offense, but the principals that have made the Patriots so successful against Pittsburgh (6 wins, 3 losses since the 2001 AFCCG) should remain in place. There’s a reason the Patriots have lit up the vaunted Steelers defense more than anyone else, they know how to play against them. It’s just a matter of execution, just like it will be Sunday.
The 3-4 defense was again solid vs the run. But the subpackages in the second half gave up alot of yards and almost cost them the game in the fourth quarter. Clutch special teams come through again causing a false start penalty that backed the field goal attempt to tie five yards.
Sub: 50 of 71 Base: 18 of 71 Short-yardage: 3 of 71
PatsPropaganda is written and edited by Mike Dussault, a card-carrying Belichickian. He has a soft spot for hard core X's and O's, and believes in "throw to score, run to win", low pad level, and touchdown celebrations that last two weeks.
He is a Patriots Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, and his work has been featured on FoxSports.com, Yahoo Sports, and SI.com. He also co-hosts the weekly PatsPropaganda & Frenz Podcast with Bleacher Report's AFC East Editor Erik Frenz.
PatsPropaganda was TruFan.com/CSNNE's 2011 winner for Best Patriots Blog.
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