Aug 17, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins (97) at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Despite being extremely undermanned, the New England Patriots have yet to lose a game here in 2013. Quarterback Tom Brady is leading an offensive group that is filled with a bunch of no-names, yet he continues to do what he does best, which is win. The status of tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola are still unknown for Sunday’s game, but I think that the keys for the Pats don’t reside with these two stars.
1. Block Geno Atkins
The number one thing that the Patriots offense has to do every week, no matter who they face, is limit the amount of pressure that Brady feels in the middle. This is the main thing that has slowed him down over his career, and if the Pats allow pressure in his face, the whole offense will struggle. The Bengals present a big challenge for the Patriots offense-line, largely due to the presence of one Geno Atkins, who Bill Belichick likened to a more powerful John Randle. That is high praise from the Pats head man, but I think it is well deserved. Atkins came into the the league in 2010 and has flown under the radar amid the successes of J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh. Atkins racked up 23 sacks in his first three years in the league, and he already has 2.5 here in 2013. His ability to push the pocket and get after the quarterback is truly special, and the interior of the Pats offensive line will have their hands full come Sunday afternoon.
2. Utilize The Screen Game, And Throw It Deep
Even though the Patriots passing attack seemed to get on track last week against Atlanta, they still have a lot of things to work out. At times it will look like they know what they are doing, and as a result become extremely productive, and then at other times they won’t be able to move the ball an inch. The Bengals defense is one of the best in the league, particularly in the front seven, and I guarantee that at some point the Pats offense will sputter and become what we saw in week two versus the Jets. One way to snap themselves out of this would be to dump some screen passes off to Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley. Cincinnati can be an aggressive defense, and there is nothing in the world that makes a defense back off quite like a 50 yard toss to your running back.
As I mentioned just above, the Bengals have a tendency to call an aggressive defense, and something the Patriots can do, to get them to ease it up besides the screen game, is to throw the ball deep. Kenbrell Thompkins finally showed last week that he has the ability to elevate and make a catch in traffic with a nice 47 yarder against the Falcons, and I hope to see more of this from him. If Brady throws one or two of these bombs to either him, or the bigger Aaron Dobson per quarter, one of them is bound to be completed, and not only will New England be rewarded with a long gain, but the Bengals will back off their coverage, which will then open up things for the entire offense.