New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense
Quarterback Tom Brady tore apart the Cleveland Browns secondary, but the Browns have the 25th ranked pass defense (by yards allowed — all stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted). Cincinnati is 11th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, but they have allowed 11 touchdowns through the air in five games.
At cornerback the Bengals have the electric Adam “Pacman” Jones and fifth year and 2012 first round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick. Jones is quick and should be able to help against Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman but Kirkpatrick is long and struggles against shorter and quick wide receivers. Brady had struggled against a Cincinnati secondary with Jones in it, but back then he had Leon Hall and Terence Newman overmatching wide receivers with their strong and aggressive style. Third cornerback Josh Shaw is in his second season playing in the nickel and has probably been the best coverage cornerback for Cincinnati through four games.
Amendola and Edelman will likely be facing Shaw and Jones in coverage while Kirkpatrick should draw Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell on the outside. Free safety George Iloka lacks national media attention like his counterparts at safety but he has great instincts and knows the defense inside out. He is long at six-foot-four and stronger than he looks. His and fellow safety Shawn Williams’ abilities allow the cornerbacks to be aggressive in coverage knowing there is trusted help in position.
Cincinnati’s front seven will be a test for the New England offensive line. Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap are all strong pass rushers while tackle Domata Peko is a space-eater. However, there is little depth behind them as Margus Hunt has been a bust. Will Clarke has added some promise as a depth pass rusher. Linebackers Karlos Dansby and Vontaze Burfict are big and strong, but are liabilities in coverage.
Expect the Bengals to get a heavy dose of quarterback Tom Brady looking for running back James White and the tight ends with a healthy Rob Gronkowski and productive Martellus Bennett taking advantage of the poor coverage by the Bengals linebackers. Against Dallas last week, Burfict and Rey Maualuga were targeted in coverage of tight ends and running backs six times and surrendered six completions for 72 yards and a touchdown (per ProFootballFocus.com).
Vincent Rey has been the best all-around linebacker in Cincinnati but for some reason he is playing less and less. Darqueze Dennard comes on in the dime defense but is a liability in coverage and will likely be targeted by Brady if on the field. Unless Atkins, Johnson and Dunlap can create sacks and forced fumbles, the Bengals should struggle to slow the New England passing attack.