Tale Of The Tape: New England Patriots At Cincinnati Bengals
- QuarterbackDespite his cast of no-name receivers, Tom Brady is getting better and better each week. He is coming off an excellent performance at Atlanta, in which he completed 20-of-31 passes for 316 yards with two touchdowns and did not throw an interception. Much of the credit has to go to the offensive line, which did not allow one sack.Hear that loud hum? It’s the sound of the Cincinnati natives getting restless with the performance of Andy Dalton for the Bengals. Dalton was largely ineffective against the Browns, as he could not find the endzone once and he struggled with his decision-making and accuracy. An immediate upgrade is needed in his performance.
- OffenseBill Belichick was not happy with his team’s running attack when Stevan Ridley lost two fumbles in the Patriots' opener vs. the Bills, but LaGarrette Blount made him happy with a 47-yard TD run vs. the Falcons. Julian Edelman is a solid target who knows how to get open and make yardage after the catch. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (broken arm) could return for this game.The Bengals would like to attack the field vertically with A.J. Green, but head coach Marvin Lewis knows his team needs a semblance of a running game. Former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis has provided this in the past, but he was ineffective against Cleveland and rookie Gio Bernard may have to play a greater role. In addition to Green, look for rookie tight end Tyler Eifert to play a key role on third downs.
- DefenseThe Patriots suffered a big blow when Vince Wilfork was forced out of the Week Four game vs. the Falcons with what appears to be a torn achilles. The run defense will suffer badly without him. The Patriots’ pass defense turned the corner when they acquired cover corner Aqib Talib last year and he has been sensational this season.The Bengals know they are difficult to run against, particularly when opponents try to probe the interior against Geno Atkins and Domata Peko. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is very active, aggressive and is an excellent tackler. James Harrison may have slowed down by a half-step, but he is still one of the hardest hitters in the league.
- Special TeamsThe Pats have always paid attention to their special teams and the coverage units are a performing cell once again. Stephen Gostkowski is not going to miss clutch field goal attempts while new punter Ryan Allen has a surprisingly strong leg.The Bengals do a decent job in punt and kickoff coverage, but they are a notch behind the Patriots. Mike Nugent made both of his FG attempts against the Browns and he is a decent kicker. Kevin Huber averaged 38.8 yards per punt against the Browns, but he dropped three of his four kicks inside the 20.
The Patriots go on the road for the second week in a row against a quality team that needs a win badly. They withstood the test against the Falcons, but it could be much tougher against the Bengals who come off a humiliating loss against the Cleveland Browns. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor