Giovani Bernard has proven to be quite elusive so far in 2014. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Giovani Bernard has proven to be quite elusive so far in 2014. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Kansas City Chiefs certainly provided a challenge that proved to be too much for the Patriots on Monday night.

But Bill Belichick is telling his team this week that if they thought the Chiefs were good, they better be ready for an even stiffer challenge Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

The 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals have their sights set on finally realizing all of the potential that has built up over the last three seasons, all of which ended in one-and-done experiences in the playoffs.

This season, they’ve started with a road win in Baltimore, when A.J. Green bobbled and then hauled in a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton. They then proceeded to dominate Atlanta and Tennessee at home. They are coming into Gillette Stadium off the bye.

They have two of the more dynamic running backs in football in rookie Jeremy Hill and second-year sensation Giovani Bernard. They’ve been tabbed “Thunder and Lightning” and for good reason. Hill is a powerful downhill runner and can pound between the tackles. Bernard, who can run inside, is also lightning quick and tough to bring down on the outside and is a good pass-catching receiver out of the backfield.

Even after losing longtime defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to Minnesota, the Bengals again possess one of the better pressure defenses in football. Geno Atkins (coming off ACL surgery) anchors one the best defensive lines in football, alongside Domata Peko and edge rushers Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry.

“This is really an impressive football team. I think [owner] Mike Brown, Coach [Marvin] Lewis [and] the organization have really done a good job of building this football team. They have a lot of good players. They’€™re well coached. They’€™re tough, they’€™re physical, they’€™re explosive. It’€™s been a while since I’€™ve seen a team that’€™s as complete as they are ‘€“ even going back the past [years], they’€™ve been a playoff team here, but the way they started the season this year.

“Watching them through training camp, they’€™re really a good football team. [They'€™re] strong in all areas of the game ‘€“ offense, defense, special teams. [They'€™re] playing extremely well. Well coached, good fundamentals. Marvin has an excellent ‘€“ I think they’€™ve got an excellent approach to the game as an overall team. They play to it and they do it consistently and they’€™ve done it consistently. It will be a big challenge for us Sunday night. Good to get back on the field today here and get going. They’€™ve been very impressive, watching the Bengals and where they’€™re at. I’€™m sure coming off the bye week they’€™ll be fresh and ready to go. They’€™ve played very well the first three weeks of the season.”

The Bengals started the season with two flawless games in terms of protecting the quarterback and turnovers, not allowing a sack or committing a turnover. Dalton has been intercepted once, the offense has no fumbles and the offensive line hasn’t allowed a sack through the first three games.

“They’€™re tough, they’€™re physical,” Belichick added. “They’€™ve done a great job on the turnovers. They’€™ve done a good job controlling the line of scrimmage. They’€™re an explosive team that can make big plays, score from anywhere on the field on offense, on special teams and on defense, relative to strip-sacks and interception returns and things like that. They’€™re a very dangerous and explosive team. They play hard for 60 minutes. There are no plays off. You can’€™t turn your back. There’€™s something ‘€“ they run fakes in the kicking game. They have good returners; they can change field position on special teams. They can score on defense. They can grind it out on offense, but they can score from 80 yards too, with a number of different guys. All of the above.”

This is a team that replaced Zimmer with Paul Guenther at defensive coordinator while the boisterous and energetic Hue Jackson took over for Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator.

“I think it’€™s been pretty similar,” Belichick said. “They’€™ve promoted from within. Every year is a little bit different. There’€™s always a couple new wrinkles or things, little adjustments and so forth. But I’€™d say the core of it is absolutely, it looks like it’€™s Coach Lewis’€™ system and whoever the coordinator is, they’€™re doing what they do.”

Here are some other takeaways from Belichick on Cincinnati:

Q: How do you go about defending Gio Bernard? He seems like one of the more dynamic backs in football right now.

BB: Yeah, he is. He’€™s very good. He’€™s very good in space. He can make a lot of people miss in terms of with the ball in his hands ‘€“ running or passing. He’€™s a very hard guy to tackle. He’€™s quick, he’€™s fast, he’€™s got good vision, finds holes. He’€™s a hard guy to get on the ground. He’€™s a dangerous player.

Q: Would you say speed is his number one asset?

BB: No. He has good speed. His number [one] asset I’€™d say is his quickness and his balance. People get shots at him, but he avoids them or makes them miss or finds a way to get by them. I mean, he runs well. I’€™m not saying that. But it isn’€™t like he outruns everybody ‘€“ people get shots at him. They have a hard time getting him though.

Q: When your players say they have to do their job, does doing your job translate into excelling at your job? Has that been an issue?

BB: In this case, in preparing for a team like Cincinnati, doing your job means making sure that you have your job done first before you try to do something else. If you’€™re responsible for a gap, you have to control that gap before you do something else. If you’€™re responsible for a combination block, you have to make sure you get the first guy before you go to the second guy ‘€“ that type of thing. It’€™s making sure you take care of what you have to do before you try to extend beyond that so that we don’€™t have an issue with the priority of what that job is.

Q: Have you had problems taking care of that first part before not even getting to move on?

BB: I think you want to try to do everything you can do. It’€™s not that they don’€™t want to do it. It’€™s just make sure that the priorities are the priorities. Look, you can’€™t stop everything. We could stand up here and list 50 things we have to stop for Cincinnati. We can’€™t have a guy thinking about 50 things, so what is one, two and three? Alright, let’€™s take care of one, two and three and we’€™ll get to the other ones when we get to them. But let’€™s make sure we take care of first things first. I’€™d say in doing your job, you have to start at the top. You have to prioritize what those things are and make sure you get those done first before you try to start talking about 48, 49 and 50.

Q: What kind of problems do the Bengals pose? You mentioned their toughness. What problems do they pose at the line of scrimmage on both sides?

BB: They have a lot of variety in their running game. They run power schemes, they run spread schemes, they run space schemes. They have multiple backs. They have some good perimeter plays as well with their receivers, which are kind of part of the running game. Defensively, they’€™re big and strong up front. Their linebackers run well. They have real good team speed. The secondary tackles well. I’€™d say all those are issues.

Q: How much has A.J. Green evolved since coming to the NFL and what challenges does he present?

BB: Everything. He’€™s really good. Good route runner, got great leaping ability, go up and take the ball away from defenders. Good runner after the catch with the ball in his hands. Excellent quickness, burst out of breaks. He can play at all three levels and excel at all three levels. He’€™s one of the best receivers in the league.

Q: Going into Cincinnati, how are relationships and chemistry inside the locker room?

BB: I mean, everybody needs to do a good job preparing this week and go out there and play well to win. That’€™s what it’€™s about. That’€™s what we need to do.

Q: Do we make too much of when it’€™s a short week or you have extra time to prepare or is it really a tangible advantage or disadvantage?

BB: Well, I mean, look, all 32 teams in the NFL have the same schedule. So, with every long week is a short week; with every short week is a long week. It all evens out in the long run. So, take advantage of whatever your time is and do the best you can with it, whatever it is. If it’€™s a bye week, if it’€™s a Thursday night game, if it’€™s whatever it is in between, try to use the time as efficiently as you can, get the most out of it. Some weeks you have the same amount of time as your opponents. Some weeks you have more; some weeks they have more. But in the end, you can only control what you can control and that’€™s your opportunity. So, that’€™s what we can control. We’€™ll make the most out of what we have this week.

Q: Does the fact that Gio Bernard is paired with a 240-pound back in Jeremy Hill make it especially difficult because you’€™re defending two backs who are pretty different from each other?

BB: Well, I mean, there’€™s some of that. You don’€™t get that all the time by any means. There’€™s a lot of 11 personnel where he’€™s the only back in there.

Q: I don’€™t mean necessarily on the field together, but with them rotating in and out.

BB: Oh, you have to know who is in the game, no question. Yeah, you have to know who the backs are in the game. No doubt about that. I mean, they’€™re both good and they have different styles and different tendencies I would say. But yeah, they have good players. Just like the receivers, they have a lot of good receivers and they move them around and you’€™re not always sure which ones are going to be in the game. But you need to know who you’€™re defending because they’€™re not all the same. They’€™re good, but they’€™re not all the same.

Q: Hue Jackson said he wanted to use more of a running game to take the pressure off Andy Dalton. Are you seeing more use of two backs than you did last year?

BB: Well first of all, Marvin has talked about the running game for years and years. I don’€™t think that’€™s any news breaking story. They’€™re really a 12 personnel team that with the injuries that they’€™ve had, are now less of a 12 personnel team, but there’€™s still the same emphasis of the game that there was. It’€™s just different personnel groups.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

There was some question as to why the Patriots only dressed three wide receivers (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell) in Monday’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs, but now we may know why.

There was some question as to why the Patriots only dressed three wide receivers (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell) in Monday’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs, but now we may know why.

According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, Aaron Dobson was inactive for the last two games because he “mouthed off” to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Dobson was a healthy inactive for Week 1 against the Dolphins, but he did miss much of the preseason recovering from foot surgery. The 2013 second-round pick then played Week 2 in Minnesota catching one pass for 13 yards on two targets and then was a healthy inactive each of the last two weeks.

As a rookie the 6-foot-3 receiver caught 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns, playing in 12 games.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
We check in for our weekly chat with Peter King, who says things are not looking bright for the 2014 Patriots given the current constitution of the roster.

[0:03:59] ... they're at -- distance so much time helping. See you know because Tom Brady. Obviously cannot borrowers as fast as curry each he would be as deliberate as he would want -- the here's a couple ...
[0:07:32] ... he was mayor there'd be may be doing better every few. Peter Tedy Bruschi told us yesterday that right now Tom Brady is not playing. Like an elite quarterback in the National Football League and at the age of 37 there's probably a natural ...
[0:09:24] ... -- went into the game with ten minutes left it was because Tom Brady got benched. That's Donovan McNabb words not mine. I didn't see it that way did you. No I mean that's I think ...
[0:09:53] ... And and I consider you are you crazy. I mean. CEO -- Cam Newton he's got a he's got there probably broken rib. He's coming -- ankle surgery -- in the state you know in a ...






Defensive back Nate Ebner (finger) and offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) were the only two Patriots held out of practice by the team on Wednesday because of injury.

In addition, the Patriots listed four as limited, a group that includes linebackers Dont’a Hightower (knee) and Jamie Collins (thigh), as well as defensive end Chandler Jones (shoulder).

Nate Ebner

Nate Ebner

Defensive back Nate Ebner (finger) and offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) were the only two Patriots held out of practice by the team on Wednesday because of injury.

In addition, the Patriots listed four as limited, a group that includes linebackers Dont’a Hightower (knee) and Jamie Collins (thigh), as well as defensive end Chandler Jones (shoulder).

The Patriots continue preparing for their date with the Bengals Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

Did Not Participate
DB Nate Ebner (finger)
OL Cameron Fleming (finger)

Limited Participation
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder)
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee)
DE Chandler Jones (shoulder)

Full Participation
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — There is a sense of unknown with the Patriots following the first four weeks of the season.

Last year the team was as mentally tough of any team in the Bill Belichick era, coming from a 24-0 halftime deficit against the Broncos to win in overtime, scoring with five seconds left to beat the Saints, 30-27 and also scoring two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds to beat the Browns, 27-26.

This season, following one of the worst losses in the Belichick-Tom Brady tenure –€“ a 41-14 shellacking by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football — the Patriots go into this Sunday night’€™s game with the Bengals not really knowing how it will respond as they have yet to build an identity.

“We’€™ll find out,”€ said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “€œI feel confident we’€™ll be a resilient group and be able to bounce back, but time will tell. It’€™s easy to sit here and talk about it, but hopefully we’€™ll go out there and do something about it.”

For the most part this year’s team is the same as the one last year with a few exceptions — most notably Darrelle Revis on defense and rookies Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming on the offense line, along with the departures of Aqib Talib and Logan Mankins.

Even with a couple of younger players being mixed in, there is still a veteran presence, which can only help at a time like this.

“Every guy in this locker room has been in a situation where they haven’€™t played well or been on a good team and coming off a bad loss,”€ safety Devin McCourty said. “I think as football players we go through that — maybe not yet in the NFL — but throughout their college or high school careers. Your character or confidence as a individual player isn’€™t changed by that. I think we have good leadership so those young guys can look to us as the older guys in the locker room and see some of us played bad and we’€™ll be ready to go.”

Slater has been a member of the Patriots since 2008 — only Brady, Vince Wilfork and Stephen Gostkowski being on the team longer — so he’€™s seen mentally tough teams and what it takes to put bad performances behind, as the Patriots have only lost back-to-back games three times in his seven years in New England.

“I’€™m very excited and interested to see how we’€™re going to respond,” said Slater. “I truly believe we’€™ll respond with a lot of toughness and competitiveness. We have a lot of competitive guys on this team and no one backs down from a challenge.

“But, I’€™m curious to see how we’€™re going to respond. We’€™re in an unfamiliar spot and we have to do something about it.”

Unlike in year€™s past following a tough loss there isn’€™t much relishing on past experiences of digging deep and fighting back, frankly because the team hasn’t been faced with this type of adversity through the first four games.

This is what makes this Sunday’€™s game so telling: Will the Patriots be able to put Monday’€™s loss behind and show they can compete with one of the better teams in the AFC, or will they be in a constant battle to stay above .500 just to win the AFC East?

“€œListen, we’€™re in a fight and it’€™s going to be a fight for the rest of the season as it is every year,”€ Slater said. “€œWe can’€™t just assume we’€™re going to be the Patriots and have success. It doesn’€™t work that way. Everyone one of us needs to heighten our sense of urgency.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tamba Hali was able to get to Tom Brady for a strip sack in the second half of Monday's 41-14 loss to the Chiefs. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Tamba Hali was able to get to Tom Brady for a strip sack in the second half of Monday’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Is Tom Brady‘s game slipping?

Suddenly, after a 2-2 start, the quality of play from the Patriots quarterback is up for serious discussion and debate. On Wednesday, Brady was asked how he views himself in light of a start that has him completing less than 60 percent of his pass attempts after four games.

“I can definitely do a better job, so I think that’€™s what I’€™m trying to focus on,” Brady said. “We’€™re 2-2. It’€™s not really where we necessarily want to be, but it’€™s where we’€™re at. We’€™ve got a lot of football ahead. We’€™re going to try to do a lot better job; all of us are. I don’€™t think we should feel sorry for ourselves. We’€™ve always found a way to kind of grind our way through tough times.

“Losing on the road on a Monday night is always tough, but obviously we’€™re not doing good enough, so we’€™ve got to work harder. We’€™ve got to understand what we need to do better individually so it helps each other collectively. I’€™m going to try to do the best I can do.”

Brady was then asked straight up: There are a lot of people that are doubting you. Do you feel like you’€™re past your prime?

“I’€™m trying to do the best job I can do,” Brady said. “I’€™ll try to go out there and play better and play as best as I possibly can each week. Some weeks it looks better than others, some weeks it doesn’€™t, but you’€™ve got to believe in your process and what you’€™re doing. It’€™s served me well. I’€™m going to try to keep working hard on the things I’€™m not doing a good job of, and hopefully that helps our team score more points.”

With all the speculation about whether Brady is happy with his supporting cast, the quarterback was asked if he felt he has the protection and tools to succeed.

“We’€™ll see,” Brady said. “We’€™ll see here in a couple months where we’€™re at, but we’€™ve got a lot of football to play. We’€™re trying to find the things that we do well, and we’€™re trying to find the things that we don’€™t do well. Like I said, we’€™re 2-2. It’€™s not a great record. It could be worse, could be better. We could all probably play better. We probably could’€™ve played worse, too. We’€™ve just got to try to find ways to do a better job.”

Here are some other key takeaways from Brady on Wednesday in Foxboro:

Q: What don’€™t you feel you’€™re doing well?

TB: Well, we’€™re not scoring enough points.

Q: And you?

TB: Well, it’€™s not an individual sport. It’€™s a team sport. This isn’€™t like hitting home runs or playing golf and not making par. We’€™re all trying to do a better job. I think that’€™s the important thing is to understand the problems that we’€™re having, and you try to fix them. Like I said, I’€™ve been a part of a lot of teams that have found a way to grind through tough times and not really ride the emotions of one week or one loss or one win. It’€™s a long season, and we obviously didn’€™t play very well the other night, but we’€™re looking forward to getting out there again and trying to play better this week.

Q: On Monday, were you frustrated or deflated or angry? On the camera shots, you looked frustrated, but how did you feel when you walked off the field?

TB: Well, we didn’€™t score a lot of points, so we’€™ve got to obviously score more points. We all feel better around here when we win. It feels like months when we lose. The weeks are long, but that’€™s football. Like I said, you’€™ve got to have mental toughness in this game. It’€™s a very competitive sport. The other teams are all very good. It’€™s very highly competitive. There are no easy wins, certainly on the road on Monday night in tough atmospheres. If you don’€™t play well, it’€™s tough to win those games. We’€™ve got a great opportunity this week. It’€™s a good football team, they’€™re 3-0, and we’€™ve got to go out there and try to play our best.

Q: Do you guys think you have the intestinal fortitude to fight through what you’€™re dealing with right now?

TB: Well, we’€™ll see. I think that’€™s what we’€™re going to see. It’€™s been 36 hours since we lost the game. It’€™s a tough loss, but we’€™ve had tough losses before, and we’€™ve tried to find ways to rebound, and we’€™ve tried to find ways to correct our errors, and we’€™ve just got to go out there and try to play better than we’€™ve been playing.

Q: How hard is it to have to try to suppress your feelings after a tough loss and talk to the media when things aren’€™t going well?

TB: It’€™s all part of our job. You don’€™t win every game. We’€™ve dealt with them in the past. Like I said, it’€™s important not to ride the wave of emotion of, ‘€˜Yeah, we’€™re really great,’€™ and, ‘€˜Yeah, we’€™re terrible this week,’€™ and then we’€™re great the next week and we’€™re terrible the next week. It doesn’€™t serve any purpose other than to understand the things that you need to correct. Like I said, obviously we’€™re not doing a great job on offense for a number of reasons, and everybody is really individually looking at themselves and looking at what they can do better. I can’€™t do anybody’€™s job; they can’€™t do mine. We trust each other that we’€™re all going to try and work hard to be the best we can be, and hopefully that goes out and leads to more wins and leads to more points and all that. Playing against a team like this that really challenges us ‘€¦ They’€™ve got one of the best defenses in the league. Coach [Belichick] said today that they’€™ve got six number one draft picks in the secondary alone, so we’€™ve got our work cut out for us this week. This is a team that gave us all we could handle last year, and it’€™s a great opportunity for us to go out on a Sunday night game and try to play a lot better than we played last week.

Q: I know you try not to ride the emotions week to week, but do you have a sense of urgency about this game?

TB: Every game is important, and they all count the same in the end, so I think there’€™s urgency every week to do our best. There’€™s urgency in the spring camps, there’€™s urgency in training camp to try to get things right because the clock is ticking, and every week that goes by is less opportunity for us to make the improvements. When we don’€™t have a game the way that we want to play it, you’€™ve got to work as hard as you can to get it right. Even when you do win, you’€™ve got to work as hard as you can to get it right the next week because that’€™s what it takes this time of year.

Q: Do you trust what’€™s around you and do you trust what you’€™re seeing? It seemed like you were rushing at times when there wasn’€™t a lot of pressure.

TB: I’€™m not sure what you’€™re saying.

Q: Do you trust what’€™s around you in terms of players?

TB: Yeah, absolutely, I trust all the guys in the locker room. Our guys on our team work really hard. We try to do things the right way. We try to work hard to earn each other’€™s trust, and that’€™s why we go out and practice. It’€™s not always perfect, and when it’€™s not, we communicate through it and we try to understand the things that we need to do better so that we can all help each other. We didn’€™t play well. We’€™ve got to move on; we’€™ve got to look forward. We’€™ve got to, like Coach [Belichick] always says, ignore the noise and just stay focused on what we need to do, stay focused on what our process is to try to make the improvement and not be so high and so low and so high for our parents and for our friends and for the fans. We’€™ve got an important job to do this week and the clock is ticking.

Q: Are your teammates seeing what you’€™re seeing?

TB: I don’€™t know. They could probably answer that, I’€™m sure, if you wanted to ask them.

Q: But you would know if they’€™re seeing what you’€™re seeing. You’€™re having conversations with them about it.

TB: It’€™s probably on a play-by-play basis. Sometimes we all see it the same way, sometimes we don’€™t see it the same way, and probably when we see it the same way it’€™s a more productive play than when we don’€™t see it the same way. Like I said, we’€™re still trying to correct a lot of mistakes. We’€™re trying to improve in all areas ‘€“ red area, third down, running game, pass game, throwing the ball, catching the ball, protecting, running with it. There are a lot of areas that we’€™re trying to make improvements on. The only thing I can focus on is what I need to do better, and I’€™m going to go out there and try to do it this week.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO –  Nate Solder and the rest of the offensive line know now over a month since Logan Mankins was traded, it’€™s time to pick it up.