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Will the Patriots be ready for Mohamed Sanu and a Cincinnati trick play?

10.02.14 at 11:22 am ET
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Andy Dalton dives for a touchdown after receiving a pass from Mohamed Sanu against Tennessee. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Andy Dalton dives for a touchdown after receiving a pass from Mohamed Sanu against Tennessee. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Who’s the most dangerous passer in the Bengals offense?

Andy Dalton, of course. He’s the starting quarterback. But not far behind is Mohamed Sanu.

This is a wide receiver who matriculated from Bill Belichick‘s favorite NFL farm team, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in 2012. And he’s an athlete that can catch, run and pass.

This year, Sanu is 2-for-2 for 68 yards and a touchdown pass of 18 yards to Andy Dalton across the field on a reverse against Tennessee. While that pass ended up in a score, his prettiest pass was a pinpoint 50-yarder down the right sideline that Brandon Tate hauled in the week before against Atlanta.

In his second NFL game in 2012, Sanu took a direct snap and dropped back in the pocket, firing a 73-yard bomb to A.J. Green for a touchdown against the Redskins.

In his third NFL season, Sanu is 4-for-4 for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 QB rating.

“He throws the ball as well as a lot of quarterbacks do,” Belichick said. “He’€™s very accurate and he’€™s got a great touch and arm, but his accuracy is very good. So, they run those plays and it looks like, you see it’€™s [number] 12 but you kind of think, ‘€˜Is that a quarterback?’€™ ‘€˜No, it’€™s the receiver throwing the ball.’€™ So, they execute them well and they have a good design to them. But I don’€™t think it’€™s a case where you don’€™t ‘€“ you have the play defended, but you have to actually execute the defense of the play and it’€™s a play you haven’€™t seen or worked on so that sometimes can cause a problem.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Cincinnati Bengals, Mohamed Sanu, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick has seen the film and says ‘it’s been a while since I’ve seen a team as complete’ as Cincinnati

10.02.14 at 10:42 am ET
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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.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Cincinnati Bengals, Gio Bernard, Marvin Lewis

Report: Aaron Dobson inactive last 2 games for ‘mouthing off’ to Josh McDaniels

10.01.14 at 9:23 pm ET
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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 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.

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DB Nate Ebner (finger), OL Cameron Fleming (finger) miss Wednesday practice

10.01.14 at 6:41 pm ET
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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)

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Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Cameron Fleming, chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower

Patriots searching for identity going into Sunday’s matchup with Cincinnati

10.01.14 at 6:06 pm ET
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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.”

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Read More: Bengals, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater,

Tom Brady: ‘I can definitely do a better job’

10.01.14 at 5:48 pm ET
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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.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story with Brady. But they provide some perspective on the offensive struggles he’s had in trying to find rhythm in the offense. In addition to the 59 percent completion rate, Brady has four touchdowns, two interceptions, nine sacks, five fumbles and three strip sacks in four games. His QB rating of 79 is 16 points below his career average and his completion percentage is down four points.

“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.”

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Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Nate Solder: Urgency is ‘extremely high, as high as it can get’

10.01.14 at 4:43 pm ET
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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.

“€œExtremely high, as high as it can get,”€ Solder described the urgency of the offensive line and team going into Sunday’€™s game with Cincinnati. “€œMoving forward we have to improve. We have to get better, we have to play better.”

Through four games this season quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked nine times and hurried another 38 times in 147 drop backs, per Pro Football Focus. Brady hasn’€™t put up the numbers he has in the past, as his 59.1 completion percentage is 14th in the AFC with only E.J. Manuel and Jake Locker being worse. Part of the reason for his low numbers is the pressure he’€™s been under and feeling uncomfortable in the pocket.

The team changed things up last week with starting two rookies in center Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming, who moved to right guard from right tackle for the first time in his entire football life, and deactivated guard Jordan Devey who had started the first three games of the year.

When asked how the unit was operating without their former captain in Mankins, Solder explained it’€™s a group effort.

“œWe all work together,” he said. “€œWe have a captain with Dan [Connolly] and we have several guys that have played a lot of ball so we’€™re moving forward.”€

He added: “€œWe keep moving forward. We have plenty of guys that can do it.”

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Read More: Logan Mankins, Nate Solder,
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