Tag Archives: Carlos Dunlap

Patriots-Bengals Week 15 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 13, 2019 at 6:50 am ET

One more for the road. The Patriots play their last regular-season road game of the 2019 schedule with a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. It is the first 1:00 p.m. start for the team in two months.

Several weeks ago before the Baltimore game, we had this one circled as a game where several players may get a respite and see a reduced workload (Julian Edelman) and maybe see a lot of a younger player like Damien Harris and Joejuan Williams. Now, after losing three of five, that isn’t going to happen. This game has become important for holding off  Kansas City for the #2 seed and the all-important bye. And to hold off the Bills in the division. 

With a win on Sunday night, the Patriots would win the 11th game of the year, marking 10 straight seasons with at least 11 wins, which is an NFL record.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Andrew Catalon will handle play-by-play duties with James Lofton as the color analyst. Amanda Balionis will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (10-3) lost to the Chiefs 23-16 last Sunday at Gillette Stadium 

The Bengals (1-12) are coming off of a 27-19 loss to Cleveland 

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Bengals have met 25 times since Cincinnati entered the league in 1968 and the Patriots hold an overall 16-9 all-time edge. Of course, the most famous matchup was the “we’re on to Cincinnati game…which just happened to be after a loss to the Chiefs.

The Patriots have won the last two meetings including a 35-17 win in Gillette the last time the two teams met. The last game in Cincinnati was a 13-6 win for the Bengals back in 2013 in that monsoon game where neither team was able to do anything offensively. 

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Bengals Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cincinnati

The Patriots running game had an awful outing last week, gaining 94 yards against the Chiefs 31st ranked run defense. Kansas City entered the game allowing 141.3 yards per game and then dominated the Patriots upfront. By the end of the game, the Chiefs woeful run defense was preening and talking about how they hope to see the Patriots again in the playoffs… that is bad. 

Enter Cincinnati’s run defense. If you thought the Chiefs were bad, the Bengals, have been worse. Cincy’s porous run defense is dead last in the NFL allowing a whopping 156.7 yards per game on the ground. This should be a mismatch…right?

The offensive line has to open some holes this week for Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. But honestly, I’d look at giving some snaps to Brandon Bolden, who has been effective whenever he’s been tasked and Damien Harris, giving Sony a week off. Will they do either of those? Nope. Will the Patriots run roughshod over another sieve run defense? While I’m not from Missouri, …show me. 

Patriots WRs vs Bengals Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has consisted of Julian Edelman, James White, and a big question mark. That makes the opposing defense’s job a heckuva lot easier. They need both Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu to step up (sounds like a broken record at this point). Tom Brady’s pass protection has been shoddy and inconsistent for much of the season. 

Cincinnati’s pass defense hasn’t fared much better than their run defense and is 19th in the league. Their corners, William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard are okay but not special. The closest thing to a ballhawk in the back end in safety Jessie Bates with three interceptions. Their pass rush has a couple of names to watch. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, although they haven’t accounted for a bunch of sacks, just 21 as a team.

Again, on paper, this seems like a mismatch but this time, I do give the edge to the Patriots as Tom Brady can find a way to manipulate this secondary….if he has time to throw. Atkins is a big, disruptive inside presence. He can do damage and will be going against the #3 center in James Ferentz. Dunlap and Sam Hubbard are guys who can bring the pressure from the edges. Protection is the key here.

So, Josh McDaniels, are the Patriots going to get N’Keal Harry more involved in the passing game anytime soon? This would be a prime week to do so. It isn’t exactly like Dorsett and Sanu are lighting it up and not allowing him a chance to play…throw him the damn ball this week.  

Next up the Bengals offense:

Bengals RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots run defense has been rock solid and it all begins with the outstanding work of Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton inside. They’re both doing a great job of penetrating and holding up the line of scrimmage allowing the Patriots linebackers to fly up and make plays. 

Cincinnati has a couple of talented running backs in Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard, but when they’re constantly playing catchup, it has been difficult for them to stick with the running game, which is why their paltry 85.8 yards per game average is a tad misleading. Mixon has gained 789 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this year and is capable of producing a big game. 

Look for Cincinnati to get Mixon going this week in an attempt to stick close and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. But this is a matchup the Patriots can and should win with the play of the front seven which has been very good all season.  

Bengals WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Bengals passing game has Andy Dalton back under center and he gave the team, their only win of the season over the Jets. He’s kept games close, and will try to once again. The problem with their passing game sounds like the Patriots. He has Tyler Boyd, who is having a very good year (73 catches, 833 yards, 3 TDs), Gio Bernard out of the backfield and a not a lot elsewhere. John Ross is their speedster and is back after spending time on IR. Bengals QBs have been sacked 43 times for 309 yards this season. 

The Patriots pass defense has been excellent this season. Expect Boyd to get matched up with Stephon Gilmore this week and Ross to get watched by Jonathan Jones or J.C. Jackson. Bernard will bear watching out of the backfield, he’s a very good weapon there. But look for the defense to be aggressive in this one and try to get after Dalton to force the issue and some turnovers.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New Englan

The Patriots special teams has Nick Folk back as their kicker. While he had a field goal blocked last week, that was a rare failure of the blocking up front. Jake Bailey has been outstanding punting this season and the coverage units have been terrific. Nate Ebner blocked the Patriots’ fourth punt of the season. 

Cincinnati has the reliable Randy Bullock who has been perfect on PATs and has made 21-25 field goal attempts. Kevin Huber had done a very good job of punting. Like NE, the Bengals haven’t generated much in way of the return game. Look for the Patriots to try to make it five blocks this season and give their struggling offense a short field.

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 11-3 and now this game becomes a must-win, there are no more alibis left to give if they want a bye and a guaranteed home game for the division round of the postseason.   

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Protect Brady and Get Others Involved in the Passing Game – The Patriots can’t be a two-man passing team in the last three games and into the postseason. That means other players have to step up and the coaches have to get others involved. This is a prime week to make that happen.

Getting Harry, Dorsett, Sanu, and Jakobi Meyers more involved in the passing game, shouldn’t be that hard, but yet here we are. It all begins with Brady’s protection but they have to start winning some battles on the line. Getting more from tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse would be a welcome sight as well. Get it done.

The Defense Should Pin Their Ears Back- The Patriots defense has been a constant bright spot all season, this week, they should feast on a Bengals offensive line who have been gashed for 43 sacks. With a limited offense, the Patriots can dictate where and when the pass rush is coming from. Look for Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins to be very active this week.

Turnover Time  – The Patriots are +19 in the turnover department, tops in the NFL. Cincinnati is -11, 30th in the league and a big reason they are 1-12. The Patriots defense was huge earlier in the year at getting turnovers and helping out the offense. That has slowed a bit in the second half…time to feast.

___________

Prediction: 

This should be a walk in the park for the Patriots who are clearly the better team. But the offensive struggles have made every game a slogfest. The Bengals are playing for nothing but pride and jobs at this point of the season. But this week is their Super Bowl with a chance to knock off the defending champs. Plus the entire filming fiasco of last week, should light a fire under their behinds. Unless the defense gets a score or a slew of turnovers, this one will remain closer than anyone wants.  Patriots  20-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” heads back home for the final two regular-season games of the season and next week is a big one with the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Five Patriots Players to Watch Against the Bengals

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2016 at 11:30 am ET

Gillette Will Be Loud, Pats Need to Keep It That Way

The Patriots return home to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium this Sunday to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. This will be the first home game for Tom Brady since his suspension ended a week ago. Gillette will be loud and rocking, the Patriots should aim to keep it that way.

The opponent this week, the Bengals are coming in wounded at 2-3. Always one of the more talented teams in the league, Cincinnati has struggled to score, especially in the red zone this year, a combination of the injury to Tyler Eifert and the free agency departures of Marvin Jones and Muhammad Sanu have hurt their production. Andy Dalton’s protection has suffered and he’s been sacked 17 times. But their defense hasn’t been as stout as years past as well.

The Patriots know that the Bengals will come into Gillette fired up. They need this game and can’t afford to drop to 2-4 in the AFC North. They’ll also remember the last time that they came in here, just two years ago and were wiped out 43-17 on national television.

Here are our five players from a Patriots perspective to watch on Sunday:

QB Tom Brady: The Patriots QB returned with a vengeance on Sunday in Cleveland and looked to be in mid-season form and not someone who missed the first quarter of the season. Passing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns Brady made quick work of an overmatched Browns defense.

This week, he’ll face a much tougher test, as Cincinnati’s defense is much stouter than the Browns and can get after the quarterback. The Bengals front seven is big, physical and aggressive and Brady’s pre-snap reads and reaction time will have to be spot on.

The crowd may have an effect on Brady as well. He did a great job of keeping his emotions in check on Sunday and playing a very cool and collected game. With the crowd into it at the start of the game this week, will he be able to check his emotion again or will it get the better of him a bit, at least initially?

DE Chris Long: Facing the Bengals passing attack with Andy Dalton this week, the Patriots know what they need to do. Dalton has passed for over 1500 yards in five games and has one of the best WR targets in A.J. Green. So to neutralize the deep play threat of him, they’ll need to bring some pressure on Dalton this week. That’s where Long, as well as fellow DE Jabaal Sheard come in.

Dalton has been sacked 17 times this year already and his normally stout offensive line has struggled including both tackles, veteran Andrew Whitworth and Cedric Ogbuehi. Long will be going against Ogbuehi and will need to get the better of the 2nd year RT to force Dalton into getting rid of the ball early and possibly forcing him into a mistake or two.

The veteran Long has been a good signing thus far, giving the Patriots the veteran presence, outstanding edge setting in the running game and good QB pressure. This week facing another playoff team from a year ago, he’ll have to step up his game and take it to the next level.

TEs Rob Gronkowski/ Martellus Bennett: The big men had a fantastic day against the Browns a week ago providing great run blocking and tremendous production in the passing game. Gronkowski, rapidly approaching full health, had five catches for 109 yards including a highlight reel 34-yard completion where he made five defenders miss. Bennett had six catches for 67 yards and three touchdowns. They were a big mismatch for the Cleveland defense, which had no answer for the dynamic duo.

This week, they too will be facing a tougher matchup, especially in the running game where the Bengals front seven is vastly superior to that of the Browns. The Bengals linebackers, Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga are big, physical downhill types who can crash the point of attack and disrupt the flow and timing of the offense.

But it is in the passing game that the Patriots will try to pressure those two backers. Gronkowski and Bennett have the advantage here as well as with the safeties. Look for them to attack the seams of the Cincinnati defense this week. They will look to isolate the LBs in coverage and may split them out on occasion to create matchups in space.

CB Malcolm Butler: The Patriots top corner is getting kind of a raw deal this season. Judging from most of the “evaluation” you see from social media, you’d get the impression he’s having a bad or at least a disappointing season.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweeted out on Thursday that in the last three weeks, Butler has allowed just 4 catches on 14 targets. Those are impressive numbers by anyone’s standards. But if you’re into those fantasy football stats, I guess he hasn’t logged any interceptions.

It isn’t known if Butler or Logan Ryan will draw the dangerous A.J. Green this week, but whoever it is, they are sure to have safety help over the top as Bill Belichick always looks to take away the opponent’s biggest weapon. History says that will fall to Ryan. So Butler will draw the task of taking on his former teammate, the big, physical Brandon LaFell. Those two know each other well from practicing against one another for two years.

The chess match within a chess match takes on added importance when, if successful in neutralizing Green, Butler will be on his own against LaFell, who has a good size advantage.

OT Cameron Fleming: With Brady returning a week ago, all eyes were on him as he performed the usual Brady magic without missing a beat. But one of the things lost in the shuffle was the play of right tackle Cameron Fleming who was filling in for starter Marcus Cannon. Cannon missed Sunday with a calf injury.

The fact we didn’t call Fleming’s name very much spoke volumes about how well he played in protecting Brady in the passing game. He allowed just one pressure all day, facing the Browns’ talented rookie Carl Nassib for the most part.  Fleming played very well and had good communication with RG Joe Thuney who slid over from the left for this contest.

This week, he’ll be facing the very dangerous Carlos Dunlap if Cannon isn’t ready to go. Cannon was listed on Thursday’s injury report as having just limited participation at practice. Dunlap leads the Bengals with four sacks, all of them coming in the past three weeks after having 13.5 a year ago.

Belichick was effusive in his praise of Dunlap on Wednesday’s presser stating that the veteran has “great ball awareness, causes a lot of fumbles, strip sacks, good pass rusher, hard to block because he’s so long, very athletic, occasionally gets into coverage, a hard guy to throw over, takes up a lot of space.”

This will be a key matchup for the Patriots in their passing game. If Fleming can’t handle the assignment on his own and Dunlap brings pressure on Brady, it means the Patriots will be forced to keep one of the tight ends in to help block him which takes away from the passing game.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have up-to-the-minute breaking news as well as post-game analysis.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Bengals Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots will play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. The game will mark the first home game for Tom Brady, fresh off of his suspension and the crowd should be fired up for the start of this one.

The game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (4-1) routed the Cleveland Browns 33-13 on Tom Brady’s return to the field on the road Sunday. Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns, all of them to tight end Martellus Bennett as he and Rob Gronkowski were more than the overmatched Browns defense could handle.

The Bengals (2-3) were embarrassed by the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 on Sunday in Dallas. The score wasn’t indicative of the game as the Bengals were essentially blown out and down 28-0 in the second half. The Cowboys ground game churned out 180 yards rushing and rookie QB Dak Prescott was impressive both running and throwing against the Cincy defense. Brandon LaFell scored two late touchdowns for the Bengals making the score respectable.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Bengals will meet for the 25th time on Sunday. The Patriots hold an all-time 15-9 edge including a big 9-2 advantage at home.

The Patriots beat Cincinnati 43-17 in the famous, “We’re on to Cincinnati” game from two years ago. After being embarrassed in KC and questioned openly by the national press, the Patriots blew out a previously undefeated Bengals team and rode that momentum all the way to a Super Bowl victory. They had tremendous balance in that one with Brady having 285 yards net yards passing and the backs rushing for 220 more.

Now Cincinnati is the one struggling at 2-3 and after a bad loss on the road to Dallas, they may be the ones at a crossroad. Since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots are 6-2 against Cincinnati with both losses coming on the road.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Bengals

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2016 at 8:12 am ET

Cincinnati Offense Struggling Early in 2016

The Patriots return home to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. This is the second of three straight games that New England will take on opponents from the AFC North.

The Patriots (4-1), welcomed back QB Tom Brady as well as DE Rob Ninkovich on Sunday in Cleveland. The offense with their starting QB back behind center clicked very impressively as Brady led them to touchdowns on their first three drives as the team burst out to a 23-7 lead and cruised to a 33-13 win.

The Bengals (2-3) are struggling. Last season’s division champion is now facing in what is almost a must-win type situation if they want to repeat. They’re two games behind a Steelers team that is rolling and things don’t seem to be improving. They were blown out 28-14 in Dallas on Sunday, with two late scores making the score appear much closer than the game truly was.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Bengals:

Offense Struggling Especially in the Red Zone: The Bengals offense is really struggling early in the 2016 season. The offensive line isn’t playing well allowing 17 sacks and is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry.  For a team with Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard, that’s far too low.

The Bengals rank 10th in total offense but 25th in rushing offense. Additionally, the Bengals rank 20th in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game. With Tyler Eifert on the shelf with offseason surgery as well as a back injury, they’ve really struggled to score, most importantly in the red zone.

The play calling of Ken Zampese has been criticized as being too conservative and when teams have been able to neutralize A.J. Green the team has struggled.  In the red zone where Cincinnati scored touchdowns on 66 percent of their trips a year ago, their scuffling along at 31 percent in 2016. Without Eifert in the lineup, teams are taking away Green and the rest of the cast hasn’t picked up the slack yet.

Things showed some improvement this week, albeit late in the game with Brandon LaFell getting his first two touchdowns in a Bengal uniform against Dallas. But this will bear watching this week.

Lewis, “This Isn’t Who We Are”: Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis didn’t shy away from the questions that came after his team looked flat in Dallas and fell below .500 in 2016.

“Obviously, it was not a very good football game for us,” Lewis said. “First half to be down 21-0, threw up a touchdown [in the] second series of the second half right after we get stopped on offense. We didn’t well play enough and they outplayed us.”

While the Bengals defense was gashed for 180 yards by the Cowboys on Sunday, that was more indicative of the level of play of the Dallas OL than it was of the Bengals defense. Still, there are issues that need to be looked at defensively before they come to New England this week.

“Defensively, we gave up some plays where they got 7, 8, 13 yards,” Lewis said. “Crossing routes and things like that hurt us today. On third downs in the first half, we weren’t very good. They converted the three-or-four they had. They kept the drives alive when they had opportunities.”

Green is the ‘Must Stop’ Guy This Week: Bengals WR A.J. Green is one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL. And with the rest of the offense still in search of its game, the Bengals are becoming increasingly reliant on him. It is becoming a case of if he has a monster game the Bengals win if he doesn’t they lose. That isn’t fair, even for one of the most talented WRs in the league.

The 6’4, 210-pound 6th year player from Georgia is always a matchup nightmare and will present a very tough defensive key for the Patriots smaller cornerbacks this week. Green dominated against the Dolphins two weeks ago using his size, speed, and physicality where he was targeted 12 times and made 10 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown.

Therein lies the challenge; it is never easy but if the Patriots can limit Green’s effectiveness, the Cincinnati offense has struggled. In their two wins, he was targeted 25 times and made 22 catches for 353 yards (16.0 average) and two touchdowns. In Cincy’s three losses Green was targeted 27 times and made just 14 catches for 165 yards and 0 touchdowns.

With the Cincinnati offense needing a spark this week, they’ll look to their most talented offensive weapon first, to get him into the game quickly. He had just a single catch in the first half against Dallas as the team fell behind 21-0.

Dalton Playing Well Despite Struggles: There never seems to be a shortage of criticism leveled at Andy Dalton who, despite having solid seasons playing in the tough AFC North, is still looking for his first playoff win.

Dalton had the best year of his career in 2015 before going down with a thumb injury that cut short his year. And he’s playing better in 2016 despite not having his biggest and best red zone target in Tyler Eifert.

He’s attempting and completing more passes in 2016 than he did a year ago. Part of the issue is that with the struggles of the running game to get untracked, he’s been forced to throw more. But his accuracy is up and his interception rate is down.

“He keeps getting better every year,” Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese said. We’re just the production over a long time of digesting plays and knowing how to fix them. And knowing how to salvage them.”

Thru the first five games Dalton is completing 67.4 percent of his passes (126 of 187), for 1503 yards, 8.0 yards per attempt, with five touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 96.4.

After losing productive wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohammad Sanu this offseason, the WR unit has struggled to find their rhythm beyond A.J. Green. But at the end of last week’s game, Dalton found LaFell for a pair of scores that could foretell of a turning point for the offense.

Cincinnati Front Four Poses Tough Challenge: While the unit was gashed by the Cowboys on Sunday, don’t let that influence the fact that this is a very tough physical front four. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Domata Peko spearhead an excellent group that not only can stop the run but get after the passer as well. They also have Margus Hunt and the talented reserve sub-package rusher Will Clarke who has three sacks already this season.

They’ll be looking to redeem themselves this week and we all remember how disruptive they can be. When the Patriots visited there in 2013, they held New England to just six points in a big victory.

While the Patriots will look to remain balanced, or close to it with LeGarrette Blount running the ball this week to keep the defense honest, this will be a tough unit to run on. One caveat from a week ago, not many teams have an offensive line like the Cowboys.

They’re also backed by the very physical MLB in Vontaze Burfict who returned two weeks ago from a suspension and is a downhill, spark plug for the front seven.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.