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Sitting down with Tom discussing Monday Night game between Bengals and Patriots

Big game tonight, no doubt. The Bengals need to avoid going 1-3 if they're going to make any run at the playoffs. In 2003, the Bengals started the season at 1-4 finishing with an 8-8 record and a second place finish in the division. Mimicking their 2003 start, the Bengals recorded a third place finish the following season. Heading into the bye week with a 2-2 start, beating the New England Patriots, would be a victory in itself. The one thing going for the Bengals is the top two teams suffered losses in the division Sunday setting up a run, with more offensive weapons returning from injury and suspension, during the second-half of the season. I'm getting ahead of myself.

I sat down with Tom at Pats Pulpit to discuss some things about the Patriots. We already know many things of the Patriots. We see it on most NFL shows. But some things I wanted to know -- like the Patriots third option, best defensive player -- are things we don't hear much.

I wanted to get one thing out of the way first. Do the Patriots (team, media, fans) have a sense that this is a "trap game"?

Oh, I think the media and some fans love to use that "trap game" label, but I really doubt any Patriots players or coaches even entertain thoughts like those. Go back just two weeks ago when almost everyone was asking if the videotaping scandal was a distraction. Or 6 years ago when Tom Brady vs. Drew Bledsoe was supposed to be a distraction. These coaches rarely allow this team to lose focus.

Call it "drinking the Kool-Aid" or whatever. These players are indoctrinated when they put on the uniform: "Do your job." Besides, next week is Cleveland, so I don't think anyone is "looking ahead." If there is a trap game, it might be the Browns game before the Patriots head to Dallas.

On Friday, Tom Brady's status was listed as probable with a right shoulder issue. He was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. Is there any issues heading into Monday?

Not really. Brady has been listed on those reports every week since at least October 2005 (the first time I mentioned it on my old blog) and even after his shoulder surgery following the 2005 playoffs. Like major league pitchers, it appears the Patriots are intent on resting Brady when they can and give the backups some work in practice.

Of course "limited in practice" can probably mean a lot of different things. In any case, no one has voiced any concern, and there are no reports of him having any particular throwing problems. But now that you mention it, maybe that's why "Brady can't throw the long ball."

Randy Moss and Wes Welker are having terrific seasons. If, by some godly chance, both receivers are contained, what would be the Patriots third option?

Based on Cincinnati's receiving yards allowed, I'm doubtful they'll be able to contain Moss and Welker, much less shut them down. But let's assume they do. New England will do what they've done the last 6 years with Brady at the helm and average receivers in the field. Brady will find the open man, whether it's receivers Donté Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney, tight ends Ben Watson or Kyle Brady or David Thomas, or running backs Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris or especially Kevin Faulk, who with the offensive line runs a devastating screen.

Of course, if the Patriots are forced to run the ball, Maroney, Morris, Faulk and receiver end-arounds will keep the Bengals defense honest. Any way you slice it, the key is the offensive line.

Incidentally, Brady has connected with only 9 different players, and only 4 have caught touchdowns. It looks very different from the usual spread-it-around offense.

When Adalius Thomas was with Baltimore, he cruised against the Bengals offense. While he wasn't always the difference maker, he was well known in each game he played against the Bengals. How has he adjusted to the New England defense?

A lot of linebackers have trouble switching from the 4-3 to the 3-4 or vice-versa. Thomas doesn't appear to have this gene defect. I didn't get to see him play much in a Ravens uniform, so I can't say definitively how well he was integrated there; but all indications say he was pretty good in Baltimore.

There's no doubt he plays like he's played with Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Rosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau all his career. That's a special player who can step in that way. But there's no doubt those other four guys are pretty easy to play with. They're all veterans, they all know their jobs.

A follow up. Is Adalius Thomas the Patriots defensive MVP?

This may be a surprise, but I would have to say it's Jarvis Green. Yes, Thomas has made an impact. After three games, it's hard to say how much, but it definitely feels different. But Green has been spectacular in relief of perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour. Green has made big plays in all three games, and he's made life a lot easier on Vince Wilfork in the middle, Ty Warren on the other and, and for Thomas and the linebackers.

The Patriots are first in overall defense, third in rushing and fourth in passing. That all starts with the offensive line, and Green has led the charge.

If Green continues playing at this level, there's a chance the Patriots won't rush Seymour off the physically unable to perform list after Week 6. And if Seymour is ready? That could create a controversy.

Not a bad controversy to have.

My responses to Tom's questions.


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