Can the Bengals' No. 25, Giovani Bernard, match what the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles did to the Patriots Monday night?
Five takes from the Chiefs' 41-14 blowout of the Patriots on Monday night as the Bengals get ready for a Sunday Night Football game (8:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) in New England.
1. The Bengals have a chance to send New England pro sports back into the depths of the 1990s with a victory over the Patriots. A week after the Red Sox finished in last place 25 games out, the Pats could fall to 2-3 and that just never happens. Since Belichick became their coach in 2000 the Patriots have lost at least two straight games just 10 times. But you can catch them early. The last time was games 2-3 in 2012.
So now you have to wonder. Does this shredding indicate the Pats are no longer the Pats or will it rally a proud franchise on a short week for a heroic stand at Foxboro, where they have the NFL's best home record in the last decade? Probably a little bit of both. Expect a grind. Don't think Patriots Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady is going to get pulled early in the fourth quarter like on Monday. But the Bengals looking for their first win in New England since Pearl Harbor Day in 1986 is no pipe dream.
2. The Bengals won't have any problem replicating the attack the Chiefs used to become the first team to roll up 300 yards against the Belichick Patriots in the first half. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson employs a lot of the West Coast Offense concepts used by Kansas City head coach Andy Reid. An array of multiple formations, an aggressive fullback, a two-headed backfield, and a big night from the tight end are all in Jackson's bag.
On Monday the Patriots failed to set the edges, particularly on the weak side, as Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles rolled for 92 yards on 18 carries away from defensive tackle Vince Wilfork while Knile Davis spelled him with 107 yards on 16 carries. It looks like a night Bengals running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill could get plenty of work.
The running game froze the New England's superb trio of linebackers in Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo, and Dont'a Hightower and it freed up tight end Travis Kelce for 93 yards and a TD on eight catches. The Bengals have been talking about getting the ball more to tight end Jermaine Gresham, so maybe this is the night.
It will be recalled that when Jackson last called plays against the Patriots in 2011 as the Raiders head coach with an offense nowhere near as explosive as what the Bengals have now, Oakland had 504 yards but gave up 404 to lose by 12.
3. Sunday night is going to be on the Bengals offense because it's hard to see the Patriots breaking out in six days against this defense after struggling all year on offense. After getting just 16 points against a winless Raiders club at home, the Pats followed it up with a brutal performance against the Chiefs with four three-and-outs and two Brady interceptions.
The whispers about the 37-year-old Brady have now reached a dull roar after a 59.9 passer rating in Kansas City, but he's not getting any help and the faithful will be with him Sunday night. Except Deion Branch is long gone and the Pats have 0.0 vertical threats at wide receiver.
But Brady is still Brady. Cool and dangerous. He called it in Monday's postgame: "We have our work cut out for us. We've got a great football team coming in this week that is undefeated. We have to play our best game certainly to beat them."
4. The biggest matchup of the game probably is the Bengals defensive line against the Patriots beleaguered offensive line. The Bengals pass rushers won't have the advantage of the world's loudest stadium like the Chiefs did as they roughed up Brady for three sacks, two hits, and a forced fumble. But Monday night revealed the chaos of the Logan Mankins trade, the departure of long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, and unstable play at tackle. The Bengals have said Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins is getting better and better as he comes back from ACL surgery and they could use the old Geno to wreak some havoc in what was once the strength of the Pats against a great quarterback who has never looked this uncomfortable in the pocket.
5. As hard as it is to see Brady coming up with another performance like that at home, it's also just as hard to see the New England defense get lit up like that again considering how good it is on paper and how it played in spots before Monday night. With Wilfork and those linebackers, it's a formidable front seven, and throw in All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis and Monday doesn't make much sense.
But look at what the Chiefs did to them in the back end when they stretched them out as New England gave up three passes of 33 yards or more. The return of Bengals fleet wide receiver Marvin Jones may be exactly what the doctor ordered.