John Madden
John Madden
Falcons, Patriots game of the week
By John Madden

The Patriots had their home winning streak end in Week 4 and it was time for it to end. They have been hit in so many areas with injuries to their cornerbacks last year, Tedy Bruschi's stroke, Ted Johnson's retirement and Rodney Harrison's injury. Until now they've plugged other guys into those holes and kept on winning but last week it finally caught up with them.

On offense for the Patriots it looked like last week they gave up on the running game and Corey Dillon a little too quickly. That is the thing that you can't do, you have to stay with him and stay with the running game, maybe in the fourth quarter you get to a point where you need points and you have to get away from it. Part of what the Patriots do offensively is run the ball. We know that Tom Brady can throw the ball down the field to guys like Deion Branch and so on but a big part of their success is going to hinge upon what their offensive line is able to do against the defensive line of the Falcons. That is a defensive line that I have a heck of a lot of respect for and they will go against an offensive line that is without its left tackle Matt Light. A lot of games are won or lost in the trenches and that battle is one that the Patriots need to win and I think it could be tough for them to win.

Michael Vick 's uncertainty with his hamstring is going to make this a pretty interesting match up for the Patriots defense. If Vick were 100% I know what Bill Belichick would do. He would take him away! That is what he does, he prioritizes. He would say we have to contain Vick. So when you do that you have to widen your defense, the ends have to play up the field to contain and that is why the Falcons run so well inside. It's not all Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett, they are good runners but you are worried about the edges and worried about Vick getting outside of your containment so your ends play so wide that it opens up holes on the inside. I know that is how Belichick would play if Vick were healthy so the question is can Vick get out there, can he run those boots, can he run those keepers, can he run those nakeds. If he can then that is one type of defense that the Falcons will see. Now if he can't do those things then the Patriots will be able to plug and stop that middle run. If they are able to make Vick a pocket passer that favors the Patriots big time.

This is going to be a real test for this Bengals team going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL but I think they are catching the Jaguars at the right time. When you start out 4-0 you start to think differently. You know that you haven't been beaten so you don't feel like you can be beaten but there is a point where over confidence can set in but I don't think that will happen to the Bengals. I think they are going to get so much confidence from being 4-0 that they are going to come in and play very well.

Marvin Lewis has done a very good job. When he went to the Bengals they were dead and he brought them back to life. When we had them on a Monday night last year against Denver you could see that they were coming along, they weren't ready yet but you could just see that they were making progress. You could say that that Bengals team were on their way to being a playoff team and we know that they weren't that team last year but I think this year they are that team.

I don't know that the Cowboys have gotten on track yet this season. Anytime you have a quarterback change even though it is to a veteran like Drew Bledsoe there is still an adjustment period and you see that they are still going through that adjustment. There are a lot of questions about the play calling and his roll in that. How much they are going to have him drop back, are they going to move him at all, where does his running play into all of that. On defense they have switched from a four man line to a three man line, added a bunch of new players and I think they are a team that as the season goes along they are going to get better. I think right now they are finding themselves and are good enough to stay in games and have a chance in any game, win some and lose some.

The big obstacle for the Cowboys offense is to stay out of long yardage situations because that is when Jim Johnson, the Eagles defensive coordinator, is going to come after you and when he is up against a guy like Bledsoe you can spot rush him. You know if he takes a five step drop wherever the heal of his right foot will be planted you can just rush to that spot. When you spot rush him then you can blitz him, overload one side and all of those things that the Eagles like to do. That is going to make it tough on the Cowboys but the way to stay out of those situations is to stay out of long yardage because that is when those things are most effective.

Donovan McNabb is a tough team player with a lot of ability. I talked about this last week and said that just because he is hurt don't think he can't play. I have seen McNabb too many times be hurt and play better than he did when he was completely healthy. That is a different type of person we are talking about here. I think what happens is it makes you concentrate more, focus more and maybe defenses think well we've got him where we want him now and I would never think that about Donovan McNabb or the Eagles. Although I think sometime their lack of being able to run the ball is going to come up and bite them.

In this season that is only four weeks old I have seen this Broncos team look poor against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, I have seen them look average against the San Diego Chargers and the last couple of weeks they have looked great. If they play like they did against the Kansas City Chiefs I don't know if the Redskins can beat them. They are not a consistent team and if they don't get their running game going where they can do those bootlegs and those types of things that is one type of game.

If the Redskins can get a lead I still say that Jake Plummer has a tough time playing from behind. That is when he starts to force things and makes mistakes and turnovers. If the Broncos can get ahead and play that cruise control type of ball game they can be really really tough!

Once you get one of those monkeys on your back you just work and work and work to get it off and that is all you can think about. I would think that Mike Holmgren after losing to the Rams in both regular season games and then losing to them again in the playoffs last year his whole offseason would be devoted to figuring out a way to beat the Rams! I have a lot of respect for Holmgren and sooner or later he is going to figure this thing out. If you look at these two teams you wouldn't say that they Rams have a lot better players than the Seahawks. In fact I think you would have to say that they Seahawks have better personnel right now than the Rams do. Other than stuff just jumping in their heads they shouldn't be losing like this to the Rams.

Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers

This is a game that I have been looking forward to since last year. Both teams had a great end to last season, the Steelers had a great season and the Chargers were strong at the end and when I saw this game on the schedule I said boy that has Monday night written all over it!

The match up between the Chargers offense and the Steelers defense is going to be a tough task for both sides. I think the first thing for Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator, is to figure out is how to stop LaDainian Tomlinson. He has been sensational this year. Once they get him going, it is the same with anyone, if you can run then that really puts the defense on its heals. You can't tee off on the pass rush, you can't do a lot of those overload blitzes because you can get gashed by the run, your defense kind of has to anchor in there on the line and play the run. Once you get past Tomlinson then you have Antonio Gates to deal with. He is a big difference maker. Most teams have good wide receivers and quarterbacks to get them the ball but when you have that special tight end along with that running back that is a combination that is very very difficult to defend because if you want to help the run you have to bring that safety down, that brings 8 men up. Now that guy that you give up to help stop the run is also that guy that has to help stop the pass to the tight end.

I have had my eye on Ben Roethlisberger since he came into the league, he has started with a regular season record of 15-1 and I thought well he is just managing the game, they have good defense and a good running game and they are not asking him to do much but when you watch him play he does a lot. He not only can make all the throws but he is a pretty mobile guy and moves quite a bit out of the pocket and does it pretty well. Those things along with the running backs that they have and Hines Ward is a heck of a receiver on the outside. All of those things add up to a tall task for a defense to contend with.

Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden is an analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football.

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