Saturday, October 8
Updated: October 9, 3:03 PM ET
Falcons, Patriots game of the week
By John Madden
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.