Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots I

The 9-1 Chicago Bears take on the 7-3 New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. There has been plenty of 'Super Bowl Preview' buzz thrown around for this game, but even without the hype, both teams will be facing arguably their biggest challenge of the season. Bear Report's John Crist and Patriots Insider's Jon Scott break down the ballgame.

10 QUESTIONS - Patriots vs. Bears Part 1

Patriots Insider Editor Jon Scott is this week's guest on 10 questions.

10) Do the Patriots appear to be a little hungrier for a return to the Super Bowl considering they were finally bounced out of the playoffs and didn't win the Lombardi Trophy?

Jon Scott: The theory that New England has more passion for the Super Bowl after their loss to Broncos in 2005 is one that has been bounced around the Boston media for some time. Some are of the opinion that New England was so mad about the game that they'd bounce back in 2006 with a vengeance. Others saw it, and labeled it, the end of the dynasty. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Tom Brady worked hard during the offseason and in his preparations during camp. Brady was focused on one thing, and that was to get back to the Super Bowl. He talked about feeling sick about the way things ended. Other players echoed those sentiments.

To a man, the veterans - Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Matt Light and others - are thinking of one thing, and that's not just getting to the playoffs but getting to Miami.

Were it not for the losses of David Givens and Deion Branch, the Patriots were in better shape headed into 2006 than they were during their run in 2005.

9) If Tom Brady was in Indianapolis's offense and had those weapons at his disposal, would be put up the same numbers – or even better – than Peyton Manning does?

JS: This is a hot topic between Patriots and Colts fans. Typically the fans, and to a large extent the media, say each team would be better with their own quarterback at the helm, but few are willing to say Brady would put up better numbers.

To be honest, what Peyton Manning does at the line of scrimmage is truly remarkable. The man has talent that is unmatched. But much of Manning's success is because of the targets he has and his continuity with those players in that system.

The thing with Brady is that he's rarely had the same group of people to throw the ball to or hand the ball off to, year-in and year-out, like Manning has. Brady has had to adapt to more unique situations than Manning.

To answer your question, Brady could probably do well in Indy, but you'd be hard pressed to think Manning would have anywhere near the same success in New England.

8) How much does Corey Dillon have left in the tank, and how tempted has the coaching staff been to make rookie Laurence Maroney the starter and give him all the touches?

JS: The Dillon bandwagon hasn't stopped in New England just yet, in spite of what the national media has been claiming. Dillon runs with the type of power that the regular NFL back lacks. He knows when to slice through the line, and he knows when to power over people.

The trouble at this point is he is getting dinged when he hits people, and those dings aren't going away as quickly.

Maroney is a great slash-type back. He has the burst and a degree of power, but the team prefers to give the ball to Dillon in those tough-yardage spots. Dillon has a way of making something out of nothing that the rookie hasn't come close to mastering.

You will probably see the dual attack for the rest of the season as it makes the Patriots just that more dangerous. Even with Maroney getting more carries, it's unlikely they will sit Dillon if he's healthy. He's still too good to sit on the bench.

7) Few football fans out of New England have ever heard of Reche Caldwell or Doug Gabriel, so is Brady somewhat hamstrung without Deion Branch and David Givens?

JS: One of the biggest issues with the Patriots inconsistency has been the lack of continuity at the receiver position. The Patriots opted not to match Givens's offer, but the move with Branch really threw the offense for a loop. Brady had the type of communication with Givens and Branch that Manning enjoys with Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Not that those receivers are comparable stats-wise, but they make adjustments without a second thought.

Caldwell is the closest to being on the same page with Tom Brady. Even though he's in his first season in New England, Caldwell's been working with Brady longer than the rest of the receiver corps, with the exception of Troy Brown.

Gabriel has had a few moments but managed to get himself in the doghouse two weeks ago by coughing up a costly fumble in a hard-fought loss to the Jets. There really isn't a replacement on the roster for both Branch and Givens. One maybe, but not both.

6) Does the offense simply not allow anyone to emerge as a legitimate No. 1 receiving target, or have the Patriots just not had a player good enough to catch 90-100 passes?

JS: Although Brady has five receivers available, the offense is more diverse with tight end Ben Watson as a main option and running back Kevin Faulk also a threat. If Watson hadn't developed into the type of player they thought there were getting when the Patriots drafted him in the first round, then Brady would really have trouble moving the ball.

You could say that there isn't a 90-100 catch receiver on the roster, but that wouldn't be accurate. What would be accurate is to say there isn't one because the offense doesn't require there to be one.

When the Patriots pass the ball, it's usually to seven or eight different targets during the game. Take away one option, then they go another way. Leave Watson uncovered, and the Patriots will do damage quickly.

Watson has evoked memories of the Ben Coates era by leading all Patriots receivers in receptions and yards.

Look for Part 2 where Jon addresses the loss of Rodney Harrison, the intangibles of Tedy Bruschi, his prediction for the game, and much more.


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