Monday is a school night, and the Patriots defense has a big test looming.
Head coach Bill Belichick repeatedly used the word "explosive" to describe the offense of the Cincinnati Bengals, whom they'll face at Paul Brown Stadium.
"For a defensive back, it's a challenge. We know we're going to get 40 to 50 balls thrown at us. It's a chance to make some plays. It's something to look forward to," DB Eugene Wilson added in a Boston Herald interview.
"A big goal of ours is not to give up big plays, and we know this team is explosive. They thrive off big plays. That'll be the key for us, eliminating that."
Giving up plays in short-yardage situations will be crucial, too. As LB Mike Vrabel pointed out, New England has surrendered a touchdown each time its opponents have entered the red zone this season.
"When we had success (against them) last year, we made them go the long way and we were able to hold them in the red zone. But if we don't get the red zone figured out, it's not really going to matter," Vrabel said. "Two out of three times last year, we were able to force them to kick field goals. But this year, we've given up one (touchdown) every game, and it's frustrating."
On the other side of the ball, Laurence Maroney had his first 100-yard rushing game this past week. And his backfield mate, newcomer Sammy Morris, continues to improve each week as well. He's posted some impressive yards-per-carry averages in his first three games in a Patriots uniform.
"I just haven't had the opportunity or the notoriety of some other guys, which is fine," Morris told reporters Wednesday. "I know what I'm capable of. I just needed the opportunity."
"He's very powerful and explosive,"observed QB Tom Brady. "He reads the field very well as a back and catches the ball very well. He's a threat in the passing game, he's a threat running the ball. He's been a great addition."
One of the reasons Morris and Maroney have had room to run, and Brady time to throw, is the stellar, if often unnoticed, play of New England's offensive line.
“They should never go unnoticed," Brady said in defense of his blockers. "Really, they set the tone for the entire offense. The more that those guys are into it and playing great, the more that we can establish running the football, which opens up play-action passes."
With Billy Yates and Russ Hochstein subbing for the injured Stephen Neal at right guard, the line's productivity has performed seamlessly. This, Belichick noted, has a silver lining to it as well.
"Absolutely, anytime a player steps in there and plays well for you, you feel good about your depth at that position. It's always good. As much as you hate to see a player go out, it's encouraging to see another player step in and do a good job. It gives you more confidence in him and your depth at that position and the overall consistency you can maintain as a team."
If there's one area of concern on this Patriots team, ESPN.com says today it knows where that is. Check out their diagnosis of New England's "leg" issue.