The Patriots are preparing to take on the Bengals on Sunday in Ton Brady's return to Gillette Stadium, so that can mean only one thing: We're on to Cincinnati.
Well, not so much. Bill Belichick held his Wednesday press conference, and while much of it concerned the struggling 2-3 Bengals and their pending visit, the coach did not utter his now famous phrase.
He did have plenty of nice things to say about Marvin Lewis' team, however.
"Marvin does a great job with the team, their fundamentals, their execution, again their overall consistency," Belichick said. "They're very explosive offensively. They have great skill players. They have a solid offensive line, good quarterback.
"Defensively, they have a very disruptive front. They have a lot of heavy hitters at linebacker and safety. Talented corners and they've added a strong dimension in the kicking game with [Alex] Erickson. Good specialists, well-coached there; Darrin Simmons does a great job and is one of the best special teams coaches in the league. This will be a big and tough test this week. A very good football team, well-coached, a lot of talent. I have a lot of respect for the Bengals, from top to bottom."
That served as a tone-setter for the daily briefing, which continued to praise the Bengals despite their slow start.
It's not easy beating Green – One of the elements of the Bengals that Belichick was particularly impressed with is wide receiver A.J. Green. The All-Pro wideout is as dangerous as they comes and enters the game ranked second in the NFL in both receptions (36) and yards (518). Belichick says it's his footwork that sets him apart.
"The quickest; very quick. He has good stop and start quickness, he's a very good intermediate route runner," the coach began. "Green's very good at intermediate routes, comebacks, in-cuts, curls, routes like that. He has great quickness at the top of his route and excellent hands so he's able to extend and create separation with his length and his catching skills.
"He makes some incredible one-handed catches or catches where the defender is just draped all over him and he's able to just get his hands a few inches out further than the defender's and make the play. His catch radius is exceptional. But I'd say the thing that really to me puts him at the top of the league in receivers is his ability to affect all three levels, particularly those intermediate routes."
Bigger not always better – On defense the Bengals also have some high-end talent. One of the best examples would be defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Belichick was asked about his ability to disrupt the pocket from the interior, where he's already recorded 2.5 sacks this season.
"One of the most disruptive players in the league. He has great explosion and quickness. He's hard to block in the running game. I mean he's not the biggest guy but he's explosive and he's quick," Belichick said. "He knocks blockers back and if guys are overaggressive on him he's quick enough to slip them and get in the backfield and make plays.
Belichick also pointed out the depth the Bengals have along the defensive front.
"They do a good job with [Pat] Simsand [Domata] Peko. I mean they have three players in there. They're all a little bit different but they're all good, and then of course Atkins in the passing game is very disruptive. He's usually on the opposite side from [Carlos] Dunlap so it's hard if you're five-on-four; it's hard to get help to both sides. It's impossible. He's a dynamic player, great motor, quickness, balance, playing strength, instincts, really good.
"And Dunlap's equally disruptive and effective on the other side. A different style but long, great ball awareness, causes a lot of fumbles, strip sacks, good pass rusher, hard to block because he's so long, very athletic, occasionally gets into coverage, a hard guy to throw over, takes up a lot of space. Will Clarke's done a good job for them; [Michael] Johnson. I mean they've got a good front; very good."
Special attention – Belichick mentioned Simmons, Cincinnati's special teams coach, and was later asked about any influence that former Patriots special teams coach Scott O'Brien may have had on him. Simmons worked under O'Brien in Baltimore and Carolina before landing the Bengals job.
"Very much. Yeah, very much. They're very good fundamentally. They have good techniques. They have I would say good players but they give you tough schemes," Belichick explained. "Your protection is going to get challenged with them. Their field goal rush is very good. Their punt rushes are always challenging. They do a good job in the return game. They've got a lot of size in the kicking game. They have some big guys that are hard to matchup against. They have good speed players and their gunners and their penetrators are good, very experienced. I mean they're a good unit. [Vincent] Rey does a real good job. He's one of the better special teams linebackers in the league.
"There must be a third of the coaches that have worked under him but yeah, Darrin especially. Darrin was there for five years in Baltimore and Carolina and then took the Cincinnati job from there, so really the only coach he worked under was Scott. I mean besides the head coach, besides Marvin."