FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick is on to Cincinnati once again, and, in his estimation, that is quite the challenge.
“Obviously a very successful franchise, particularly over the last five years, they’re at the top of the league in terms of playoffs, divisions, so forth so they’ve had tremendous success,” Belichick said in his Wednesday morning news conference.
“This will be a big and tough test for us this week. Very good football team. Well coached, a lot of talent and I have a lot of respect for the Bengals from top to bottom,” Belichick said.
Watch: Jim McBride and Ben Volin give a practice report and talk Patriots-Bengals
Belichick heaped praise on many of the Bengals, particularly defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who he called “one of the most disruptive players in the league.”
“He has great explosion, quickness,” Belichick said. “He’s hard to block in the running game, he’s not the biggest guy but he’s explosive and he’s quick. He knocks blockers back and you know, if guys are over-aggressive on him he’s quick enough to slip them and get in the backfield and make plays.”
Atkins has 2.5 sacks through Week 5. He will battle a left side of the Patriots offensive line that has been strong and consistent.
On offense, Belichick said that wide receiver A.J. Green distinguishes himself from other top wideouts with good physical traits because of his quickness. While other receivers known for their speed tend to build it on deep routes or short catch-and-run plays, Green adds another dimension with elite stop-and-go speed that makes him dangerous on comebacks, cuts, curls, and other intermediate routes.
“He has great quickness at the top of those routes, excellent hands so he’s able to extend and create separation with his length and his catching skills,” Belichick said. “He makes some incredible one-handed catches or catches where the defender’s just draped all over him and he’s able to get his hands a few inches out further than the defenders and make the play.”
The combination of Green’s ability to gain a step by changing direction and his exceptional catch radius allows him to beat excellent coverage. Green has 518 yards (second in the league) and two touchdowns on 36 catches this season.
“We’ve seen plenty of plays where when a ball’s released, you’re saying, ‘This isn’t going to be a completion.’ The defender’s right there in perfect position, he’s all over him, how’s this guy going to catch the ball and he ends up with the ball at the end of the play,” Belichick said.
Belichick was content to talk about the Bengals and only the Bengals. He said it had been “good” to have quarterback Tom Brady back with the team for the last week but that “it’s not anything we’ve never experienced before.”
Asked if reaching this point in the season with no bangs and bruises on his quarterback was a blessing in disguise, Belichick said he didn’t know.
“That would be a great question to ask [Brady],” he said.
Belichick was also not interested in discussing critical comments tight end Martellus Bennett made about the Chicago Bears, his former team, in an ESPN piece with his brother. Bennett questioned quarterback Jay Culter’s leadership and insulted the players in the Bears locker room.
“Trying to get our team ready to play Cincinnati. That’s really my job, so that’s what I’m concerned about,” Belichick said. “I’m not worried about any other team or some other random comments, it’s not really on my radar.”