CINCINNATI -- After three weeks of seeing the Cincinnati Bengals run trick plays and trot out unique formations, opposing coaches and players are beginning to take note.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt had his defense practice against the very receiver-to-quarterback pass the Bengals employed in their 33-7 win over Tennessee. Whisenhunt's teaching wasn't quite enough, as Mohamed Sanu was able to complete the pass to Andy Dalton, who ran for a touchdown.
The New England Patriots' preparation for Sunday night's game also has included preparing for the unexpected. During a news conference earlier this week, Bill Belichick was asked about how defending the quirky plays of the Bengals could affect the quickness with which his defense can react.
"If you don't see [a particular trick play] very often, you aren't thinking about it or maybe you're not respecting it enough, and then it comes and it hits you," Belichick said. "Then you don't see it again for another year, but the damage is done. That's the way I would characterize those plays.
"Not that there's not a way to defend them, not that there's a magic to the play, but it's a play you haven't seen that we're not practicing against, because I'm sure the ones that [the Bengals] have already run, they're probably less inclined to run those. They're probably more inclined to run a new play that they're working on, and that's the one that we'll have to react to in the game. That's the challenge of those plays. The challenge on the other side of it is execution. Some play that you don't run very much, it's calling it at the right time to get maybe a look that you think will be good against that and then being able to execute it well. The Bengals have done a very good job of executing those plays."
Belichick said the key to defending the trick play is one fundamental principle.
"It comes down to everybody doing their job," he said. "It isn't everybody's job to stop everything. It's one person's job to handle a certain responsibility, whatever that is. It's somebody else's job to handle other plays. If they're running a sweep one way, then you have to play the sweep. Somebody else has to play the reverse. One guy's not playing both plays. That's kind of the 'do your job' mentality of taking care of what you have to take care of. Somebody else has to take care of what they have to take care of.
"I've never coached a defense where you tell the players, 'Well, we don't have a reverse on this play if they run it.' That would be a touchdown. Or if they run a halfback pass, that nobody is responsible for that and that will be a touchdown. Or if they run an end around, we don't really have that play. I just don't think you could coach like that. Somebody has to be responsible for plays over there. If they start over there, then somebody has to be responsible for a play back there. If a guy reverses his field or they run a reverse or they throw a double pass or the quarterback peels out of the backfield, whatever it is, there are fundamental responsibilities, and those plays are part of the responsibilities."