For an inexperienced defensive unit, the New England Patriots secondary showed the Bengals they are ready to hang with the best.
They held the Bengals air-raid squad at bay, as Palmer was only able to hook up with Ochocinco once for a TD (not bad considering he is one of the best 3rd down receivers in the league) and his second passing touchdown was a one yard completion to a tight end.
Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Terrence Wheatley, and Jonathan Wilhite stepped up and made plays when they had to, limiting the Bengals two star receivers to 19 receptions for 212 yards and one touchdown. If the 24-3 halftime score wasn't enough evidence the young defensive backs had flustered the Bengals, Ochocinco and Owens leaving the field early proved the young guns were doing their job.
McCourty's ability to hang with the veteran Bengal receivers could have impressed even the most skeptical viewer. The first round pick from Rutgers displayed dazzling speed and did not look like a rookie covering two of the NFL's best. Whether it was ripping the ball out of Ochocinco's hands, deflecting a pass, or staying toe to toe with Owens down-field, he showed the Patriots organization and fans that they did not waste a first round pick. “Just to be able to make that play gave me a little bit of momentum and kept the defense going,’’ McCourty said. “Any time you can stop the offense going deep, it’s a good play.’’
Their game wasn't perfect, but the intensity level and true potential of this unit shined through. Bengals running back Bernard Scott may have said it best, "we knew their defense was young, but they suprised us." When a Bengal receiver was able to make a catch, Meriweather and Chung were right there to provide the hit. Meriweather has already proved himself as a threat at safety, and Chung was flying around and hitting people like his senior year at Oregon.
Chemistry is not an issue, these guys must get along off the field. They appear to have molded together and embraced the "us against the world" attitude, determined to demand the respect of opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. There is no single all-star, just a bunch of young talent excited to make the big play and ready to have the back of a teammate.
The next test for this band of brothers is the New York Jets. After playing well against veteran Carson Palmer and his self proclaimed dynamic-duo of "Batman" and "Robin" at wide receiver, these young Patriots are ready to sink their teeth into second year quarterback Mark Sanchez and a questionable group of wide-outs. Sanchez will most likely struggle, and give the Patriots defensive backs some additional confidence as they get deeper into a season of high expectations.