After missing the Cowboys’ last two games with an ailing hamstring, Austin practiced in full on Wednesday, as did Bryant, who is nursing a thigh injury.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, he knows how to go up there and get the ball, he’s good after the catch. He’s a beast,” Chung said of Bryant. “We’ve got to find a way to stop him. They definitely have threats out there and they definitely have a good quarterback to get them the ball.”
One telling trait that has successfully translated from week to week is the Patriots‘ ability to shut down tight ends. New England last week limited Dustin Keller to one catch for seven yards. More impressive, though, was their effort in a Week 2 victory over the Chargers, when they held San Diego’s Antonio Gates, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, without a single catch.
With another seven-time Pro Bowler in Jason Witten looming, the Patriots are ready to keep the trend up.
“Any time you have a tight end like Keller or Gates who is going to affect their offense and get open and have big plays, you’ve got to make sure that you try to get those guys at the line of scrimmage before they get going,” Ninkovich said. “I think Witten is a great player, so you have to make sure that you try and stop him.”
Perhaps the Patriots‘ prowess at slowing tight ends stems from one of their own. After all, defending 6-foot-6, 265-pound Rob Gronkowski in practice daily can only help.
“He’s a good guy to compare Witten to,” Ninkovich said, “as far as size and being able to be a receiving tight end as well as a blocking tight end.”
No matter how many yards, points or big plays they allow, the Patriots‘ defense cares about only one thing.
“We’re still winning these games, which is a good thing,” Ninkovich said, “and I think that as long as we continue to get the offense the ball and let them do what they do best, we’re going to be all right.”
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