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Patriots 60-second rant: Pass defense gets real test with Romo

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Oct. 11, 2011 @ 9:37 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The Patriots' pass defense caught a break in Week Five — they played Mark Sanchez and the Jets in a week in which the Jets were publicly committed to running more. That strategy backfired for New York, as Sanchez completed 16-of-26 passes for only 166 yards, not taking advantage of his playmaking receivers against a struggling secondary.

New England's "D" won't be so fortunate in Week Six. Expect Tony Romo to sling it, and sling it often.

Romo may be better known this season for his five interceptions, but he is completing passes at a 65.1 percent clip and has a QB rating of 92.9, which is ninth in the NFL. Romo should get WR Miles Austin back and will certainly look to exploit the Patriots' defense better than the Jets' offense did.

We said in this space last week that the Jets provided the opportunity for the pass rush to come alive, which would take pressure off a dinged-up and, in some spots, inexperienced secondary.

The Pats did sack Sanchez twice and knocked him down five times, but it certainly didn't look like, well, the Cowboys' pass rush. Romo has only been sacked seven times, even with a young O-line.

But if the Patriots flush Romo out of the pocket, he can create plays for Dallas. He throws well on the move and the Patriots' safeties have had some miscues. Romo will certainly be able to attack those weaknesses better than Sanchez did.

New England has Leigh Bodden back and healthy, and CB Ras-I Dowling could return to the field in Week Six, and the team may have found its starting free safety in James Ihedigbo.

We can't put too much stock into the Patriots' defensive performance against a Jets team that has no clue what its offensive identity is. Going against a Cowboys team that is coming off a bye, in need of a win with an offense that has potential to be explosive, this is the week the Patriots' passing defense needs to show up.

The Jets are still a formidable foe and it was an important victory for the Patriots, but it's that defense (which is ranked 32nd, still, by the way), that will be the Patriots' downfall this season. They caught a break in Week Five, but Romo won't let them off the hook in Week Six. It's time for the pass rush to show up and for the Pats' "D" to create turnovers.

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