Patriots, cornerback Talib prepare for Bengals, wide receiver Green
New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) celebrates his interception thrown by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) as Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) walks by during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England’s Aqib Talib quieted one of the top receivers in the league last week. All the Patriots’ shutdown cornerback has to do this week is exactly that all over again.
After blanketing Atlanta’s Julio Jones during New England’s 30-23 victory Sunday night, Talib will now draw Cincinnati’s A.J. Green when the Patriots (4-0) meet the Bengals (2-2) on Sunday.
Jones entered his clash with Talib tied for the NFL lead in receptions with 27, while amassing a league-leading 373 yards. Talib held him to just three catches for 22 yards on his first 10 targets, and hauled in a key interception on a deep pass – intended for Jones – in the fourth quarter.
Despite a struggle last week against Cleveland, Green enters Sunday with 26 catches, 300 yards and three touchdowns. It’ll be another Talib test.
“This isn’t my second game of the season, or my life or nothing,” Talib said. “I’ve been doing it for a while now.”
Talib takes pride in his work week, noting that the film sessions, and the workouts – both physical and mental – never end regardless of if he’s preparing for Jones, Green or anyone else.
“Julio Jones was done at about 12 o’ clock on Sunday,” Talib said, meaning midnight, around the time the Falcons’ loss to the Patriots ended. “Me personally, to be honest, I go home, I watch the tape, be up all night, and before I go to sleep, the next thing I watched was Cincinnati.
“So, I’ve been off Atlanta. It’s been Cincinnati since early Monday morning.”
Perhaps that’s why the Patriots traded a fourth-round pick to Tampa Bay for Talib last season, and then signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason. He’s proven worthy so far, helping shore up a porous pass defense. He already has four interceptions this season.
“Aqib has done a good job for us,” New England Coach Bill Belichick said. “Smart player, good communicator, really competes hard, really competes well every day in practice and competes well on the field.
“Whatever he’s asked to do – man coverage, zone coverage, tackling, special teams, whatever – he really works hard, competes hard and is a smart guy with good skills.”
Green was drafted two spots before Jones in 2011. He has helped lead a Bengals’ resurgence on offense, though he was held to 51 yards on seven catches vs. the Browns.
“He’s A.J. Green. He brings his own stuff to the table,” Talib said, comparing him to Jones. “He has his own quarterback. He’s just different.”
Patriots safety Devin McCourty, however, holds the two in the same regard.
“They’re both great players,” he said. “They both do a great job for their team, going up, getting the ball, making plays. They’re more similar than different.”
While Talib has played a major part in the Patriots’ first 4-0 start since 2007, the defense still has plenty to work on before becoming one of the league’s top-rated units.
“You’re all looking at all the positive stuff,” Talib said. “We applaud the positives, but we really look at the negatives and see how we can get better.”
Talib, too, has room for improvement. But where?
“We don’t want to expose that kind of information to everybody,” Talib said with a grin. “We kind of keep that information to ourselves.”