Falcons are tough matchup for Pats

Mark Schlereth discusses why the Falcons are playing the Patriots at a terrible time for New England.

Updated: October 7, 2005, 6:19 PM ET
By Mark Schlereth | ESPN Insider
Last week's New England Patriots-San Diego Chargers matchup may have exposed the Patriots' biggest weakness since their dynasty began. Before this game, a lot of people (including myself) wondered how the loss of safety Rodney Harrison, coupled with the loss of linebacker Tedy Bruschi, would affect the Patriots -- and we got our answer in New England's 41-17 loss. The Chargers dominated the middle of the field and knocked the Patriots all over the place.

The Chargers executed their best plays in the middle of the field, where Bruschi and Harrison would normally patrol. Normally, the Patriots are able to scheme away from their weaknesses whenever they face injuries, but I'm not sure they will be able to do that this season because of the talent and intelligence they've lost. To counter this weakness, they will probably show a lot of different looks to the opposing offense. That could create a sense of confusion for the quarterback and force him to audible to a bad play or hurry a throw.

The only problem is that teams usually get ready for their games by scouting the past four games an upcoming opponent has played, so that technique will be picked up by New England's opponents.

Former All-Pro guard Mark Schlereth joined ESPN in 2002 as an analyst for NFL 2Night, now NFL Live. He brings 12 years of NFL playing experience to the role. Schlereth has also filled in on numerous ESPN radio shows.