By: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
November 01, 2004

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R.R. Marshall: Steve, I guess we all knew the streak had to come to an end, and it finally did on Sunday with a 34-20 loss in Pittsburgh. But I think what most fans are disappointed over is the way the Patriots were just totally dominated by the Steelers?

Steve Grogan: That was one of the ugliest performances I've seen this football team put on since the Buffalo game at the start of last season. When you finally lose one after 21 straight wins you hoped it would have been a little more of a tighter football game, but that was not the case. When you play a good team like the Steelers who are on top of their game and you play poorly the game will generally turn into a rout, which is exactly what happened in this game. You have to give the Steelers a lot of credit because they came into this contest with a good game plan for the Patriots. But you also have to look at all the injuries that have plagued the Patriots recently, and with Corey Dillon out they had no running game whatsoever and that really hurt them in this game.

RRM: The Patriots inability to hold onto the football certainly contributed to their demise. As you are fond of saying when you commit four turnovers you aren't going to win too many football games?

SG: Turnovers were a big factor in this game. Kevin Faulk has a history of fumbling and he certainly didn't endear himself to the coaching staff with his inability to hold onto the ball against the Steelers. When you fumble the ball away and the other team scores, that kind of takes the wind out of your sails and makes it hard to come back. The 39-yard interception return for a touchdown by Deshea Townsend was the one that really hurt because it was the Steelers third touchdown in just over three minutes, and suddenly you're down 21-3 on the road in the first quarter. That is just a huge obstacle to overcome for any team.

RRM: Was not having Corey Dillon available for this game as big a factor as the final score indicated?

SG: I think him being out hurt them both psychologically as well as physically. He hurt his leg in practice this week and they worked him out before the game and made the decision that he couldn't go. Not having him available against a physical team like the Steelers took away an important weapon from the offense. The Patriots weren't able to pound the ball up in there against the Steelers, and they had to rely on Tom Brady to do everything himself. But with a couple of receivers and a starting tackle out (and you can add the loss of Matt Light during the game) it put a lot of pressure on him and he wasn't able to get it done.

Brady tried to bring the team back in the second half, and although Pittsburgh was giving the Patriots the short stuff, they were making them drive the ball the length of the field. That was extremely hard to do when they couldn't mix a run in there every once in a while. Without the threat of a run the Steelers could just blitz at will and it really made life difficult for Brady all afternoon long.

RRM: Perhaps the most surprising element of this game was that the Patriots were so thoroughly beaten physically by the Steelers across the line of scrimmage. I can't recall the last time that happened?

SG: The Patriots were dominated up front on both sides of the ball, and when you are playing against a good football team like the Steelers you can't let that happen. I find it hard to believe that their offensive and defensive lines are that much better than those of the Patriots. The Patriots defense was on the field for long stretches of time which may have played a factor in them allowing the Steelers to run for over 200 yards in this game. I think we need to find out more this week in St. Louis, and if it happens again then we have big worries.

RRM: Someone mentioned that the Steelers were out for retribution for the Patriots beating them in the AFC Championship Game back in 2001. Does the revenge factor really stretch back that far for players?

SG: A lot of the Steelers players that lost to the Patriots in that game are still there and they don't forget things like that, so I'm sure that had an effect on them and gave them a little extra motivation. But you can't credit the Steelers enough for playing a good football game. Other than some foolish penalties they played just an outstanding game on both sides of the ball.

RRM: Pittsburgh's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't look like a rookie with the way he played against the Patriots. Now I guess it's easy to see how he's won his first five NFL starts?

SG: I was impressed with him. He's a big, strong kid, and they had a couple of chances to sack him and he just used his size to get away and get the ball down the field. He's got a great arm, and it looks like he's going to be a fine player for a long time in this league. When Ty Law got hurt he took advantage of Randall Gay right away by beating him on the long throw to Plexico Burress. I really thought the Patriots would be able to come up with some way to confuse him but he didn't get rattled.

RRM: Steelers linebacker Jerry Porter was a one-man wrecking crew, sacking Brady three times and forcing the Kevin Faulk fumble at the start of the second half that sealed the Patriots fate. How did it take five years for this guy to be named to the All-Pro squad?

SG: It's been awhile since I've seen an opposing player have such a dominant game like the one Jerry Porter had against the Patriots. They were having a hard time trying to deal with him, and they were forced to keep the tight end Daniel Graham in to help block him. That takes your tight end right out of the passing scheme, and Porter was a big reason why they weren't able to get anything consistently going on offense.

RRM: Switching gears for just a second, I know you followed the Red Sox during the postseason and like the rest of us were thrilled when they ended the Curse. Now that you've lived here for 30 years and been thoroughly immersed in the New England sports culture, can you tell us what it is like for an athlete from another part of the country who comes to play here?

SG: People around here just relish championships; they can't get enough of them. With the Red Sox not having won in 86 years it was just so special for them. You wouldn't see this kind of reaction anywhere else in the country. I come from Kansas and when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 1985 it was nothing compared to this. To get three million people out in the rain to watch the players ride in duckboats, as well as a million and a half people to come out in freezing cold weather to watch the Patriots ride in a parade is just unbelievable to me. New England is just a unique area that is consumed by sports, and especially winning sports. As an athlete it's both fun and a little scary to be a part of that, especially when your team isn't playing well. But when things are going well as they are for both the Patriots and the Red Sox right now it's the best place in the world to be a professional athlete.

RRM: Next up for the Pats is a trip to St. Louis, a city that was very hospitable to the Red Sox last week, but will the Rams be as kind to Patriots?

SG: I think the Patriots' players are going to be embarrassed by what happened in Pittsburgh and they will put a good, hard week of work in to get ready for the Rams. This loss to the Steelers should serve as a wake up call for them. St. Louis is another quality football team, and the Patriots can't play anywhere close to how they played against the Steelers and expect to come away with a victory. The Rams are a decidedly different opponent than the Steelers because they are not a physical team like Pittsburgh. Instead they depend on a big play passing attack, and the Rams have two outstanding wide receivers in Terry Holt and Isaac Bruce. They can really move the ball up and down the field on you, so it's definitely not a good week to be going into a game with two of your starting cornerbacks out.

It's going to take a much better effort than the one they had in Pittsburgh to come away with a victory in St. Louis on the Astroturf. The less the Rams have the ball the better off the Patriots will be, but that is going to be hard to do if Corey Dillon is not back in the lineup. It became painfully obvious that they couldn't run the football without him, and that's a little scary to ponder. You have to be concerned if Ty Law and Dillon are going to be out for an extended period of time, because it doesn't look to me like the Patriots have the kind of depth that they had last year when they played with so many guys hurt and still played well. This injury bug could be problem for them.

RRM: What are Grogan's Grades win over the Steelers in Week #7?

SG: I have to give them a D and the only reason I'm not giving them a failing grade is because of the level of the competition they were facing, but it was barely a passing grade. The only players worth mentioning were Rodney Harrison with 19 tackles and David Givens who made eight catches and scored two touchdowns. Givens has really been impressive, and when he plays that well you can't help but wonder just how good he can become. It was also nice to see Troy Brown back in action and make eight catches. But even if they continue to play well the offensive line has got to play better against the Rams or it's going to be another long Sunday afternoon for Tom Brady.

Grogan's Grades for Week #7

Offense: D
Defense: D
Overall: D

Everyone here at would like to congratulate Steve for being named the Boston Gridiron Club's Man of the Year! We all agree they couldn't have made a better choice.