By: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
December 13, 2004

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R.R. Marshall: Steve, the game on Sunday against the Bengals took a back seat to the news that Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis landed the heading coaching job at Notre Dame. What was your reaction to the news?

Steve Grogan: I'm happy for Charlie Weis, but I think there's no question this is going to be a big blow to the Patriots' offense. More than likely the same thing is going to happen to Patriots' defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. He will be interviewed for a few jobs once the season is over and has a good chance of becoming a head coach somewhere. Charlie called his usually good game, and the play where he brought in the passing offense right at the end of the first half in a goalline situation and then ran the ball underneath with Kevin Faulk for a touchdown was just a great call.

I thought the deal Notre Dame offered him was just way too much to pass up. The trend in recent years has been college coaches moving to the pro ranks but they haven't had much success, and I think it's going to be interesting to see how Charlie runs things down there. He's not a warm and fuzzy guy like Pete Carroll was going to Southern Cal. I think he will do well with recruiting because kids going to a college program want to reach the NFL, and with Charlie's NFL connections kids will know he can help them get to the next level. But I do wonder whether they will be able to understand his complicated offenses and how someone like him who had the authority to do whatever he wanted as a pro coach now will do when he has to go smooze a bunch of 18-year old kids. That can be a big change for a coach, believe me.

RRM: There's been a lot of discussion about whether Weis will be able to give his full attention to his duties here as coordinator during the Patriots' stretch drive while attending to his Notre Dame obligations. Didn't one of the coaches you played for get fired over such a conflict of interest?

SG: Coaches are professionals and are usually pretty good at putting things aside and compartmentalizing things. Charlie will probably delegate a little more authority now if the Patriots let him, but I really don't see this being a big problem. Back in 1978 Chuck Fairbanks was suspended right before the last game of the season when it was discovered he had taken the head coaching job at Colorado. That's a real contrast to the way the present regime is handling the situation. Bill Belichick absolutely refuses to address it, using an out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy. I do think things are going to be a little awkward for awhile, but I really believe all of the principles involved will be able to handle everything.

RRM: Will Bill Belichick go outside the Patriots' organization to replace him or do you think he will hire from within?

SG: I think Bill Belichick will look within his family of coaches to replace his offensive coordinator, as well as his defensive coordinator if Crennel leaves after the season. He has some good young coaches that have been on his staff for three or four years that I would think he would elevate to those posts. Hopefully this team can keep moving on without missing a beat.

RRM: There actually was a football game played at Gillette Stadium over the weekend which saw the Patriots outlast a game Bengals team by the count of 35-28. The Pats yielded 478 yards of total offense and never really stopped the Bengals, but they scored 35 points and I guess that was enough on this given Sunday?

SG: They are a very good offensive team with a good young quarterback in Carson Palmer, and I thought they put a real scare into the Patriots. I thought this was the first time that the Patriots' young, makeshift secondary really looked confused and had some real problems. Fortunately the defense came up with a touchdown and the offense played really well. I'm not overly concerned because I think they will get some things corrected this week and they will have some people coming back. Tyrone Poole got back on the field and played a little bit, and Ty Law should be back before the playoffs. Yes, they allowed a lot of points and gave up a ton of yards to the Bengals but they still found a way to win and I think they'll be all right.

RRM: It appeared when the Patriots opened up the second half with a 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a Tom Brady to Christian Fauria 17-yard touchdown pass that they were in firm control of the game ahead 35-14. Instead Patriots Nation had to endure a white-knuckler with the Bengals fighting their way back into the game?

SG: It was strange because all through the game you felt like the Patriots were going to win but the Bengals just kept clawing back. Every time the Patriots would open up a lead Carson Palmer would make something happen, and when he got hurt the veteran Jon Kitna came in and played really well. Even though you felt that the Patriots were the better team there was just that little doubt in the back of your mind that the Bengals were going to come up with a play that would put themselves ahead. It was a little scary. There were a lot of twists and turns in this game. I thought when the Patriots scored two touchdowns in a 12 second span in the second quarter on the long touchdown pass to David Patten and the interception return by Asante Samuel that would have put the dagger in the heart of the Bengals, but I was impressed with they way they just fought right back. Another key sequence for the Patriots was scoring right at the end of the half on the Kevin Faulk touchdown and then starting off the third quarter with a touchdown like you mentioned.

This game really showed me what an up and coming team the Bengals are. I was impressed with how solid the Bengals are offensively. They have a good young running back in Rudi Johnson as well as some young wide receivers like Chad Johnson that can make plays. They have a solid offensive line and they run the ball with authority and protect Palmer well. I hadn't seen Carson Palmer play that much but I can tell you after seeing him that he is going to be a good one in this league for a long time. He moved around better than I thought he could and he was just murder on third down plays. The Bengals really haven't had a star quarterback since Boomer Esiason, but now it looks like they have a future star on their hands. Their head coach Marvin Lewis has them heading in the right direction, and if the ownership finally decides to spend some money this team could become really good in the next few years.

RRM: The Bengals weren't without their own assortment of big plays. Rookie punter Kyle Larson scored on a fake field goal that got his club right back in the game. What happened on that play?

SG: You could tell Larson hadn't run the ball a whole lot; he was tiptoeing through the hole like he was trying to hide from somebody [laughs]. But that was the kind of mistake you don't like to see a championship team like the Patriots make. Usually that fake is called ahead of time and if you get the right alignment from the defense you go ahead and run it, and if not you kick the ball. The Bengals apparently saw what they were looking for with the Patriots overloaded on one side and they took advantage of it. The Patriots are going to have to change some things on their field goal defense unit because that play demonstrated the opposition is picking up their trends and you don't want to see a repeat of what happened against the Bengals.

RRM: Even though the Patriots won the last two weeks Tom Brady was criticized for a couple of subpar efforts. After going 18 for 26 with two scores and no interceptions this week I guess it's fair to say he's out of his slump?

SG: Brady played very well in this game. He looked really confident in what he was doing, and they needed him to be that way because of the off day by the defense. Corey Dillon had 88 yards rushing but really wasn't the focus of the offense in this game. The Bengals' defense was intent on trying to shut him down to try and force the Patriots to throw the football, but Brady came up with a big game right when his team really needed it.

RRM: Before I forget, did you ever complete a pass while lying on your backside like Tom Brady did?

SG: No, I don't believe so, and I don't imagine too many pro quarterbacks have. The legend of Tom Brady just keeps growing. It seems he can do it all, even when he's sitting down! He is just unbelievable. I'm not sure that he saw the open receiver Patrick Pass downfield, and if he was really just trying to throw the ball out of bounds. Either way it worked out pretty well, and you can be sure that play will show up in a lot of NFL highlights from now on.

RRM: This was a big game for Corey Dillon, who was facing his former team for the first time. He was quiet about it all week but I guess he did his talking on the field?

SG: Corey Dillon has certainly been a different player than the people in Cincinnati saw personality-wise during his time there. He's been a big part of this team, and now that the Patriots have clinched the division title he's made the playoffs for the first time in his career so he has to be happy about that. He's been a model citizen since he's put on that Patriots' uniform, and that's been good for everyone on the team.

RRM: Besides being on a winning team for the first time Dillon also doesn't have to wear that hideous uniform any more. Aren't the Bengals' uniforms the ugliest you've seen in the NFL?

SG: No, actually I think their home uniforms are even uglier than their road uniforms! It's really not one of my favorite uniform designs, and let's just leave it at that.

RRM: Next up the Pats journey south for a Monday night encounter with the Dolphins. Any chance they might be a shade overconfident against a woeful 2-11 Miami squad?

SG: A lot of teams would get lulled into a state of overconfidence going into a game like this, but I think this team has proven that they know how to get up for every game they play and I just don't see them having a letdown at this point in the season. I think the Dolphins are a different team than the one that the Patriots beat back in October. They've gone through a coaching change and sometimes that sparks a team. They still are not a great football team, and they are the kind of team that the Patriots should be able to go down and beat fairly handily it they do everything correctly. It's a Monday night game so it's bigger than a normal game. They're playing on the road, and while the Patriots will be glad to get down to some nice warm weather they have to stick to business and take care of the Dolphins so they will still have a chance at getting that #1-seed in the playoffs.

RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the division-clinching win over the Bengals in Week #13?

SG: It's not often I'm very critical when a team wins a football game, but I have to go with only a B- for this one. I thought the defense really dragged them down. They were only average to below average against the Bengals so I'll give them a C-. The defense has got to be able to step up and play well against good players like Carson Palmer and it just didn't happen in this game. This was the first time their young secondary really got exploited, although it was nice to see Troy Brown come up with an endzone interception after they had picked on him time and again. To be fair they are missing a lot of key players like Law and Poole, as well as a guy no one seems to talk about in Roman Phifer. The offense played well and deserves an A for their effort. Tom Brady had an outstanding game and got a lot of support from his teammates on offense. David Givens wasn't able to play and David Patten stepped it up with a 100-yard receiving game. They just continue to have players step up when they need them, and if they can keep that formula going while getting some of their injured players back they should be in good shape for the postseason.

Grogan's Grades for Week #13

Offense: A
Defense: C-
Overall: B-