By: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
December 21, 2004

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R.R. Marshall: Steve, it looked like another sure Patriots' win with an 11-point lead and four minutes left to play on Monday night. But for those that went to bed early the Dolphins rallied for a 29-28 win that left Patriots Nation up in arms. What was your take on the game?

Steve Grogan: I thought Miami played really hard, but the Patriots played really hard as well. They really didn't do anything terribly wrong outside of Tom Brady throwing four interceptions but they were guilty of letting Miami hang around for too long, and the Dolphins were finally able to make a play to win the game.

RRM: I have to take issue with you on that. The Patriots seemed very undisciplined in this game, allowing a long punt return that set up a touchdown, and they also committed several foolish penalties that ended up costing them dearly in this game?

SG: I was thinking more regarding the Patriots' offense but you're right, they did do a lot of things to hurt themselves in this game. The Patriots opened the game with a 77-yard scoring drive and then allowed Miami right back into the game with a breakdown on special teams that allowed Wes Welker to take a punt back 71 yards. Miami scored shortly after that, and instead of being in command the Patriots allowed the Dolphins right back into the football game. The penalties on Rodney Harrison were just stupid mistakes that don't need to be made by a good football player, and they came at crucial times in the game.

RRM: The Patriots are now 1-7 in Miami in the month of December, and I imagine that brings back a lot of bad memories for you?

SG: I really don't want to think about it! I just don't know why the team's record is so poor in Miami late in the season. The Dolphins always have a great defense that gives the Patriots trouble, and there are just certain teams that you don't match up well against. In this case Tom Brady does not match up well against the Miami defense. I know people were worried about a letdown against a Miami team that had won only two games this season, but I would have thought not playing very well last week against Cincinnati would have provided a lot of motivation for the Patriots. That didn't seem to work. This is the kind of team where we really haven't worried about then playing against poor teams, but there is some doubt in the back of your mind now.

RRM: Last week the former great head coach of the Dolphins Don Shula stated that this was the lowest point in the history of the Miami Dolphins' franchise. Do you think that or the orange jerseys provided any extra motivation for the Miami players in this game?

SG: It might have motivated them a little bit, but to be honest I doubt many of the current Miami players even know who Don Shula is. You'd be surprised at how many young football payers don't know the history of the game. Maybe down there in Miami he has such a big name that they do know him, but when someone of his stature does say something like that it is embarrassing to you and it probably gives you a little bit of extra motivation.

As far as the orange jerseys go you certainly wanted to adjust the color on your TV when the Dolphins first came out on the field! They were pretty ugly, but they did seem to fire them up. The funny thing is the problem with them winning the game is it probably cost them the #1 pick in the NFL draft this spring. The Dolphins are in a no-win situation. If they win they drop further down in the draft order and if they lose the fan base is all over their case. It's been a tough year for them down there.

RRM: Tom Brady suffered four interceptions, including a horrible throw that was picked off by Miami's Brendon Ayanbadejo to set up the game-winning score. I'll ask the question I'm sure everyone was shouting,”WHAT WAS BRADY THINKING”??

SG: I think that Tom Brady is so confident in his ability that he believes he can make every throw. When the game remained close I think he felt he had to make a big play to open things up and it turned out to be a bad play, and it turned out to be a big play for the Dolphins. Miami has people like Jason Taylor that can rush the passer and when you're under heavy pressure that's when you have to get rid of the ball quickly, and Brady wasn't doing that. They only sacked him twice but they had a lot of quarterback pressures and he started forcing things because of that. The ball he tried to throw while he was going down that ended up getting picked off (and set up the game-winning touchdown) should never have been thrown, but believe me he knows that as well as anyone.

RRM: You've had games where you threw four interceptions. Can you tell us what Tom Brady is going through right now?

SG: I've had games where I've thrown four interceptions and believe me it's depressing. You walk in the locker room and you know that you've let your teammates down, and they know you've let them down. It takes a week to get over it until you can get back out there and do it right the next time.

RRM: Who would have thought that A.J. Feely would be the star quarterback in this game, completing 22 of 35 passes for 198 yards and coming up with the big throws when he really needed them?

SG: That was the first really good game Feely has had for Miami this year. He didn't throw for a lot of yards but he was tough on third down and most importantly he didn't make any key mistakes. That's what everybody was expecting to see from him but it didn't happen. It looked like their game plan was to take advantage of Troy Brown. They threw at him a bunch of times, and even though Troy is working his tail off he's still a wide receiver and an older veteran trying to play a new position. Miami made some big plays against him including Feely's touchdown pass. They matched up Derrius Thompson against Troy on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, and Thompson had a big height advantage and was able to use that edge to make the catch. This is still a young Patriots secondary that is learning every week, and in this game the Dolphins were able to get some balls down the field on them which is all part of the learning experience.

RRM: When I saw that Zach Thomas was out of the game for Miami I figured the Patriots offense would have a big game, and even though they rang up 322 yards and 28 points you couldn't help but get the feeling they should have done more?

SG: Miami actually had a couple of linebackers out due to injury and that should have made their defense weak, but they were still able to keep everything in front of them. Corey Dillon came through with another 100-yard rushing game, but the Dolphins didn't give up any big plays and that's been the savior for the Patriots so many times this year. All the teams have been geared up to stop Corey Dillon which has allowed Brady to go down the field, but Miami has two really good corners and then they have the safeties over the top and there's just no place to go with the ball. I was kind of surprised because I expected the Patriots to just pound away with Dillon all night long, but he had the one big run on the first play of the game and there were never any other big runs after that.

RRM: I couldn't help but wonder what you as a quarterback would have done when the Patriots unveiled their no-defensive linemen deployment in the second half?

SG: I would have called timeout [laughs]! I would have been hoping my offensive linemen were smart enough to figure it out. Actually after the Patriots tried it the first time the Dolphins didn't seem to have much trouble against it. While it certainly is an unusual look, I don't see them using it a whole lot. It's probably a two-or-three-times-a-game kind of thing, but it's something that forces the opposition to spend valuable practice time to prepare for it just in case the Patriots decide to use it.

RRM: I have to ask if you saw the interview with former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams on Sunday night, and if so what you thought about it?

SG: I did see a little bit of it. I guess some guys just love the game more than others, and Ricky just isn't one of them. I think he has some really deep-rooted personality problems. He is someone that just isn't comfortable in the limelight and he is willing to walk away from millions of dollars a year and something he is very good at as well to be comfortable within himself. I know it's strange for all of us to understand, but that's the way it is with him.

RRM: Do you think he will ever come back and play football again?

SG: From what I took out of that interview I don't ever expect to see him back in the NFL. I think he's made up his mind he doesn't want to play the game, and it would really surprise me to see him back anytime soon. Other great runners like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders retired from the game at an early age, but they both had great careers for a fairly long period of time. But Ricky Williams had so much potential and he walked away from the game, and it's kind of a shame.

RRM: The Patriots must now regroup and get ready for Sunday's battle against the division-rival New York Jets in the Meadowlands. Chad Pennington hasn't shown a lot of arm strength since his return to the lineup, but can you afford to depend on that when you chart the game plan this week?

SG: As confident as we've felt about this team going into most every game this year there are definitely some doubts in my mind on whether they are good enough right now to beat a good football team. The Patriots have a lot of work to do this week. They have to figure out how to cut down the mistakes and spring the big plays when they need them. They also have to force the other team into making the mistakes, which has been an element this team has thrived on all season but has been lacking of late.

I've heard the same things that you have about Pennington but he still managed to carve up Seattle pretty well last week so don't be fooled into thinking he can't be effective. You still have to get pressure on him and he has some weapons to work with like Santana Moss. I still think the way to beat the Jets is to take Curtis Martin out of the game and make Pennington beat you any way he can. He still hasn't shown me that he's the type of quarterback that can take over a game and dominate it. Curtis Martin is their horse, and that's the guy I would try to stop.

RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the shocking loss to the Dolphins in Week #14?

SG: I'm going to have to go with a D. There was some effort there on the Patriots' part but not enough to show me that they were a team that played up to their ability. I thought everyone on the team played below average. Both sides of the ball played well at times but they also played poorly at times, and their effort wasn't good enough against even a team of Miami's caliber. It shouldn't have wound up that way but it did, so it's time to go back to the drawing board and hope they can get back on track. At least no one seemed to get hurt on Monday night (although we're still awaiting word on Kevin Faulk) and they will be relatively healthy for the game this Sunday. They have to regroup and win these next two games to clinch at least one home game in the playoffs. I'm heading for Kansas to spend the holiday with my family and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Grogan's Grades for Week #14

Offense: D
Defense: D
Overall: D

Steve, R.R. Marshall, and all the gang at wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas! Talk to you next week.