By: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
November 08, 2006

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R.R. Marshall: Steve, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have hooked up in several classic duels over the years, unfortunately this wasn?t one of them as the Colts outlasted the Patriots 27-20 in a mistake-riddled contest. How did you see the game?

Steve Grogan: It was a fun game to watch but it did get pretty sloppy at times. I also thought it was a pretty poorly officiated game all the way around being as big a game as it was. The Patriots had their problems and the Colts had problems on defense, and while Indianapolis doesn?t have a great defense their offense is so darn good that they make up for it in that way. I think people have to remember that the Colts are a very, very good football team and the Patriots hung with them most of the night even though they turned the ball over five times and committed some stupid penalties on defense. The Colts have such a great offensive football team that you aren?t just going to stop them, but when you turn the ball over that much and give their offense first downs with dumb penalties on third down you?re asking for trouble against a team that is that good.

It was frustrating to see the Patriots make so many mental mistakes in this game. If they had gone out and gotten physically beaten that?s one thing, but to play them that close and that tough the entire game and turn the ball over and make so many stupid penalties on defense that?s frustrating. They played almost the entire game without Rodney Harrison and two of their offensive linemen, and when you look at the statistics you would have thought they lost the game 44-20. I really feel the Patriots have a good enough team to beat this Indianapolis team, and fortunately this is the game that doesn?t count. The one that really counts will be in January, and I think they?ll have a really good shot at that one.

RRM: The Colts came into this game with league?s worst rushing defense and yet as the game wore on the Patriots seem to get away from running the football. Why do you suppose that happened?

SG: I was asking that exact same question the entire second half. The Patriots ran the ball pretty well in the first half (97 yards) and everything was going along well, and they came out in the second half and it looked like they panicked and felt like they had to score points quickly. As a result they got away from the running game which I thought was a big mistake. I don?t understand if running the ball is your strength and defending the run is their weakness, why you would go away from that? It just didn?t make any sense to me.

RRM: I have to admit I got a bad feeling right from the start when I saw Bill Belichick wearing a red sweatshirt instead of his usual old gray one. Didn?t you?

SG: Go figure why he would do something like that. He may not have been superstitious before but he will be now that he?s lost a game wearing the red one!

RRM: Tom Brady had an up and down night, looking like his old self at times and forcing some balls at others. As his interception total started to mount in this game it almost seemed like he felt more pressure to get his team downfield quickly. Did you get that sense as well?

SG: I think a guy that?s had the success that Brady?s had isn?t going to worry about that too much. Actually two of his four interceptions came on balls where he hit guys in the hands and the ball got tipped into the air, and those are things that really aren?t the quarterback?s fault. I thought on the other two interceptions he forced the ball, throwing the ball deep downfield without really looking to see who was in the general area and that?s uncharacteristic for him.

It did look to me like the entire team and the coaching staff was pressing a little bit in this game, and it reflected in the way they played. They opted to go for it on fourth down a couple of times in the first half and that showed me that Belichick didn?t have a lot of confidence in his team?s ability to stop the Colts.

RRM: Adam Vinatieri seemed to get a steady chorus of boos from the Foxboro crowd whenever he came on the field to kick. So much for a warm welcome home from Patriots Nation?

SG: I thought there were a few boos but it wasn?t as bad as it could have been, so I think most people just remained neutral and didn?t do anything. Adam certainly did them a favor by missing two of his four field goal attempts which I?m sure the crowd enjoyed a whole lot!

RRM: So many times you see a team like the Patriots coming off a game where they were close to perfect like they were against Minnesota last week and they lose that edge the following week. What accounts for that lack of sharpness? Is it a mental or a physical thing?

SG: In a lot of cases it?s mental and in some cases it?s physical. You look at the Patriots last night and they lose Rodney Harrison, who is their leader on defense, very early in the game. I thought that hurt them. When you?ve been up on an emotional high like the Patriots were in Minnesota it?s hard to maintain that for several weeks in a row. You have to do it when you are in the playoffs but in the regular season it?s just very difficult to stay mentally up like that.

RRM: Rodney Harrison?s injury is being reported in the news as a left shoulder injury. I suppose that?s good news to a certain extent since it rules out any problem with his balky knees?

SG: It looked like he did something to his shoulder when he landed on the ground on that long pass to Marvin Harrison. Usually when it?s a shoulder a defensive back more than likely can come back pretty quickly and play. But the Patriots just aren?t going to disclose any kind of information because they don?t tell you those types of things, so we?ll just have to turn on the TV next Sunday and see if he is out there on the field.

RRM: Last year when Peyton Manning won at Foxboro for the first time the headlines all read ?Manning Gets the Monkey Off His Back?. Does it seem fair to you that despite all that he has accomplished in his career he keeps having to prove himself to his critics?

SG: It is in some respects and it isn?t in others. Peyton Manning will go down as maybe the best quarterback ever to play in the National Football League when you look at the statistics he?s compiled. But if he never wins a championship it?s going to be very similar to the situation with Dan Marino of the Dolphins. When he retired he had all the numbers, but he only got to the Super Bowl once and lost. Like Marino there will always be that little asterisk next to Manning?s name if never wins a championship. In that respect you kind of feel badly for a guy like Manning because he deserves to be in the big game at some point in time, but until they get some more players around him it?s not going to happen.

RRM: I take it even though they are 8-0 right now you don?t see this Colts team going undefeated to surpass the record set by the 1972 Miami Dolphins who went 14-0?

SG: I just think they?ll have a hard time doing that. It?s so hard to do in today?s NFL I just can?t see that happening. The Dolphins took care of the Bears quest for an undefeated season on Sunday, and I?d be very surprised if this Colts? team managed to go unbeaten the rest of the year, especially with the way they play run defense. But I could be wrong.

RRM: The Colts have had this reputation of being a ?soft? or ?finesse? team that can be beaten up by a physical football team like the Patriots. That didn?t seem to be the case in this game?

SG: You?re right, that certainly didn?t happen on Sunday night. The Colts aren?t going to run the ball down your throat. Their offense is based on pass protection and letting Manning do what he can do. Defensively they are not really physical or big, but it looks like they have now have some guys with some speed and quickness which allows them to win some games they maybe wouldn?t have won in the past. Whether that will be good enough to get them to the Super Bowl is anybody?s guess at this point.

RRM: While it was only a regular season game the loss puts the Patriots two games behind the Colts for best record in the conference which means if the two teams meet again in the postseason the game will most likely be played in Indianapolis. From that perspective wasn?t this a crucial loss?

SG: It certainly doesn?t help the Patriots, but at least it saves me about $1000 on home playoff tickets I won?t have to buy [laughs]! It would certainly appear the Patriots will have to play somewhere on the road in the postseason and more than likely it will be Indianapolis. I still like their chances against Indy on a fast track. I don?t think that would be as big a problem as having to go to say Denver and having to beat them out there.

RRM: Next week the Patriots get a chance to regroup when they host the New York Jets. The Jets ended up making a game of it in their first meeting; do you expect more of the same this time around?

SG: It may be tough for them to get up for the Jets but they?d better do it because they can?t afford to let games slip away that they should win. I think it would have been harder for them to get serious about this game had they beaten Indianapolis. They would be coming off two successive big wins in prime time and you would almost have to expect some sort of emotional letdown. Now this game with the Jets becomes a reality check for this team.

The Jets are an inconsistent team; they look good one week and bad the next. They are growing with a new head coach and new system and trying to get used to what is being asked of them, and teams like that can be dangerously good at times and pathetically bad at other times. From that aspect I think it?s important that the Patriots get ahead of them early and take them out of the game, just like they did in their first meeting. Only this time don?t give up the big play late in the game to let them back in because we don?t need to go through that anxiety all over again!

RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 27-20 loss to the Colts on Sunday Night Football?

SG: There were a lot of really good things in this game so it?s hard to say that they didn?t play well, but there were also a lot of really bad things that kept them from winning. For me that really boils things down to an overall grade of C+. The defense started off pretty shaky, but once they started pressuring Manning in the second half they did a better job defending against him. They forced him into some incompletions and bad throws, but the problem was every time they got them into a third down situation they were giving up a penalty to give them an automatic first down. The way Manning was able to throw the ball outside at will to his wide receivers against the Patriots secondary surprised me. I thought they would come up with some kind of a game plan to take away Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne on the outside but they weren?t able to do that.

The Patriots? offense was able to move the ball up and down the field but committed far too many turnovers. I really expected them to run the ball down the Colts? throats to control the clock and they didn?t do that either. Even the Patriots? special teams hurt them by allowing the Colts too many long kickoff returns which gave them good field position most of the night. It was a very inconsistent effort and certainly not one that was good enough to knock off one of the NFL?s best teams. The important thing now becomes to focus on the task at hand and get ready for the Jets on Sunday because there?s still the entire second half of the season to be played. The goal now becomes to get a little better each week because there are still two months of the football season left and apparently this team is still a bit away from a finished product.

Grogan's Grades for Game #8

Offense: C
Defense: B
Overall: C+


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