By: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
October 03, 2007

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Bill Belichick pays tribute to Patriots Hall of Fame broadcaster Gil Santos
Bill Belichick pays tribute to the late Gil Santos
Tight end Troy Niklas’ “crazy” story makes him a Patriot and a father, too
Patriots notebook: Season starts with Houston at Foxboro

STEVE GROGAN ON PATRIOTS-BENGALS -- GAME #4 with R.R Marshall is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for another season. Grogan played in 149 games with the Patriots from 1975-1990, and was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995. Steve will join us each week to provide his insights on the progress of the Patriots during the 2007 football season. R.R. Marshall: Steve, despite a raucous crowd in Cincinnati the Patriots dispatched the Bengals with ease 34-13 at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night. About the only thing that went wrong for them was that they failed to reach their customary 38-point output, what's wrong?

Steve Grogan: No, they didn't reach their average of 34 points but there wasn't too much else that went wrong aside from Tom Brady actually throwing an interception. I heard someone make the comment that the Patriots were almost boringly efficient. You watch the game and there's nothing that makes you nervous. You don't get that adrenaline rush because you know they are going to win, and win easily. It is a lot of fun, but it is boring to watch.

I thought Cincinnati came out and played with a lot of emotion early in the game. They got in Tom Brady's face and made life a little difficult for him, but once things settled down and the Patriots got the running game going it took away that Bengals' pass rush and they never looked back. The Patriots ran the ball extremely well in this game. Tom Brady didn't have to carry this team although he still had three touchdown passes. When you run the ball for 173 yards you are doing some pretty good blocking up front, and the Bengals had no answers for their balanced attack.

RRM: With so much attention has been given to the Patriots offense the Pats defense really hasn't been given their due. How about we give them that now?

SG: This Patriots' defense has been amazingly consistent from the very first game. I've heard the argument that they really haven't played anybody that can challenge them so far, but that was a pretty good Bengals offense they shut down on Monday night. Carson Palmer is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and they really gave him a tough time. The Patriots have been rock solid against the run and very stingy on pass defense as well. Asante Samuel is back in the staring lineup and has had interceptions in each of the last two games, and Adalius Thomas has been all that was advertised when he first arrived here. When you look at the players they have out of the lineup, like Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison, and they have not missed a beat on defense you just can't help but shake your head. I know that's what every offensive co-ordinator in the NFL is doing right now.

RRM: I know you had to love the Patriots' second touchdown drive of the evening where they chewed up over six minutes on the clock and ran the ball eight (yes, eight!) straight times before Brady connected with Randy Moss for a seven-yard touchdown. It was almost like you handing off to A.J. and Sam Bam back in the 1970's?

SG: Yes, all that was missing was the throwback uniforms and Pat Patriot on the helmets, at least for that one series anyway. It's almost like Josh McDaniels their offensive coordinator is thinking what do we want to work on for this drive? I know, let's run the ball eight times in a row. Then the next drive it's lets see if we can get the ball to Donte Stallworth. It's almost like they're just teasing people, saying if you want to stop this thing we'll do this instead.

RRM: On that play Brady committed the cardinal sin for quarterbacks and looked at his intended the target the entire way. But I guess when you are throwing the ball to Randy Moss you can get away with things like that?

SG: You can get away with it, particularly on the route. It's kind of a little fade route and the defensive back isn't going to be looking at you anyway because he's got man coverage on a taller receiver, and the safety is not going to get over there that quickly when you're down in that area of the field. But there aren't that many wide receivers in the league that could make the catch that Randy Moss did on that play; there may be a couple but not many. To be able to go up that high and go over the top of the defensive back showed amazing athletic skill, and then he was so high he had to reach down to get the ball away from him. Then he came down with both feet inbounds without even looking for the endline; he really is a special player.

RRM: The Monday Night broadcast crew kept making references on how Bill Belichick has been able to get the best out of Randy Moss where no one else could. What do you think the reason is?

SG: Bill Belichick has a way of getting players to buy into his system which is we win together, we do everything together, and you don't complain if you aren't getting the ball enough. You do your job and your job only, and if everybody does that we're going to be successful. A lot of coaches preach that but they don't get their players to actually do it. Bill Belichick finds a way to get his players to do it, and Randy Moss is the latest example.

RRM: Speaking of Bill Belichick, the Bengals were woefully depleted at linebacker for this game and you had to think he would try to attack them with the running game right from the start. Instead he waited until the beginning of the second half and surprised everyone, including the Bengals?

SG: He set them up pretty well, didn't he? They are so good at throwing people off guard you just can't figure them. That's a big positive in the Patriots' favor because when you think they are going to do something they do the opposite. It makes them that much harder to defend against.

RRM: The Patriots put this game away when they went for the throat on a fourth-and-a-foot on the Cincinnati seven-yardline in the third quarter and won the battle when Sammy Morris broke free for a game-clinching touchdown. I couldn't help but think that given that situation, being ahead by 10 points on the road, 99% of the coaches in the NFL would have settled for three points, but not Bill Belichick?

SG: Most people were probably thinking like I was that this was a little bit of a gamble for them to be taking at this point in the game. But then I thought, if they don't make it what do they have to lose? Cincinnati isn't moving the ball against them so why not take a chance and put the game out of reach? As it turned out the gamble paid off, but most gambles Belichick takes usually do anyway.

RRM: You almost have to feel sorry for the Patriots' opponents right now. Do they blitz, play cover-two, go with a nickel or dime package? It's almost like they are damned if they do or damned if they don't?

SG: That's exactly right. On the second Brady touchdown pass to Randy Moss they tried to come with a little pressure down in the red zone area and the corner missed the bump on Moss and bang, he's by him and there's a touchdown. You can't bring that kind of pressure against the Patriots because they'll burn you. You take away Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth will kill you. You take away the two outside receivers and Ben Watson will kill you. You take away the passing game, they'll run it at you. They just have so many options right now it's scary. Through all the years I've been associated with the Patriots I don't think it's ever been that way for them, especially with such a strong defense to go with it.

RRM: Do you remember when Monday Night Football telecasts used to be entertaining to listen to as well as watch. I don't know how you felt but this new ESPN crew didn't exactly bring back fond memories of Howard, Frank, and Dandy Don?

SG: No, they didn't and to be honest they were kind of hard to listen to at times. They've tried to turn it into a comedy routine that doesn't really work so that's unfortunate. I don't usually watch the halftime show but I caught a little bit of this one and they had some kind of back-and-forth debate going on that I could have done without. Show me some football highlights, it's supposed to be a football broadcast for crying out loud [laughs]! It's a shame because I think Ron Jaworski is a good analyst. He understands the game and the position of quarterback and he has a lot to add to the broadcast, but he can't get it in edgewise with Tony Kornheiser trying to make a joke on every play.

RRM: You played against so many of the great teams like the 70's Pittsburgh Steelers and the 1980's San Francisco 49ners. Does this Patriots team have the potential to rank right up there with them?

SG: It's still a little early in the season to start making those kinds of comparisons, but yes, they have the talent to be one of the elite teams off all time in the National Football League. There's no question about that. It's hard to start speculating on whether this team could have beaten the 1972 Miami Dolphins or the 1984 San Francisco 49ners. You can't really do that, but you can look at how those teams dominated other teams that were playing at that time. Those teams all dominated their competition during that particular era, and this Patriots' team is dominating this era, no question about it.

RRM: Old friend Romeo Crennel comes to town with his Cleveland Browns this Sunday. The Browns are supposedly much improved, but will they be able to give his former mentor's club a game?

SG: The Browns have actually had a couple of pretty good games at the start of the season. They scored a lot of points (51) and beat Cincinnati, and they are coming off a win over Baltimore so they are doing something right. But are they in the Patriots' caliber? I don't think so. About the only chance a team has against the Patriots right now is to try and hold onto the ball and keep the Patriots' offense on the sidelines. The minute that this Patriots' team goes up by two scores on anybody and you have to start throwing the ball all over the field to try and catch up you have a major problem, and I think that's what the Browns fate will be on Sunday. The fans at Gillette will give Romeo a nice round of applause when he is announced and that will probably be the highlight of the day for him.

RRM: What about the dreaded Monday Night jinx? Any chance losing that one day of the work week will lead to an emotional let down on Sunday?

SG: I guess anything is possible but I would find it very hard to believe anything is going to bother this team. Usually when you play on a Monday night the coaches lose that extra day to prepare and the players lose that extra day for their bodies to recoup. It's really hard as a player to lose that one extra day for your body to come back and be ready for that next game on Sunday. That's the primary reason for the supposed Monday Night hex, not anything mystical.

RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the Monday night 34-13 win over the Bengals?

SG: It's been pretty easy to grade this team so far this season. I think an A is a pretty good grade for this game. Like Bill Belichick said they had a couple of bumps in the road but it was another excellent overall game for the Patriots. Tom Brady is on one of the best runs of his career and the offense has scored in every quarter through the first four games. Right now you just don't expect this Patriots' team to lose. This week they didn't have Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris takes his place and runs for 117 yards. They are just so deep you don't expect another team to be able to hang with them for 60 minutes. The Patriots are cooking on all cylinders right now, and it's such a great time of the year with the Patriots off to a record start and the Red Sox in the playoffs. Let's hope we have a whole lot of good news to talk about next week.

Grogan's Grades for Game #4

Offense: A
Defense: A
Overall: A