By: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
December 11, 2008

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

MB: Good Morning Steve. The Patriots "eeked" that one out Sunday didn't they?

SG: It was eeked, it was sloppy, it was frustrating, it was a game that you watched knowing that the Patriots were the better team but just didn't come out until the end. It was very frustrating.

MB: The defense struggled on Sunday against Seattle. Is that a function of inexperience or injuries?

SG: I think it's more inexperience than anything. Part of the problem was that they're still not getting much pressure on the quarterback. And Seneca Wallis is definitely not an all pro quarterback but he causes you some problems by being able to run with the ball. I think they were so concerned with keeping him in the pocket that they weren't getting any pressure on him which gives the receivers plenty of time to work against those young defensive backs.

MB: In the first half do you think that the offensive line took for granted the defensive line of the Seattle Seahawks?

SG: Yes, I didn't think the offensive line played very well Sunday. Matt Cassel was getting hammered about three quarters of the time he was throwing the ball. He missed some throws that he probably should have gotten, he had guys open. But part of the reason he missed those throws is when you start getting hit as many times as he was, your aim becomes off a little bit, you start rushing things, and I think that's what happened to him.

MB: Randy Cross was saying that "these guys have to get the Steelers out of their head". Do you think that was a factor at all Steve?

SG: That may have been a little bit of it, but I don't know. Between having that horrible loss last week to the Steelers, having to travel accross the country, knowing they're going to spend the whole week on the west coast this week for another game in Oakland, and then just being beat up and not ready to play against a team that they figured could walk onto the field and take down easily. I think all of those combined are kind of what happened.

MB: The defense didn't look good, but they were in ultimate survival mode weren't they with the injuries they had in the first half?

SG: In a way you have to feel good for them. But when you're throwing Junior Seau and Roosevelt Colvin out there who showed up during the week to play for you, it is tough...and their defensive line is all banged up. But you have to work with what you have and that's what they did. It was more like, "hang on by the skin of your teeth" and hope the offense can get something done and that's kind of how they won it yesterday.

MB: They just signed Steve Nelson - it just came over the wire (Laughing)

SG: (Laughing) Let's see what he's got!

MB: Did you find it interesting that Deion Branch decided that Sunday was going to be the day he really stepped up as a Seattle Seahawk?

SG: He had a nice day for them and it always seems to be that way. A guy goes to another team and doesn't do much, but then when his former team comes in, there's a little added incentive to go out and play hard and make big plays and that's what happened with him yesterday.

MB: So it's a logjam in the AFC East. Do you think the Patriots can pull this one off and get in?

SG: Well, they're going to have to play better than they played on Sunday, and they're going to have to get some people healthy in a hurry. The good thing that the Patriots have going for them is that their final three games, only one is against a division opponent where Miami and the Jets each have two divisional opponents. So if the Patriots can get in a mode where they can win the last three, I really think they're going to have to win the divison to get into the playoffs. So they have to hope that New York and Miami kind of get knocked around by themselves and the Buffalo Bills.

MB: We've talked in the past about the relationship between a quarterback and a receiver. Looking at Wes Welker and Randy Moss, it doesn't seem like Moss and Cassel are connecting. Is that a quarterback-receiver issue, or is that a just a function of the length of the passes that Welker gets versus what Moss gets?

SG: Some of it has to do with the relationship you have with the receivers, but I think Sunday had more to do with the fact that there was a lot of pressure on Cassel and he had to throw the short balls in a hurry to get rid of it. He couldn't wait for Randy Moss down the field. He had Moss on an end-around play-action on a deep pass wide open early in the game, that's just not being comfortable with your receiver. But the rest of the game he just didn't have time put it down the field to Randy Moss.

I saw another time where he threw a little fade route in the endzone. As Moss was coming back into the huddle you could see his mouth say, "Throw it higher." So that's partly getting used to eachother.

MB: Steve during Sunday's game between Dallas and Pittsburgh, (Tony) Romo went back to pass and Witton ran the wrong route. How often does that happen?

SG: When I was playing, the receivers ran the routes that were called - there were very few options. But from what I understand talking to guys now, a lot of the offenses in the NFL now leave it up to the quarterback and the receivers to see the coverage and adjust routes to find holes. So there's a lot more of a chance for a quarterback and a receiver not to see the same thing, not to be on the same page, and have someone run the wrong around and I would imagine that's probably what happened to them yesterday.

MB: So what are your grades for this week Steve?

SG: I think a C+ is probably a fair grade and the reason I say that is because they did some good thing on Special teams which deserved a decent grade. Offensively they were just a little better than average. The defense kept them down this week.

I gave the offense a B. Pass protection wasn not great, although Cassel hung in there well and threw a lot of balls with people in his face. Welker had fantastic day. I think they need to run the ball better this time of year. Again, they are still settling for too many field goals.

I gave the Defense a D+. I know they had a lot of people hurt, but they gave up two scores early and too easily. They did hang in there, but that doesn't make for a good grade. They'll need to be better in the next three games regardless of who they have to play because of injury.

I gave Special teams a B-. They made all the field goals, but didn't do anything else special in returns or coverage.

Grogan's Grade: New England at Seattle