By: Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall - Presented By Frank 106.3 Frank FM
September 20, 2011

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R.R. Marshall: Steve, the Patriots chalked up their second straight victory by outscoring the Chargers 35-21 to win their home opener at Gillette. Wouldn't you have to say rolling up 35 points against the Chargers was a much more impressive accomplishment than the 38 they hung on the Dolphins last Monday night?

Steve Grogan: Yes, there's no question about that. The Chargers are one of the better teams in the NFL, and when you put up 35 points on a team of their caliber you have to feel pretty good about the way your offense was running.

RRM: The Patriots never trailed in the game but as a fan you never really felt comfortable. Did you feel the same way?

SG: No, you couldn't feel comfortable because the Patriots' defense was playing that give ground, wait for them to make a mistake kind of defensive mode, but fortunately they forced the Chargers into four turnovers that took the wind out of San Diego. But you never really did feel overly safe because of the way the Chargers were able to move the ball throughout the game.

Right now they're playing with some people in that secondary that are young and you worry about them. For some reason they are able to come up with a big play at the right time. The pass rush is still not where it needs to be but again you have to look at the quality of the opponent and the Chargers have a very good offensive line. They did a good job of protecting Philip Rivers and that puts a lot of pressure on a young secondary. It could have gone another way if they hadn't forced the turnovers, but they did and it worked out.

RRM: The Pats no huddle offense seemed to stagnate in the second half which made the call to go for it on 4th and four at midfield with over 11 minutes left in the game seem a little strange. What did you think of the call?

SG: I was totally surprised by the call. You didn't want to give the Chargers a chance from midfield to get some momentum going. It was only a six-point game at that point and if the San Diego running back (Mike Tolbert) hadn't fumbled after the Chargers took possession we could be talking about a different outcome. I know the punter Zoltan Mesko was hurt but at that point you could have put anyone back there and have them pooch it down the field. But I'm not the head coach and Bill didn't ask my opinion [laughs]!

RRM: Last week we talked about what a dangerous weapon San Diego tight end Antonio Gates can be, and not only did the Patriots shut him out there was only one ball thrown to him all game?

SG: They covered Gates like a blanket and it looked to me at one point like he might have had a physical problem and that's why Rivers wasn't looking at him. He's a huge part of that offense and the Patriots totally took him away.

RRM: I guess you have to pick your poison because the Patriots defense looked helpless trying to contain Chargers' wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who toasted the Pats for 172 yards on 10 catches. Didn't it seem like more than that to you?

SG: There were several times when Devin McCourty had Jackson in pretty tight coverage but Jackson just used his height advantage to go up and get the ball. You're seeing a lot more of that in the NFL, the receivers are getting bigger and taller and the cornerbacks aren't so the quarterbacks are learning to put the ball up a bit and allow his big receiver to go over the cornerback and get it. It no longer matters how good your coverage is because the receiver is going to out jump you and that's what happened to McCourty several times yesterday.

RRM: I understand an NFL quarterback has a lot to survey in a very short amount of time on any given play, but how did Philip Rivers fail to see big Vince Wilfork sitting back there?

SG: I think he had already starting his throwing motion when Vince peeled off and got into the passing lane. It was really a great play by Vince to feel where the ball was going to go and I don't think Rivers felt he would be able to make a play on the ball, and 99% of the time he probably couldn't have. It was a huge play in the game.

RRM: I don't know what was funnier, Wilfork telling the press after the game that he didn't need oxygen after his run because he's a highly- conditioned athlete or the way he was cradling the football after the play like he was bringing it right to his home to put in his trophy case!

SG: I think the happiest person in the stadium when he got tackled from behind was Vince Wilfork. He didn't want to run any farther, believe me! He had both hands wrapped around the ball and he was hoping for somebody to please tackle him [laughs]! It's fun to see a guy like him who doesn't get a lot of attention because of the nature of his position he plays make a big play like that. It doesn't happen very often and when those big boys get a chance to run with the ball it makes their season.

RRM: You got some company this weekend when Drew Bledsoe joined you and Babe Parilli as the only quarterbacks in the Patriots Hall of Fame. How did you feel about Drew joining the ranks?

SG: I was happy for Drew. He left here on a bit of a sour note but he seemed to be over it, and there was a great crowd there on Saturday for both him and Jon Morris. I thought it was a well deserved honor. He had a great career here. He broke nearly every club passing record that I had set over 16 years in nearly half the time; he put up huge numbers and deserves to be a part of the Patriots Hall of Fame.

RRM: It seems almost incredible but between Bledsoe and Brady the Patriots have had a top flight quarterback at the helm for the past 18 seasons. Where do you see that in the league today?

SG: You don't see it very many places. A lot of it stems to the head coach being in place for so long, too. This is Belichick's 12th year, and you don't see that kind of tenure in the modern NFL any longer. The Patriots had a good quarterback in Bledsoe and they found a better one in Brady, and to be honest they've been lucky. When Brady and/or Belichick leave it's going to be interesting to see what happens.

RRM: It seems pretty early in the season for this but this Sunday we have an AFC East showdown for first place against the undefeated Buffalo Bills (yes, I said undefeated). Are Ryan Fitzpatrick and his teammates for real?

SG: I think the Bills are certainly playing much better football than they have in quite awhile. They beat the Chiefs handily in Week #1 and this week they beat the Raiders in a wild, shoot out-type of a game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is turning into a very good quarterback and they are scoring some points, but they gave up over 30 points to Oakland and if the Raiders put up that many points against their defense then the Patriots should be able to do the same thing.

I think the Patriots caught a big break getting to the play in Buffalo so early in the season. I know I much preferred playing them in September up there as opposed to December where the wind and cold can really make it tough on an offense. I think the Patriots are definitely the better team but it's still a division game so I'm expecting a tough battle this Sunday.

RRM: Being a hardened New Englander like myself I can't help but wonder if that long, 15-game winning streak the Patriots have against the Bills is going to come to an end at the worst possible time?

SG: I hope not. I just can't see it happening unless the Patriots have some injuries this week that are more major than we know. They had a lot of guys go down with minor things that could come back to bite them, particularly with their depth in the secondary. But I just don't see the Bills having the firepower to beat this Patriots' team.

RRM: Got any advice for the Red Sox who have seen their lead in the wildcard all but evaporate in the month of September?

SG: Their injury problems are coming back to bite them, too. If they make it into the playoffs it's going to be scratching and clawing for them the rest of the way which is unfortunate because for the better part of the season they had a really good team. They just can't keep people healthy.

RRM: You and I were both here in the 1970's when they suffered through those late season collapses, and I couldn't help but think what a rude awakening this must be to the younger generation of fans that is used to seeing Boston teams win all the time?

SG: Welcome to the real world Red Sox Nation!

RRM: On to happier things. What are Grogan's grades for the 35-21 short-circuiting of the Chargers?

SG: I gave them an A. True, the defense gave up over 400 yards but look who they were playing against, plus they got them to turn the football over. That's a good football team, and they went out and pretty much controlled the game for most of the afternoon. Tom Brady had another outstanding effort with a 400+ passing yards game, and at times it looked like he was playing pitch and catch with his two tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. They just keep making big plays and tough catches when they get down in the red zone. Trying to see a little guy like Bob Sanders cover Gronkowski in the end zone was just an impossible assignment. Jerod Mayo made a nice stop on the fourth and goal to keep the Chargers out of the end zone. Overall it was a strong effort against a top flight opponent. The defense is still a work in progress, but as Belichick would say it's time to move on.

Grogan's Grades for Game #2

Offense: A
Defense: A-
Overall: A


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