By: Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall - Presented By Frank 106.3 Frank FM
December 13, 2012

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R.R. Marshall: Steve, the much anticipated battle between the Patriots and the Texans for supremacy in the AFC turned out to be a mismatch, as New England made short work of Houston to the tune of a 42-14 blowout win. If the Houston Texans were the benchmark by which the Patriots were going to measure themselves by at this point in the season, I guess you'd have to say they passed with flying colors?

Steve Grogan: There's no question they passed with flying colors. You're playing the team that's supposedly the best team in the AFC and to totally dominate the way they did was impressive. What it looked like was a team that's been in the playoffs and in championships and knew what to do in a big game, versus a team that's good, but hasn't had that experience in big games and the Texans just didn't play well at all.

RRM: Houston players were quoted before the game as this being the most important game in the history of the franchise for them. If that's the case, this has to be a devastating loss for their psyche and you have to wonder if they kind of question themselves after a loss of this magnitude?

SG: There will have been a lot of doubt in the locker room. There will have been some loss of confidence. It will be very important for their coaching staff to get them over the hump here with three games to go. They're trying to lock up home field throughout the playoffs but they couldn't have been feeling too good about themselves Tuesday morning.

RRM: Just to get this out of the way, not to be a 'Debbie Downer' but the last time the Patriots beat a team this badly and then faced them in the playoffs, Rex Ryan's Jets were the team that had the last laugh. From that perspective, maybe beating the Texans by such a big margin wasn't such a good thing?

SG: Well, that's a possibility and that can happen when you beat somebody that badly and then face them again in the playoffs. You kind of figure you've got their number, but every game is different. So the Patriots have to be careful but at the same time, as long as they keep playing the way they're playing right now, I don't see anybody that's playing any better than them and they'll have a good shot at beating the Texans again if they see them in the playoffs. It would be nice to have them at home though, and getting that home field advantage would be really important. It would be totally different to have to go down to Texas and try to play them down there.

RRM: Tom Brady carved up the Texans' defense on three straight touchdown drives to start the game, and I thought even though he didn't throw for 300 yards and facing one of the fiercest pass rushes the Patriots have seen all year lead by J.J. Watt, I thought Brady more than acquitted himself fairly well facing that kind of pressure in this game.

SG: Yeah, Brady played extremely well. He knew he had to get rid of the ball quick, he got hit a few times, but I don't remember them getting any sacks. I thought the offensive line held up really well. Sebastian Vollmer, the right tackle, handled Watt for the most part and late in the game when they just needed to pound the ball and run the clock out, they were able to do that. So a lot of the credit has to go to that offensive line. They're a makeshift group right now and have been throughout the year but they're doing a pretty good job up front.

RRM: It was the 63 yard touchdown bomb to recent returnee to Donte Stallworth that really sewed up the game early in the 3rd quarter. It was as if the Texans were almost daring Brady to throw the ball deep downfield against them the way they seemed to defense that play. Well, they dared him, and he burned them?

SG: He did, and he had a couple of other throws deep in the game that were close to being completions. I think the Texans were trying to see whether he could actually get the ball down the field because the Patriots don't do that a whole heck of a lot, although they hit Lloyd early in the game wide open for a 36-yarder. The throw to Stallworth was just a great throw and a really nice run after the catch to get into the end zone. I think the Texans were trying to pack it in, stop that intermediate passing game and the running game, and it burned them on that play.

RRM: The strange thing about that play, and I wanted to get your take on it, was that Wes Welker was only about 5-yards away from Stallworth downfield. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe it wasn't like a broken play but one of the receivers wasn't in the spot he was supposed to be because usually you don't see two receivers that close together deep downfield?

SG: You know, I didn't notice that. But if they were that close together, somebody was probably in the wrong spot because when you're throwing the ball deep like that you don't want to drag any more defenders into the area than need to be there. So if Welker was that close to him, more than likely Welker made the wrong read and was in the wrong spot.

RRM: You could kind of tell by the look on his face too if you watch the replay [laughs].

SG: Is that right? I didn't notice that [laughs].

RRM: The Patriots defense deserves a huge share of the credit for the big win by shutting down Arian Foster with big Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo sharing the spotlight there. But in particular I thought the job that both Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard did on containing Houston's game-breaking receiver Andre Johnson was a big key in the win.

" I think another guy that I saw that was playing really well was Steve Gregory the safety. He came up and made a lot of tackles close to the line of scrimmage and was playing some pretty good pass defense too. I thought he played a really good game." - Steve Grogan (FILE:USPresswire)

SG: Yeah, they did a great job on him and hopefully Talib is not hurt too badly. Neither finished the game, but it didn't look too bad so hopefully they'll be back. I think another guy that I saw that was playing really well was Steve Gregory the safety. He came up and made a lot of tackles close to the line of scrimmage and was playing some pretty good pass defense too. I thought he played a really good game.

RRM: It was just one game and it probably wasn't the best of circumstances to make an assessment of Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, but after playing poorly this year in big games against both Green Bay and now New England in prime time, you just have to wonder about him just a little bit.

SG: Yeah…I mean he's got all the skills, he had them at 11-1 prior to Monday night which means he's playing good football. But I think his success is a lot predicated on their running game and if you take that away from him and make him try to beat you, I don't think he's a guy that can do that yet in his career. But he's still a very good player and probably will get better. He's still young so I wouldn't read too much into Monday night's defeat as far as his performance.

RRM: Well, you can make the argument that the interception he threw in the end zone that Devin McCourty suckered him on that play, I guess he had Foster wide open for the touchdown. That's a throw an experienced quarterback, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, they don't make that throw.

SG: More than likely. Again, he hasn't been in those pressure situations that much in his career, to this point anyway. I think the more he plays in big games like that, the better he'll get.

RRM: There's been a lot of talk about the Patriots gaudy record in December, but some have denigrated it, saying it's come mostly against sub.500 teams and Division opponents. Still, doesn't that have to be considered to be a remarkable achievement?

SG: Yeah, it really it is. I don't care who you are or who you're playing, to have that kind of home record in December and to be able to get your team to peak at that point heading into the playoffs is the reason they have won Divisions and have been to the playoffs for so many years.

RRM: Before we talk about next week, what did you think about the proposed rule change to eliminate kickoffs and have the scoring teams take the ball on their own 30 with a 4th-and-15 situation?

SG: Yeah, I'm not sold on a rule change like that. I know they're trying to make the game safer, but that fundamentally changes the game and takes away the excitement of an occasional kickoff return for a big play. So I'm not in favor of doing that at this point.

RRM: The Patriots don't have much time to celebrate as the San Francisco 49ers are up next for a Sunday night contest at Gillette. Speaking from the viewpoint of a player, how hard is it to get back up to that emotional level to face a second straight superior opponent after playing so well in a big game like this?

SG: I think it's probably easier to get up for it if you're playing a good opponent as opposed to playing a Buffalo or a Kansas City or somebody like that that's having a terrible season. I think you realize that this is a good football team coming in here. You've got a short week, you've got to put in a lot of work, and it's going to be critical trying to clinch home field advantage. I think these guys will understand that and be ready to go Sunday night.

RRM: The 49ers, they keep winning but they have struggled and have been a little inconsistent since the change of quarterback from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick. Were you surprised that Jim Harbaugh made that move a little after the midseason mark? Usually you don't see a contending team make that kind of a move?

SG: Yeah, it was a little surprising but having seen some of the highlights of what the kid can do, he brings a lot of things to the table and causes defenses a lot of problems, particularly with his running ability. He seems to understand the passing game pretty well for a young player but Belichick and his staff have always come up with plans that seem to confuse young quarterbacks. The key is going to be to not let him break out of the pocket and make any of those long runs that we've seen him make the last few weeks.

RRM: It is a short week now and they also have Alex Smith. Do they still have to take time and prepare for both of them?

SG: No, I think you have to prepare for Kaepernick and then if Smith plays in the game, he's like most quarterbacks you see every week. So that shouldn't be a problem to adjust if he does come in the game.

RRM: Houston's defense is struggling but San Francisco's strength is their defense. This should give the Patriots offense one of their best tests of the season do you think?

SG: It should be a better test than they had the other night, no question about it. San Francisco is being touted as the best team in the NFC after last season. I don't think they've been playing really that well. They've played well enough to be a good team, but I don't think they're playing as well as they played last year. It'll still be a test, but fortunately their playing in Foxboro so that will be a big difference.

RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the 42-14 humiliation of Houston?

SG: I've got A's across the board. I thought the offense was very efficient, played really well. The defense had one of their better performances of the year. Wes Welker going back and returning that punt early in the game, that was a really big play early to kind of get things going in the right direction, so I thought special teams played well too. So I'm giving everybody A's.

RRM: Stephen Gostkowski made all 6 of his extra points, so we don't have to talk about him this week.

SG: Thank goodness [laughs]. He needs the confidence right now.

RRM: To show you how times have changed, he's missed six of his field goals this year and everybody's in a panic. I was thinking that it wasn't that long ago where if you missed six field goals all year you went to the Pro Bowl.

SG: Yeah, kickers are way more consistent now than they used to be. When you miss a couple, it scares people.

Grogan's Grades: Week 13

Offense: A
Defense: A
Special Teams: A

Overall: A


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