By: Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall - Presented By Frank 106.3 Frank FM
November 06, 2013

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R.R. Marshall: Steve the good news is, the old Patriots showed up on offense and rung up 55 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the bad news is the old Patriots also showed up on defense and yielded 31 points to these now lowly Steelers. Should we just accept the good and ignore the bad?

Steve Grogan: I think that's probably the case. The offense was impressive Sunday. It was the first time that I think Tom Brady looked comfortable in what he was doing out there with his receivers. And you have to give the Steelers a little bit of credit. Ben Roethlisberger is still a great quarterback and they've got some weapons on offense so they're going to score points and with so many guys out on defense, that showed Sunday. But I think all-in-all, everything went pretty well.

RRM: Tom Brady sliced up the Steelers' secondary for over 400 yards and three touchdown passes. I guess that swollen right hand of his healed up pretty good after a week?

SG: It still looked a little swollen when they zoomed in on it, but apparently it's not bothering him enough to affect his play. Hopefully we can quit talking about that and talk about how well he threw the ball Sunday and how well his receivers got open and caught the ball.

RRM: Steve looking back over some of his off games, speaking as a former quarterback, do you put more pressure on yourself to make plays when you're trying to overcome the loss of skill people on offense - your big weapons?

SG: Absolutely. You definitely put more pressure on yourself. You're trying to make perfect throws, you're trying to make everything work, and when it's not, you just keep pressing. I think I've seen that in him, up until Sunday, at times, just trying to do too much knowing that he's the guy that has to make plays. Sunday he made the plays, and he looked more relaxed and more comfortable with everything that was going on out there.

RRM: Well certainly the return to form of big tight end Rob Gronkowski seemed to make all the difference in the world in the Patriots' offensive attack. Can we credit him for the big games also had by Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson?

SG: I think you have to give him some credit. He was a huge factor early in the game and it looked like they decided they needed to double him, which gave the other guys single coverage and they were able to run free. But he made some terrific catches in the first half and really was a huge factor in what they did throughout the game Sunday. He looked more comfortable than he looked the last couple of weeks too. So I think we've got the real Gronk back, and it certainly helps everybody else produce.

RRM: All season long we've heard we have to wait for Tom Brady's new receivers to get "up to speed". After this game can we officially say now that they've arrived?

SG: Well, I think Dobson certainly looks like he's arrived. He was impressive Sunday. He showed why they picked him in the second round Sunday. He's got tremendous speed and when he catches the ball, he can make plays.

RRM: Well despite losing a 14-point lead in the second half, the Patriots did not abandon the running game as they rushed for just shy of 200 yards against a suddenly porous Steelers' defense. The Patriots offensive line certainly had some trouble protecting Tom Brady, but they didn't seem to have any trouble clearing the rushing lanes in this game?

"You're trying to make perfect throws, you're trying to make everything work, and when it's not, you just keep pressing. I think I've seen that in him, up until Sunday, at times, just trying to do too much knowing that he's the guy that has to make plays. - Steve Grogan on Tom Brady's early season struggles. (USA TODAY Images)

SG: No, it's nice to see them run the ball in the second half. They did it last week. I think they're becoming more comfortable with their running game. The Steelers on defense look slow for some reason. I don't know if they're getting older, or if they've got young guys, I haven't really looked at how long their front seven have been around, but they just weren't getting to the right places at the right time and they were able to take advantage of it on the ground.

RRM: There's a big difference between the point of attack being at the line of scrimmages vs five yards downfield?

SG: Exactly (Laughs).

RRM: The biggest weapon on the ground was Stevan Ridley, who rushed for 115 yards, but his fumble at the start of the third quarter would eventually lead to the Steelers tying the ball game. I fully expected Bill Belichick to pull him out of the line-up at that point, at least for a series given his past history, but he kept him in the game and Ridley responded with just a monster second half. Did that indicate to you anything about the relationship between the two?

SG: I think it does. I thought too that Ridley would probably be benched and wouldn't see the field again. Listening to Belichick's postgame press conference he really didn't blame Ridley on that one. He blamed Polamalu, saying he made a good play on it. Ridley's not a guy that's used to catching the ball much out of the backfield and those things are going to happen. Apparently Bill [Belichick]'s feeling more comfortable about having him on the field and not fumbling when he's carrying the football in particular.

RRM: In a surprising move the Patriots put defensive tackle Tommy Kelly on season ending IR this week, which means that they'll have to find a way to shore up the middle of the defense with Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo already on the sidelines. Given what we saw against the Steelers giving up yet another 100 yard game to a running back, I guess the kindest thing you can say right now is this is going to be a work in progress?

SG: It's a work in progress. You've got two rookie defensive linemen playing in there. They did trade for Isaac Sopoaga, and once he gets up to speed on the system he should help some, he's a big body they can throw in there. I think that the two rookies are playing pretty well right now considering when the season started you would never have figured them to be on the active roster. They'll get better. They're pressuring the quarterback well, which is good to see. But stopping the run is going to be tough for a while.

RRM: Normally the Patriots use the bye week to get their injured players healthy, but now it seems they'll have to use that extra time just to get some of these fresh faces up to speed and give the rookies a little more prep time. Can Bill Belichick really mold essentially an entirely new half of a defense over the final half of the season?

SG: If anybody can, he can. He's shown over the years that he can have people go down and plug in other guys, and they get the job done. Having a bye this week will give them some extra time and certainly get some guys healed up a little bit and it comes right in the middle of the season almost, which is a good thing. I think time will tell on this defense, I'm not ready to say they're going to take them to a World Championship, but they're certainly talented enough, they have enough good players out there that they can do that.

RRM: Well, the second half will begin with a Monday Night Football appearance down in Carolina. The Panthers have been an up and coming team for a while now, and this may be one of the Patriots' tougher games of the second half. Going into next week's game the Panthers have allowed the fewest points of any team in the NFL. Given the Patriots' offense has found their speed, I expect this will be the story of the game, Carolina's defense against the Patriots' offense?

SG: I think that's probably the big story. The other big story will be Cam Newton and the way he can run the ball. Running quarterbacks seem to have always given Belichick's defenses a little bit of problems, so they're going to have to really focus on keeping him in the pocket and making him throw the ball and not beat them with his legs.

RRM: Is that an even bigger problem for an inexperienced defensive line, having to contain a running quarterback?

SG: Probably. At the same time it may be an advantage that they're not locked into just rushing the passer constantly and the two young guys coming from college I'm sure has seen a lot of running quarterbacks, so they may be better at containing a running quarterback than an older veteran guy would be.

RRM: With Denver and Peyton Manning looming on the schedule the week after, will Bill Belichick and his staff spend any time prepping for that game as well during the bye week?

SG: I'm sure they're looking at some film of Denver. During the bye week they have a lot of extra time to look ahead but they're certainly not going to look past Carolina.

RRM: The Patriots should be favored to win the remaining games on their schedule. I don't know about you, but I don't look at games at Miami and Baltimore as what you'd call "gimmes" in December?

SG: No, never a gimme when you're on the road in the NFL and particularly against a team that gave you a pretty good run for the money for at least a half in Miami. And then the Ravens and the Patriots have had some great battles over the years and they're never an easy out.

RRM: There remains one undefeated team in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs. Are they for real, or do you think once they start playing Denver and San Diego the second half of the season some of their weaknesses will be exposed?

SG: I think their defense is for real, I'm not sure their offense is for real. Alex Smith is a game manager kind of guy, they never throw the ball much down the field. Jamal Charles is a really good running back, but their defense is what has been winning games for them. I think they'll stay in games with everybody, but they're going to have to figure out a way to put up more points than they've been putting up to compete with Denver and San Diego.

RRM: I take it you don't see them running the table?

SG: No, they won't run out the table, I'm pretty sure of that. They're certainly the most unexpected team that when the season started, you would never have bet that they'd have no losses at this point in time. But they're doing a lot of things right.

RRM: Well, we'll hit you up for two sets of grades. What are Grogan's Grades for the 55-31 trashing of the suddenly stumbling Steelers?

SG: I thought everybody did their job pretty well Sunday. I think Ridley had a great game, and Aaron Dobson had a better game than you would expect him to have. I'm going to give them an A across the board.

RRM: Officially we're one game past the midway point of the season, but what are Steve Grogan's midterm grades for this team so far?

SG: Even though they're 7-2, I think I'd have to go with a B for an overall grade. They've been above average, but they can certainly play a lot better than they've been playing, until this past week anyway. So we'll go with a B, room for improvement.

RRM: Now the question that's on everybody's mind. What's Steve Grogan going to do this week without the Patriots on television this Sunday?

SG: I'm going to play in a golf tournament next Sunday, and hope that it's not snowing (Laughs).

Grogan's Grades for Week 9:

Offense: A
Offense: A
Offense: A