By: Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall - Presented By Frank 106.3 Frank FM
January 03, 2014

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R.R.Marshall: Steve, it was much closer than the final score indicated but the Patriots prevailed over the Buffalo Bills in a rain-soaked Gillette Stadium 34-20 to secure a first round playoff bye. While it wasn't exactly a masterpiece, it seemed a fitting way to end the regular season for what has become this workman like Patriots team?

Steve Grogan: It was an ugly day to play football. It was cold and rainy, and that's the worst kind of game you'd want to play in. The one thing that I was encouraged about was the way the Patriots ran the football. You always hear the experts talk about how you have to be able to run the ball as you head into the playoffs, and I think they ran it well on Sunday. They're going in the right direction at the right time.

RRM: I was surprised that so many in the local media expected the Bills to pack it in and for the Patriots to win this game in a walk. Haven't they been watching the games between these two teams over the last few years?

SG: Apparently not. Buffalo and New England always seem to battle no matter where they play. The Patriots have more star quality, more names that people recognize, but Buffalo's a team that has been fighting people all year. They haven't won a lot of games but they've been in a lot of games, and they gave the Patriots a battle Sunday.

RRM: The weather conditions were deplorable and even Tom Brady mentioned he had never played in rain conditions like that before. But there was no wind, which allowed both kickers to perform exceptionally well. Were you surprised it affected the passing game as much as it seemed to?

SG: Looking at those conditions, I'm not surprised at all that it affected the passing game. When it's rainy like that, and particularly when it's cold and rainy, it's extremely difficult to get a good grip on the football, to have your receivers be able to run crisp routes, it's just one of the toughest playing conditions you can play in is a cold rain. If it had been snowing, it would have been easier than what they had to play in Sunday. So I'm not surprised that Tom Brady had those comments and that he didn't have to throw the ball a whole lot Sunday.

RRM: Well, as you eluded to earlier, the Patriots ran the ball for over 260 yards, with LeGarrette Blount doing most of the damage with 189 yards and two touchdowns. But even Stevan Ridley chipped in with 74 yards running essentially between the tackles. I think what came as a bigger surprise is the fact that this patched up offensive line was able to create so many holes for the Patriots with the Bills knowing that they were going to run the ball?

SG: Well, that's what I was just going to say, the offensive line did a great job Sunday. They've been mixing and matching there for the last couple weeks but they seem to be getting the job done. LeGarrette Blount is my new Mosi Tatupu. Mosi could run in snow better than anybody that was ever around. He grew up in Samoa and lived in Hawaii and went to Southern Cal, but he could run in snow and LeGarrette Blount looks like he can run in the rain. He's a guy that the rain doesn't seem to affect and between him and the offensive line playing well, they came away with a nice victory.

"He's a guy that the rain doesn't seem to affect and between him and the offensive line playing well, they came away with a nice victory." - Steve Grogan on LeGarrette Blount's performance last weekend.
(USA TODAY Images)

RRM: Blount also turned in two long kickoff returns, including his 82-yard jaunt which came after the Bills had cut the lead to three points and has to be considered the biggest plays of the game for the Patriots. I personally have to apologize because I was the one a few weeks ago who pointed out that they were just wasting this big guy back on kickoff returns, so that just goes to show you how much I know?

SG: He has to be the largest kickoff returner in the National Football League. He's a big man, and you don't expect him to break big plays like that. But he's had a couple of good ones earlier in the year and Sunday he had two really big ones that kind of broke the game open.

RRM: Julian Edelman joined the 100-reception Patriots' receiving club, but I thought the more remarkable accomplishment was the fact that he stayed healthy throughout the regular season this year despite making his living over the middle of the field?

SG: Julian Edelman has given them more than I think they expected they would ever get from him this year. He's really blossomed into a steady receiver, a steady slot receiver, a guy that makes the tough catches when you need him to make them and he's stayed healthy. As you said, he hasn't been able to do that early in his career, but he did it this year. Thank goodness he did, otherwise they'd have a major problem at the wide receiver spot.

RRM: Well, in the exciting race for the last playoff spot in the AFC, both Miami and Baltimore went belly-up, which allowed San Diego to barely sneak in, and I emphasize the term "barely." After watching such mediocrity on Sunday including some incredibly, no other word for it, stupid play in the final seconds of some of those games, don't you think Patriots fans should appreciate the level of excellence Bill Belichick has managed to sustain in New England?

SG: There's no question that we should appreciate what Bill Belichick's done. I saw the end of a couple of those games, and the Chargers had no business making the playoffs. Kansas City, even with all their good guys sitting on the sidelines, took them to overtime and should have beaten them. And the Ravens, who were the Super Bowl Champs last year, just kind of folded up Sunday and didn't play very well. So the consistency that Bill Belichick gets out of every team of his every year is just remarkable and I think that's why he'll go down as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.

RRM: Did you happen to see the end of the two NFC games, the Chicago-Green Bay game and the Atlanta-New Orleans game where the Chicago coach called for an all-out blitz and left single-coverage and Green Bay scored the touchdown. Then at the end where it looked like Atlanta was going to upset New Orleans, there was a premature snap in the shotgun from center and they lost. You just don't see things like that happening with Bill Belichick coached teams?

SG: No, you really don't. It's just stupid mistakes that shouldn't happen and you don't see them happen with the Patriots. They just seem to be more mentally prepared, physically prepared, and they don't make the stupid mistakes that some teams make. Especially when you're in a playoff hunt, they definitely don't make the mistakes. So it was kind of a weird day Sunday. Green bay, everybody had them written off when Aaron Rodgers got hurt and they come back and wind up making the playoffs It was weird. San Diego looks like they are, about a .500 team and somehow they made the playoffs. Pittsburgh had a chance if Kansas City had beaten San Diego, and Pittsburgh started 0-4 and had no business being in the playoffs. So it's been a weird year.

RRM: OK, it's time to put your thinking cap on. Who do you like in the two AFC Wild-Card playoff games this weekend? You have San Diego at Cincinnati and Kansas City at Indianapolis?

SG: Actually, I think Cincinnati is playing pretty good football and should beat San Diego, no problem playing them there, in Cincinnati. Kansas City I think is a team that's got a lot of talent and had probably a better record than a lot of teams that made the playoffs and if it hadn't been for Denver playing so well, they would have won the AFC West. So I like Kansas City in that game.

RRM: What about in the NFC where Green Bay gets to host San Francisco in a strange turn of events and Philadelphia will host New Orleans?

SG: Green Bay I think playing a warm weather team like San Francisco in Green Bay this time of year probably has an advantage in that game. And then New Orleans is going to struggle outside too but I still think they're a better team than Philadelphia. They have a better quarterback, while Philadelphia's got a young kid that's played well but hasn't been in a playoff situation, so I would think New Orleans would be the team to beat in that game.

RRM: The Patriots will host either Kansas City, Indianapolis, or Cincinnati next week. Which club would you prefer they face, and which of the three would you like to avoid?

SG: I think the one I'd rather play the most would be the Colts. They're not an outstanding team this year. They have a good young quarterback but they don't scare me. As I said before, I think Kansas City is playing well and they would scare me a little bit. Cincinnati, of course, beat the Patriots earlier in the year but I think if they played them in Foxboro, the Patriots would have a much better chance of beating them. So I'd rather play the Colts or the Bengals in Foxboro.

RRM: Well, if things hold to form then it will be the Bengals coming in here next weekend. They've played once out in Cincinnati with that big freak rainstorm at the end and prevailed by seven points, but do you like the Patriots chances getting them in Foxboro this time around?

SG: I think that would be a good football game. I know Cincinnati has some good receivers that would challenge the Patriots secondary, but I just think the Patriots playing anybody at home right now is to their advantage.

RRM: In all honestly, can this team despite all its injuries and shortcomings find a way to put together two stellar efforts back-to-back and reach the Super Bowl? And what do they have to do to accomplish this?

SG: Well, they've got to win their first round game and then more than likely will be going to Denver. But I don't care what Peyton Manning says, he struggles in cold weather and I think they have a chance to beat Denver out there. So if they can get a little healthy this week, play well next week, go out to Denver, I think they have a chance to beat the Broncos and get into the Super Bowl.

RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the soggy 34-20 win over the Bills?

SG: I would say probably an "A-" all the way around. The defense gave up a lot of yards Sunday but they didn't give up a lot of points, so they'd probably be a "B". The offense, I would give them an "A". Special teams, with Stephen Gostkowski kicking four field goals, I'd give them an "A". So that would come down somewhere around an "A-".

GROGAN'S GRADES FOR WEEK 17:

OFFENSE: A
DEFENSE: B
SPECIAL TEAMS: A

OVERALL: A-


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