The Gang talked to former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan as they do every Monday morning at 7:30am on “The Morning Buzz”, but here’s an expanded interview with Ron Marshall who sat down with him later on and touched on a few more topics that you may want to check out:
R.R. Marshall: Steve, at times last Sunday’s contest resembled and old AFL high-scoring game with both teams marching up and down the field at will, not at all like the typical low-scoring games we are used to seeing between the Patriots and Bills. Did this game unfold the way you thought it would going in?
Steve Grogan: The Patriots did exactly what I thought they would do. Buffalo did much more offensively than I expected, particularly with the quarterback change with the young Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills really hadn’t had much success offensively this year and then they went out picked the Patriots defense apart, which was surprising to me. Fortunately they scored 38 points so giving up 30 didn’t cost them the game, but that won’t happen every week.
RRM: Well, you have to give the Patriots de facto offensive co-ordinator Bill O’Brien some credit for a diverse game plan. I can’t remember the last time I saw two reverses in the first half by the Pats?
SG: I think offensively the Patriots felt really comfortable with what they were doing. Tom Brady seemed very confident throwing the ball and had a great day. They were putting it in the air and spreading it around to a lot of different people. It was a lot of fun for me watching the fourth quarter when they were trying to put the hammer down and run the football just over and over again with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They haven’t done that in a long time, and that’s something that back in my day is what you did when you were ahead in a close game. Just run the ball and run the clock down and keep getting first downs, and they did that today. But maybe I’m too old school.
RRM: New England was roundly criticized for not making good adjustments after halftime during their last two games, but they came out in the second half and switched to a no-huddle offense. Did you get the sense it reflected a sense of urgency on their part to come out and get things going?
SG: Yes, I think they knew they were in a real dog fight with the Bills and it was probably going to be the last man holding the ball that would win the game, especially the way the defense was playing. I think the Patriots wanted to change things up and get the tempo up and try to score every time they had the ball, and then see what happens at the end and whether the defense could hold up long enough. In this case their adjustments worked, so you can’t criticize them for not changing things up.
RRM: You alluded to how you like to see them run the football, and they had five different backs account for some 200 yards rushing for the game. Isn’t that is unheard of in this era around here?
SG: It was really good, and like you mentioned it was a little bit of everybody contributing, although it seems Green-Ellis is the guy they seemed to settle on the most. I haven’t looked at the stats to see who carried how many times, but it seemed to me he had more carries than anybody. It’s good to get a little bit of young legs in there, and right now he’s playing very well. He is showing some flashes, and I think it’s great to see them giving him a chance.
RRM: Speaking of young legs, when do we start the Danny Woodhead fan club in Foxboro?
SG: (Laughs!) You know when the kid scored, I said wait a minute where did he come from? Oh that’s right, that is the kid they picked up from the Jets? He certainly brought a little bit of excitement with the few carries he got. It’s fun to see a young guy like that brings a little bit of energy to your squad.
RRM: On HBO’s Hard Knocks show he was one of the last cuts the Jets made and the coaches really didn’t want to do it but he became a victim of the numbers game. They kept telling him he could play in the NFL, and it appeared he proved them right in this game?
SG: I don’t think Woodhead is an every down back, but a change of pace kind of kid with smallness inside, and that can cause the defense some problems because it’s hard to locate him. I wish nothing but good luck to him.
RRM: You say that a quarterback has to show leadership by example, and Tom Brady certainly did that. He completed 21 of 27 for 252 and three touchdowns and threw in a scramble run for a first down just for good measure. What else can you ask for?
SG: Like I said, I thought Brady threw the ball really well. He seemed more confident with the game plan. When he ran for the first down I hadn’t seen him get that excited over throwing a touchdown pass! It was like I was proving to you people that I can run every once in a while (laughing!) when I have to, but he is not going to make a living doing that. But again, they were spreading the ball around to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and both of the young tight ends late in the pivotal parts of the game. They have so many weapons offensively you know they’re going to do it that way. It’s just a matter this young Patriots defense is going to be able to hang on and let the offense win a game for them.
RRM: After three games it seems that this reconstituted Patriots’ defense will be a work in progress this season. Have you seen any improvement over the last three weeks?
SG: You know they’re going to be up and down. They’re going to have their good moments and bad moments. They had a couple of good moments at the end of this game like that interception to seal the game at the end, but I thought they let Buffalo run the ball way too easily. Ryan Fitzpatrick hurt them with his legs more than he did his arm, running out of the pocket picking up key first downs. You have to realize this is still a young defense that hasn’t seen a lot of things yet. That being the case you just don’t know what to expect from series to series from them, and that will lead to a lot of frustrating moments.
RRM: It was interesting last week when Tom Brady called the fans out for leaving early and for not making enough noise. I know you have attended games at Gillette and you have certainly experienced the fan fervor as a player in the 70′s and 80′s in the old Foxboro Stadium. Have things changed that much since the Patriots moved into Gillette?
SG: Oh, I think there’s no question that there is more of a corporate crowd there now with the way the ticket prices have gone up the way they have. The old stadium was a bunch of rough neck, hard core New Englanders that would sit on the metal benches and drink too much, yell too much and party too much. It was a different kind of crowd, no question about that. Today you don’t see the same people week in and week out because of how much the ticket prices are. People buy season tickets and then split them with different family members or business partners so it is not the same people going there every week like it used to be, and I think that makes a big difference.
RRM: For a team that has had their woes on the road going back to last year Miami is the last place you want to play, but unfortunately that is where the Patriots will find themselves next Monday night. What are your thoughts on this match?
SG: Like Belichick says, it is what it is. The Patriots are going to have to go down there and it will be a definite challenge. Miami is an improved football team and they have been the last few years. It hasn’t been easy to win in their stadium, so I think we have to hope that this offense continues to put 38 points on the board every week and keep your fingers crossed that the defense is going to get a few stops along the way and win the ball game. They also have some problems on special teams covering kickoffs. They allowed that touchdown by the rookie C.J. Spiller who’s a real burner but you just can’t have that happen, so I’m guessing Belichick will make that an area of emphasis in practice this week before they play Miami.
RRM: So I take it there’s good news this week for Grogan’s Grades?
SG: I’d say so. I would give the offense an A. I think the defense has to be a B+ (maybe) but the special teams only a C-. They gave up that touchdown on the kickoff return right after they come out in the second half and scored on their first drive to take control of the game. You just can’t let the other team back in the game by playing like that on special teams. It is just frustrating to see that happen and it really gets under your skin when you are out there in a game like that.
I thought Tom Brady should get a game ball for his performance; I just thought he played really well and was very composed. Randy Moss had a couple of big touchdown catches. Along the offense line you had all five of them protecting Brady well and when you see him pushing the ball and running the way he did that is exciting for an old timer like me. They also blocked well for the running backs, and if they keep that up the front office can tell Logan Mankins to stay at home and play golf and we will see you some other time.
Grogan’s Grades for Game #3