Did you miss Steve’s interview with Greg and the gang on Monday? If you did, here’s an expanded interview with the former New England Patriots quarterback of his thoughts on the Patriots 38-7 regular season finale victory over the Dolphins.
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the Patriots toyed with and then destroyed the Miami Dolphins by a count of 38-7 in what was supposed to be a meaningless season finale for the Patriots. Judging by the results I guess the Patriots’ players didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to take it easy with nothing on the line in this game?
Steve Grogan: I think it was the old adage that we used to joke about regarding the last game of the season. The team is out of the playoffs and they had their cars packed and running back in Miami as they could not wait to get out of town. Miami did not show up to play this game and the Patriots did and consequently it was not a close game. You had to feel for Miami head coach Tony Sporano whose job was supposedly on the line in this game. If that’s the case then his players certainly do not feel much for their head coach because they did not give a good performance.
RRM: For the second straight week the Patriots piled up the rushing yards, gaining 182 yards on the ground against what was supposed to be one of the NFL’s best teams at stopping the run. This has to be a good sign headed into the postseason?
SG: When you look at Tom Brady’s stats, they really did not want to throw the ball. They wanted to hammer it on the ground and get everybody out of there fairly healthy and come away with a win and feel good about themselves. They kept hammering it at Miami and they simply could not stop them.
RRM: BenJarvus Green-Ellis became the first member of the Patriots’ 1000-yard rushers club since Corey Dillon in 2004 but he downplayed his accomplishment, preferring to give credit to his teammates on offense. You have to admit you don’t see that from too many players today?
SG: Well, you would not expect anything else from most of Bill Belichick’s players. He does have a good point. The Patriots’ offensive line has played exceptionally well this year in their run blocking and also in pass protection. They had the running game going which they have not had in the last few years and with me being an old school guys it is fun to watch. But it was quite an accomplishment for a young back like Green-Ellis to come away with a 1,000-yard season. When the season started no one really knew who he was and he has really been a nice find for them. You can’t help but be happy for what he has accomplished this season.
RRM: Despite Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Aaron Hernandez all being MIA in this game Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game didn’t seem to miss a beat, as Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Tate had big games against the Dolphins. Doesn’t that display the diversity in the Patriots’ passing game?
SG: You keep your top receivers out and you still win in a runaway. Gronkowski had a huge game against the Dolphins and looked like an All-Pro. He had some really good catches and some good runs after the catch. Julian Edelman finally showed up and did something on special teams, and I think everyone was waiting for some big plays from him all year.
RRM: You mentioned Julian Edeleman, who brought the crowd to life with a scintillating 94-yard punt return for a TD late in the second quarter that broke the former record held by your old teammate Mike Haynes. I’ll make an educated guess that Mike didn’t do the Lambeau Leap into the stands after he scored?
SG: No, no one was jumping into the stands back in those days [laughs]. Even though Mike might have had an afro I do not think his hair was not nearly as long as Edelman’s. I don’t know if he is trying to look like Tom Brady or what, but it was a great run. He made the first guy hit him and miss. Then he made his way through the field and once downfield he used that breakaway speed. Going into the playoffs it is nice to know you have someone who can do that for you once in a while.
RRM: Back up quarterback Brian Hoyer finally got to see some extended action in the second half and played extremely well, even notching a TD pass for himself. As a former quarterback what did you think of him being subbed for Brady during the midst of a series in the second quarter?
SG: I thought that was a little strange to bring him in for a few plays and then back out like he did. I think they are looking at all scenarios at what could happen in the playoffs. They want to rehearse what would happen and how it would go and then get Brady back out there and then eventually let Hoyer finish the game. Looking back now it was probably a good idea.
RRM: The much-maligned Patriots defense has seem to come into its own the second half of the season, and they were the only team not to allow a touchdown on the opening drive in all 16 games, After this recent stretch do you think they are ready to do what it takes in the playoffs?
SG: Pretty impressive. The defense has really found itself. Devin McCourty has been a huge factor in that defense and Vince Wilfork was getting some great pressure on the quarterback. You look at some of the names of those guys that are playing on defense. Rob Ninkovich, who is he? But he makes plays. A couple of defensive lineman I never heard of are out there but they are making the plays. So it is a young defense and it looks like they have found their way. They know how to get it done and that looks extremely good for them going into the playoffs.
RRM: The young players on the Patriots have performed beyond expectation but now comes the postseason where playoff experience is all important. Will their lack of postseason experience be a factor, and is that something that the veterans can help them overcome?
SG: I think there is always a little concern on how you get young players to prepare for the playoffs when they have never been there. However, this team has enough veteran players with playoff experience and with Super Bowl wins that can lead by example and talk to these guys and let them know what needs to take place to get it done, so that may compensate for the fact that they have a lot of young guys that do not have much experience.
RRM: Speaking of the playoffs this weekend Peyton Manning and his Colts will host Rexies’ boys at the Dome while the Ravens will head to the Midwest to take on the revamped Kansas City Chiefs and Matt Cassell. What’s your take on these games?
SG: In the Colts-Jets game if the Colts can get halfway healthy I would take Peyton Manning and the Colts. They didn’t look that healthy in their season finale against Tennessee, but it’s hard to go against Peyton Manning playing at home, although the Jets have been a good road team this season.
I saw the Chiefs play their last game at home against the Raiders and they played poorly. Although they had already won the division they could have clinched the third seed with a win so they played most of their starters. They were missing a couple of their offensive linemen and it showed, as the Raiders sacked Matt Cassel something like 6 or 7 times. But that loss might serve as an inspiration for them. That was Kansas City’s only home loss this year and that can be a tough place to play, and I’m taking them to take care of business at home over the Ravens.
RRM: It seemed like the era of sports championships in Boston had faded away, but now with the Patriots headed into the playoffs as the favorite to win the Super Bowl, the Red Sox acquiring both Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Celtics challenging for the best record in the NBA, and the Bruins a perennial playoff contender do we dare hope that another run of championships is in our future?
SG: There’s a very good chance of that. The Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL if not the best right now, and with all the young players they’ve brought in to revitalize the team it looks like they have a chance to be a top contender for several years. It now looks like the Red Sox are going to challenge for a championship in 2012 and the Celtics are as a good as any team in the NBA. I don’t follow the Bruins that closely but it would be great to see all four of Boston’s professional sports team challenge for championships over the next few years. Golden eras don’t come around very often and if we get another one headed this way that would be pretty remarkable.
RRM: What are Grogan’s Grades for the 38-7 demolition of the Dolphins?
SG: A’s all around for this game, for the offense, defense and special teams.
It’s been great watching this team come together and improving week after week and really hitting their stride with this complete victory in all areas of the game. I mentioned Vince Wilfork earlier and would like to give him a special mention here. He got flagged for roughing the passer because he couldn’t twist his helmet the right way, then he comes back two plays later and sacks the quarterback again. This time he got his helmet out of the way, and I’ve said this before that it is hard for me to feel bad for defensive players but sometimes you see some of the flags thrown on these guys now and you wonder what the heck the officials are looking at. But Vince Wilfork has had a great year and has really turned into a big leader on this football team. I am happy for him that he has had that kind of success. If he continues to lead this young defense with his stellar play we’ll be doing this column into February this year! Talk to you in two weeks.
Grogan’s Grades for Game #16