PatsFans.com is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for the 12th straight season. Grogan played in 149 games with the Patriots from 1975-1990, and was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995. Steve will join us each week to provide his insight on the progress of the Patriots during the 2012 football season. He already joined the Buzz on Monday, now we do an additional expanded feature with another interview from local writer R.R. Marshall which gives you even more from the former New England signal caller.
R.R. Marshall: Despite scoring 30 points for the second time in three games, the Patriots dropped a 31-30 decisions to the Ravens to fall to 1-2 and I imagine losing in the final minutes in consecutive weeks has to be frustrating at this point for this team?
Steve Grogan: Very disappointing loss, has to be very frustrating for everybody involved. They played a good football team and they played well, they just couldn’t get it closed out at the end when they needed to.
RRM: They Patriots actually lead this game 30-21 in the fourth quarter but as you mentioned, they couldn’t put Baltimore away when they had the chance. Does the share of blame go for the offense or the defense for this do you think?
SG: I think when you put up 30 points you have to feel pretty comfortable about winning the football game, and for the defense to let them come back and get themselves back in a position to win the game, I would probably put the blame on the defense. In the first couple of games we got used to seeing them pressure the quarterback and forcing bad throws and didn’t see much of that Sunday night. But again Baltimore’s a very good football team, a playoff caliber team and when you’re playing them at home you have to be at your very best, and I don’t think the defense was at their very best Sunday night.
RRM: You bring up a good point because I thought the big difference in the game was when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the Ravens got heavy pressure on Tom Brady and the Patriots weren’t able to put any pressure at all on Joe Flacco?
SG: Yeah, and you didn’t see many blitzes out of the Patriots and I think Ray Rice, the runningback, probably is the reason for that. If you blitz to put pressure on Flacco and they happen to hand the ball off to Rice and he breaks the line of scrimmage, he’s a tough guy to catch and bring down. So I think they were trying to just keep everything in front of them, but by doing that they left Flacco all kinds of time to throw and he’s a good enough quarterback that when he’s got time and no pressure, he’s going to make plays.
RRM: I was going to say, I could see your point for the first 3 ½ quarters, but with a 9 point at the midway point of the fourth quarter, I thought they could have risked a couple of blitzes because Flacco could have played that game in a tuxedo?
SG: Looking back on it they probably wish they had. But their defensive philosophy, at least Sunday night, seemed to be ‘don’t give up the big plays’ and by doing that they allowed the Ravens to just kind of move it down the field and score the points they needed to win.
RRM: This appeared to be Tom Brady’s best game of the season going 28-of-41 for 335 and a touchdown, but Joe Flacco outdid him going 28-for-39 for 385. How did you view the play of the two quarterbacks?
” I thought Brady played really well.” – Steve Grogan (FILE:USPresswire)
SG: I thought Brady played really well. [He] spread the ball around a lot, got Welker involved again, and Brandon Lloyd is going to be a factor in this offense. I’m not sure why Woodhead played as much as he did more than Ridley, that’s kind of a head scratcher to me. But Tom seemed very comfortable in the pocket back there even though they did get some pressure on him at times. He didn’t’ make any major mistakes and again, they put up 30 points and that should won the game.
RRM: Have you changed your mind about Flacco? Are you ready to elevate him to elite quarterback class of NFL quarterbacks?
SG: Well I think he’s still just a notch below being one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he is getting better as time goes by. He does have some weapons out there, so he’s moving up the ladder pretty quickly.
RRM: Steve a total of 24 penalties were called in the game which pretty much explains the physical nature and ‘chippiness’ of the type of game it was. Were the replacement officials to blame because they let this game get out of hand too early? Should they have dropped some flags a little earlier, or was this just going to happen because of the nature of these two teams?
SG: You know, it’s easy to point the finger at the replacement refs, but I think these two teams have played each other so many times in big games over the past few years that they’ve almost developed a rivalry that neither likes each other. Even if you had the regular refs in there I think it probably it would have been a little chippy, it just may not have lasted quite as long as it did Sunday night. The replacement guys I’m sure are afraid of affecting the outcome of the game, especially early in the game by throwing a flag on somebody. If you’re going to throw it in those kinds of situations you penalize both teams, they offset, and then you move on. But it would have been chippy anyway I think, no matter who was refereeing.
RRM: Can you understand the league’s stance toward negotiating with the officials? I mean why are they being so hard-lined? When you look at it, it seems like there’s very little money involved?
SG: It’s hard to figure out. I think the league’s trying to make a statement that these guys are part time guys and they don’t want to pay them, from what I’m hearing anyway, the pension plan. They didn’t want to define a pension plan, they want to have them use a 401K and I’m not a financial guy, but these guys make a lot of money for working 3 days a week for 20 weeks and it seems to me like the officials are being a little bull-headed about it. There ought to be some way to compromise, whether they grandfather the guys who are there and anybody that comes in new uses the new system with a 401K or whatever it might be. But they need to get them back on the field. The product’s starting to be talked about more because of the officiating than it is about the players on the field.
RRM: Despite losing Julian Edelman halfway through this one, the Patriots offense didn’t seem to miss a beat with Wes Welker resuming his old role and newcomer Brandon Lloyd displaying his talents. It looked like he and Brady have been working together for years?
SG: Yeah, Lloyd – he’s a veteran guy that just seems to ‘get it’ and he and Brady have not taken long to develop a pretty good feel for each other. They had a couple of back shoulder throws Sunday night that Lloyd caught, those are not easy to time up when you haven’t been around a guy for very long. But Lloyd’s going to be a factor for this offense and Welker was back again and looked like his old self, so whatever was taking place a week ago seems to have been swept under the rug and they’re using him the way he needs to be used.
RRM: The Patriots are on the road this Sunday, this time for a game against Division rival Buffalo. Although it’s only Week 4, I guess we have to say they’re facing a crucial game this week?
SG: Yes, you’re playing a team in your own division and a team that seems to be improved defensively. They won Sunday and they’re a team that can jump up and get you if you’re not careful. Because it’s a division game it’s extremely important that the Patriots put this Baltimore game behind them and don’t overlook the Bills – which over the past few years has been an easy thing to do.
RRM: History loves to repeat itself and it looked like the Patriots were going to have their hands full with the NFL’s league-leading rusher C.J. Spiller, but he went out with a shoulder injury and it looks like their task will be that much easier. But all I can think about is a game, I think it was in your 3rd season, where O.J. Simpson got hurt and it looked like the Patriots would have a walkover in Buffalo and Owen Hooks came out and had a career game. So these things can happen, especially when you have to go out to Buffalo?
SG: [Laughs] Oh there’s no question about that. There are a lot of great runningbacks in the league, but a great runningback has a great offensive line in front of him – he doesn’t make yards on his own. So if you put another guy back where Spiller is – with their offensive line – he’ll probably gain a lot of yards himself. So they’re going to have to be ready for that this week. Fitzpatrick is a solid guy, he’s not going to win the game but he’s not going to lose it for them and they need to shut down the running game and try to make him win it.
RRM: Before I ask for the grades, we’d be remiss without mentioning Kansas State’s big upset over Oklahoma on Saturday night. This has to be the biggest win I can think of for that program, and in case people don’t realize you’re an alumnus of Kansas State, so you must be one proud alumnus?
SG: Yeah, that was quite a game. I tell you, to go into Ohlahoma and win as convincingly as they did the other night just doesn’t happen to K-State very often. I played down there twice in my career, and I think the closest we came to them was 50 points. So it was fun to sit there and watch Oklahoma struggle. To go into Norman, play in that stadium, I know what it’s like – it’s not easy to win there and it was an impressive victory so I’m really happy for them.
RRM: It takes a little sting out of the Patriots’ loss I guess?
SG: A little bit. Not enough [Laughs].
RRM: What are Grogan’s Grades for the extremely tough 31-30 loss to the Ravens?
SG: I gave them a B- overall. I would say the offense would be a B+ and a C- for the defense. They also did a good job on special teams, but overall I’d have to give them a B-.
RRM: Are you interested in taking up a collection for the fine Bill Belichick’s going to have to pay for grabbing the official’s arm at the end of the game?
SG: You know, Bill gets into the game but he’s not that emotional of a guy. To see him run off the field and grab an official is just really out of character for him. So he must have been extremely upset and he’s going to pay for it I’m sure.
RRM: As Bill would say, we’ll put this one behind us and we move on.
SG: That’s all you can do.
Grogan’s Grade for Week 3: