November 21, 2002
2000 Grogan's Grade: Week 3 vs Vikings
BY: Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
ARCHIVED STORY WRITTEN 09/00
Steve, the Patriots allowed the Vikings to score touchdowns on their first
three possessions of the game en route to a 21-13 decision at Foxboro.
What was problem they were having stopping the Vikings in that first half?
SG: They really didn't play
that badly in the first half, what killed them was the third down conversions.
The Patriots just could not make a stop on third down; I think the Vikings
converted 6 of 8 third down situations on those drives in the first half.
It really kills you defensively because now your defense is on the field
too long and it wears them down for the rest of the game while your offense
is sitting on the sidelines. But you also have to give some credit to the
Vikings who saw what the Patriots were trying to do on defense and took
advantage of it. They didn't even bother to look Moss's way because
he had double coverage, and on the short passes Chris Carter is going to
win most of the time against Ty Law because Law has to prevent him from
going deep and stopping the big play. It's the old strategy of giving up
the short stuff and hoping they'll make a mistake and you get the ball
back. But Minnesota didn't make any mistakes in the first half. They took
full advantage of what the Patriots were giving them, and they took advantage
of some of the three/four-deep guys on the roster (like against Kato Serwanga
on the deep pass to Matthew Hatchette that put them in control of the game).
PFc: Tedy Bruschi was extremely active in this game for the Patriots, and served as Culpepper's "shadow" on most plays. What did you think of his play against the Vikings?
SG: Bruschi's a great athlete,
and if you are going to stop a guy like Culpepper you have to have a great
athlete to put on him and mirror him. Bruschi did a great job in that aspect,
particularly in the second half where he made some big plays to keep Culpepper
from running. During Bruschi's first four to five years he was strictly
a special teams player but he earned a chance to play and he's making the
most of it. A lot of people didn't think he could play a full game/season
because he'd get worn down since he is a smallish-type player, but they
were wrong. Right now he's making plays and it's been a treat to
For all their offensive woes so far this season the Patriots moved the
ball well in the first half, yet points were again hard to
SG: I thought the offense played well for three quarters. There wasn't much to critique in the first half as they didn't have the ball that much, but they were doing the same thing Minnesota was doing in taking what the defense would give them. They were getting the ball to Terry Glenn on short passes, running the ball well with Kevin Faulk, and actually pass protected well for three quarters. I thought the offensive line was vastly improved over the last two weeks until late in the game when Minnesota knew they were going to throw the ball. They were trying to use ball control and eat the clock and keep Minnesota's offense off the field; the difference was they didn't put any points on the board like the Vikings did.
PFc: What did you think of Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth down from the three trailing 21-7 in the fourth quarter?
SG: I thought at that point in the game it was the right decision. A field goal would have made it 21-10 and you still would have had to have scored two touchdowns to win. While I didn't have a problem with the decision I'm not sure I would have went with the play they called that wound up with a sack of Bledsoe.
PFc: That play seemed to highlight the difference in this game between the two teams and what has been the Patriots' Achilles heel all season; being able to successfully execute in the redzone.
SG: This has been the dominant
theme the last several weeks and it has not changed. The Patriots are just
too one-dimensional when they get into the redzone. They can't run the
ball successfully down there and the defense knows where the quarterback
is going to be when he throws. They also don't have a big back or
big receiver who can push himself free in the tight quarters down there.
The Vikings got the ball into the endzone the two times they got the ball
in the redzone, all season long the Patriots haven't been able to punch
it in when they absolutely had to. There really isn't anything else I can
If there was one disappointing aspect of this game for Patriots fans it's
that the team seemed to regress with some sloppy play. There were nine
penalties, two bobbled snaps on kick attempts, and poor clock/timeout management.
Did you find this to be the case as well?
SG: If the Patriots are going
to be able to successfully throw the ball then their running backs have
to be able to block oncoming rushers. I think Kevin Faulk is starting to
"get it" now, that blocking is just important an aspect of being an NFL
back as running the ball or catching it. I have always been impressed
with his running ability, as well as his ability to catch the ball. He
made a nice catch and run on the Patriots last drive, and had the presence
of mind to get out of bounds to stop the clock. But a lot of times a young
back will have problems recognizing pass protection. Right now Kevin seems
to be getting
PFc: Willie McGinest went down early with a leg injury yesterday and Patrick Pass was activated from the practice squad to take J.R. Redmond's place on the roster as Faulk's back-up. Does it concern you that this team is only an injury or two away from having some serious depth problems?
SG: They have problems as
it is and if they were to start losing people it's going to get even worse!
When Troy Brown got shaken up Kevin Faulk added punt returns to his duties,
so now you have your #1 running back playing on two different kick return
units. If either he or a Terry Glenn were to go down the problems on offense
would be staggering to comprehend. There just isn't a lot of depth
on this football team right now, and part of that may be Belichick's decision
over the offseason to just go
SG: I think they're frustrated, but I don't think they've given up yet because there still is a lot of football to be played and a lot of things that can happen until the end of the season. Right now they need someone to step up and start making plays in key situations, someone who can take the game under control and say: "I'm going to be the go-to guy and I'm going to help us win". They need a win under their belt badly because with another couple of losses this becomes a snowball rolling downhill and it's going to be hard to stop.
PFc: You played on that 1981 Patriots team that lost their first four games and seem to suffer from shellshock as they wound up going 2-14. Is this team starting to show some eerie parallels to that one?
SG: In 1981 it seemed each week we played just well enough to lose. We finished 2-14 but we were in every single game we played. We just couldn't make plays to win games that year, and I see that starting to happen with this team and right now it is not a fun situation for the players or the fans. That's why they have to break out of this winless streak soon before this play-just-well-enough-to-lose cycle becomes permanently attached to them.
PFc: A date with the Dolphins in Miami is next on the schedule. Last year the Dolphins swept the two games against the Patriots and they remain a tough defensive team that are a formidable opponent, especially on their home turf?
SG: There's no question that
the Patriots have put themselves in the situation where they have to go
down to Miami and find a way to win that game some way, some how. Turnovers
have always hurt the Patriots quite a bit playing the Dolphins in Miami
and when you are struggling they can really put you down for the count.
It's been strange in that the Patriots have not been turning over the ball
this year. When you are losing ballgames you can usually point to penalties
and turnovers, but in this case turnovers haven't been the problem to this
point (only two in three games). Hopefully they can keep that positive
aspect of their game intact because Miami doesn't score much and thrives
on having their defense set up scoring opportunities with turnovers.
SG: I haven't heard or seen
anything that would indicate any kind of a rift between Bledsoe and Belichick,
and I would be really surprised if that was the case. Belichick doesn't
go out of his way to sing the praises of any of his players so I wouldn't
read too much into that. I've heard the talk on the radio about Bledsoe
being moved but I don't see Drew Bledsoe going anywhere. You just don't
get rid of somebody of his caliber without having someone in mind or somebody
already in the fold and they don't have either of those. I guess you have
to take those talk shows for what they are worth.
SG: I thought they played
pretty average this week overall. There were some good points and some
bad points but right now they are playing very average football. The fact
is you don't win in the NFL if you're only playing average football.
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