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September 27, 2004
Grogan's Grade: Bye Week
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall

R.R. Marshall: Steve, thanks to the NFL schedule makers we don’t have a game to dissect this week. Instead we get to talk about all the fascinating aspects of a bye week….okay, I can’t think of anything, how about you?

Steve Grogan: That about sums it up! The bye week came much too early this year and I’m sure Bill Belichick and his players would prefer to keep playing, but that’s the way the schedule fell. I don’t think the time off is going to affect this team too much. This team is too well-coached and too well-prepared to let it bother them. They’re also playing a game against another team coming off a bye week so there’s no advantage as far as being rusty after not playing for a week.

RRM: During this bye week the Patriots have all week to listen to questions on whether they will break the NFL record of 18 straight wins. Does having to endure something like that distract from your focus?

SG: I really don’t think so. They have taken a stance since the beginning of the season that they aren’t going to talk about the winning streak, and their official position is they don’t care about the streak. I know the media will try to make something out of it but I don’t see these guys following into that trap. These players are too well-schooled by Bill Belichick to make that kind of mistake.

RRM: Corey Dillon’s problems in Cincinnati are well documented, and it was said even his own linemen didn’t want to block for him any more. Do you think he will become a distraction as the season goes along?

SG: I haven’t heard of any player ever saying something like that publicly, although I’m sure players have thought that way to themselves. Sometimes if a teammate rubs you the wrong way you don’t give your best effort to make them look good. But Corey Dillon is here in New England now and he seems happy to be here, and I don’t think they are going to have any problems with him. I remember in the season opener watching him trailing a play on which a Patriot receiver scored and Dillon had his arms up in the air signaling touchdown; he was really excited that his teammate scored. I think he’s pretty happy finally playing for a winning team, and he is going to become a huge asset as the season goes along.

RRM: I think a lot of fans think Dillon is unhappy because he looks like he’s angry all the time. Is that what you see?

SG: That’s just his game face, and a lot of players have that demeanor on the field. Rodney Harrison is the same way; he’s just a very intense player. Corey Dillon is still trying to prove himself to his new teammates. You just don’t come in off the street with a bunch of impressive numbers and have your new teammates think you’re great. You have to prove it to them, and through these first two games he’s taken some big steps in doing just that.

RRM: Prior to the start of the season there was a lot of speculation that the Patriots’ defense would suffer from the enforcement of the illegal contact (or 5-yard chuck) rule. Is it just me or has this issue already been forgotten less than a month into the season?

SG: They adjusted well in a hurry, didn’t they [laughs]! I think it was blown a little out of proportion. That rule has always been on the books and it was called occasionally but it got a lot of publicity after the AFC Championship Game when the Colts complained about the aggressive tactics of the Patriots defensive backs against their receivers. The media grabbed hold of it and it received a lot of attention but as is usually the case they moved onto something else and the issue died down. I really think as the season goes along you will see it called less and less and it won’t become the big factor many thought it would.

RRM: Right now the backup quarterback position for the Patriots is being manned by Rohan Davie and Jim Miller. Given the importance of the role are you surprised they didn’t put a little more effort into finding a qualified veteran quarterback to back up Tom Brady this season?

SG: I’d had to say I am a little bit, but I’m thinking they must know more about Jim Miller and what he can do than we do. They seem to be comfortable with him, and I guess they figure putting him as the emergency quarterback he will be able to play in the fourth quarter in a pinch. Not having seen Miller play that much I really can’t comment on him although he would have valuable experience in situations like that. Rohan Davie was not impressive during the preseason even though the coaches seem to think he was. It would scare me if Brady were to go down in the fourth quarter, and I’m really not sure which one I’d turn to at this particular time.

RRM: While the Bills and Dolphins have floundered in the early going the hated Jets have kept pace with the Patriots in September. Although it is still early in the season do you feel they will be the Patriots chief division rival this year?

SG: The Jets have scored over 30 points in each of their first two games so we know their offense is for real. Chad Pennigton is a very good young quarterback and having him back and healthy has made all the difference for their team. Curtis Martin seems to have new life on some old legs and although you wonder if he will hold up over an entire season he’s certainly turned back the clock in the early going. Right now the Jets look like the only contender the Patriots have for the Eastern Division title. Buffalo and Miami aren’t looking very strong right now so it will be fun when the Pats and Jets hook up this season.

RRM: Speaking of the Jets we would be remiss if we did not wish you a happy anniversary. It was 25 years ago when you set the team record for touchdown passes in a game with five in a 56-3 bombing of the Jets back in 1979. What do you recall from that game?

SG: I guess it’s one of the few records I have left on the books, with Tom Brady in town they’ve been dropping fast [laughs]! In that game I hit a couple of long ones for scores early and I expected them to come out of their single coverage on our wide receivers, but they never did! It was just amazing. They kept trying to double one side or the other, which left one side in single coverage. We kept sending them deep and they were wide open. Any time as a quarterback you get single coverage on wide receivers the quality of a Harold Jackson or Stanley Morgan you’ll usually come out on top. What can I say, it was a fun day.

RRM: You came out of that game in the third quarter and your back up Tom Owen tossed another to set the team record at six. But the NFL record of seven held by several players, from Hall of Famer Sid Luckman to Injun’ Joe Kapp was within reach; was there any consideration given to you about going for the record?

SG: No, there was never any thought of keeping me in the game. It was a pretty one-sided game at that point. I wasn’t even aware that Tom Owen threw one after I came out. I never got my chance at the record. I guess I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of the Patriots; I get no respect at all!!

RRM: Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe was sacked seven times by the Raiders in their last game and his hard times just seem to continue. How do you see this game with Buffalo this week?

SG: When Bledsoe doesn’t get protection he’s an average quarterback and he hasn’t been getting any protection, and that’s a major reason why their offense has struggled. Buffalo had better get some things straightened out on their offensive line or Bledsoe is not going to make it through the season. The Bills have a really good defensive unit but offensively they just can’t get anything done.

They have a very explosive running back in Travis Henry and the rookie Willis McGahee that the Patriots will have to keep in check, so this will be a challenge to see if run defense has improved since that opening game against Indianapolis. I know most people look at this game as an easy one for the Patriots but there is no such thing as an easy game in the Patriots-Bills series. The games are usually close, although last year was the exception when both teams took turns blowing each other out by 31-0 scores. But that game in Buffalo last year should be all the incentive the Patriots need to prepare for this game. I’m guessing the results will be a little different this time around.


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