November 15, 2004
Grogan's Grade: Week 9
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the rumors of Buffalo’s resurgence turned out to be greatly exaggerated, as New England pummeled them 29-6 before a national primetime audience. Wasn’t it kind of nice to have a laugher for a change?
Steve Grogan: It was refreshing to see that. When the Patriots had those two long drives in the first quarter and had to settle for only field goals I found it a little bit concerning. But it turned out they got things under control and they ended up dominating this game from start to finish. They kept Buffalo in check and they moved the ball offensively as good as they’ve moved it all year. This just wasn’t a contest at all, and it turned out to be their most impressive performance of the season so far.
RRM: Buffalo came into the game with the #3-ranked defense in the NFL. If that’s the case I’d hate to see who’s ranked #4!
SG: They certainly didn’t look like a #3-rated defense in this game. They didn’t take away the running game or the passing game; they just didn’t play well at all. It seemed to me that the Bills didn’t play as physically as you thought they would have. It’s almost as if they were tentative and confused, and were reacting to what the Patriots we doing rather than being aggressive. They were getting pressure to Tom Brady late, hitting him after he threw the ball, but they really weren’t in his face much all night. That’s a real credit to the Patriots offensive line; their pass protection was unbelievable. For the first time in a long time they finally have an offensive line that can consistently open holes for a ballcarrier, and that’s been fun to watch from my perspective.
RRM: There were a few streaks on the line last night. Willis McGahee had a run of three straight 100-yard rushing games going, the Bills hadn’t allowed a runner a 100-yard rushing game all season, and Drew Bledsoe hadn’t thrown an interception in his last two games. As the Patriots learned a few weeks ago all streaks must come to an end?
SG: None of those streaks made it through this game. Life in the NFL is hard to figure. The Bills had played so well the last three weeks, and it’s hard to figure why they couldn’t get it going last night. They just didn’t seem to be able to figure out how to do anything on either side of the football. The Bills tried to establish McGahee early and he had a couple of nice runs but they came to the realization that it wasn’t going to work. When you don’t have the ball for more than 18 minutes and you only run 41 plays it’s hard to get anything rolling on offense.
RRM: Corey Dillon had another big game with 151 yards on 26 carries. He’s only been here for half of a season and we’re already taking him for granted!
SG: Corey Dillon has been a huge addition to the Patriots, and he’s taken a lot of pressure off of Tom Brady to carry the offense. Besides running the football he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he’s also great in pass protection (which he really hasn’t been given enough credit for). His presence in the backfield has really opened up the play action and the deeper passes. When he touches the ball you just know there’s going to be some positive yardage generated. I don’t think anybody could have guessed that he’d be this big a factor to this offense. We all knew he was good but to just keep putting up 100-yard rushing games the way he has done is just amazing.
RRM: I know he’s now the quarterback for a division rival and he’s officially the enemy but it was hard to watch what happened to Drew Bledsoe in this game and not feel sorry for him, don’t you think?
SG: I felt badly for him, too. He just could not get anything going for his team last night, and I don’t really think it was due to anything the Patriots were doing defensively to confuse him. It didn’t look like the Patriots defense was throwing a lot of exotic things at him. He was just having trouble getting the ball where he needed it to go, and he threw some very poor passes.
RRM: Since the loss to Pittsburgh three weeks ago the Patriots have now won their last two games by a combined margin of 69-28. Maybe that loss turned out to be a good thing since it served to refocus this team?
SG: I think it got them going back in the right direction. The loss ended the winning streak and that took the pressure off of them, and now they are able to concentrate on just playing good football and it’s paying off for them big time. I know the players said they never thought about the streak, but as a former player I can tell you that they most certainly did think about it and privately I’m sure most of them are glad it’s something they don’t have to hear about any longer.
RRM: It was nice to see even a veteran like Troy Brown still has the heart of a little boy. After his interception he was cradling that ball on the sidelines like he was never going to let it go?
SG: Even when you are a veteran like Troy Brown is, when you do something that nobody ever expected you to be able to do that becomes more special than what you do on a regular basis. He has scored touchdowns as a receiver and as a punt returner but you could tell this was special for him because he was so excited about it. Now he has an interception to add to his list of career accomplishments.
RRM: With all the injuries to the wide receivers on this team isn’t playing him on defense a little risky? If he gets hurt the depth at wide receiver is really going to get thin?
SG: It’s a positive as long as he stays healthy, at least that’s the way I look at it. The Patriots are in a situation right now where they have to use him at defensive back and he’s playing well back there. I think he’s a smart enough player that he’s not going to put himself in a position where he’s going to get hurt. Some people have asked me why don’t they just pick somebody up that can fill in a for a few weeks, and they could probably find someone that’s available but trying to teach someone their system in a week is harder than working with Troy Brown from the start of training camp. Troy’s a smart player and he picked things up quickly and I think it’s been a great move. But if the worse happens and he does go down that will certainly open up Bill Belichick to a lot of second guessing with Deion Branch already out due to injury.
RRM: The only thing that kept the game from being a shutout was the 70-yard return for a touchdown by Buffalo’s Jonathan Smith. What broke down on that play?
SG: That was probably the one bad thing they did all evening. Josh Miller was kicking the ball into the wind and he tried to drive it, and he kicked it toward the sideline which is normally what you try to do since there’s less field to run to. He didn’t get a lot of hangtime on that one to give the cover guys a chance to get downfield, but even after the first Patriot missed him you still have to have someone else in the vicinity to make that tackle. Fortunately it happened in a game where it really didn’t matter, but it does give them something to work on in practice this week.
RRM: Perhaps the only controversy that came out of this game was the fact that both Tom Brady and Corey Dillon were still playing up until the two minute warning in the fourth quarter. Wouldn’t it have been a little more prudent to pull them earlier?
SG: The coaching philosophy of the NFL is that any team can come back on you at any time of the game. I’m assuming that’s why they were left in there but yes, I suppose they played a little longer than they needed to. I was a little more surprised to see Dillon still out there more so than Brady considering he had already come out of the game after his knee or leg had gotten banged up a bit. Maybe he has an incentive bonus we’re not aware of, who knows?
RRM: Next week the Patriots travel to Arrowhead Stadium for a Monday Night showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs. Seeing how the Patriots haven’t won a game in Kansas City in 40 years this may prove to be quite a challenge?
SG: Wow, has it been that long? Arrowhead Stadium has always been a tough place to play and a Monday night game there is a big advantage for the Chiefs. It’s a very loud place and the fans will be even nosier since it’s a Monday night game. This will certainly be the best offense they’ve faced since the Colts in the opener. They can come at you in so many ways and are adept at putting a lot of points on the scoreboard. The Chiefs have a good quarterback in Trent Green, and Priest Holmes may be back for this game. They really do have an offense that can move the ball up and down the field with the best of them. Defensively they are very weak which should give the Patriots a number of options on how to attack them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game turn into a old fashion shootout, which might be fun for change. Right now the Patriots are definitely a better football team than Kansas City, and they just have to keep playing the way they are playing. Solid defense, running the football, throwing on the play actions, and if they do that they’ll win another one.
RRM: What are Grogan’s Grades for the demolition job over the Bills in Week #9?
SG: I'm giving out A’s all around for this game. They finally beat a team they were supposed to beat handily, and this was just no contest. Both the Patriots offense and defense played extremely well and the only thing that detracted from the effort was a blip on special teams. Ty Warren had a lot of good plays and turned in what I thought was one of this best efforts so far. I thought Tedy Bruschi played his usually solid game; he really is a Bledsoe Killer. He made a case for playing fullback with his runback on the interception; he made be the next in line to play fullback after Richard Seymour after that performance! I’m just glad Bruschi didn’t get hurt on that play where his knee buckled. When I first saw that play I thought he’d be out for awhile, and to see him just get up and walk off the field smiling was incredible! He’s always been a guy that takes good care of himself and he’s worked extremely hard to become one of the top echelon linebackers in the league. He’s also pretty flexible, and believe me most NFL linebackers aren’t built that way! Let’s hope they can carry their momentum into Kansas City and keep their new winning streak going this week.
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