December 13, 2005
Grogan's Grade: Week 13
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the Patriots found the winter weather in Buffalo to their liking and rolled to an easy 35-7 win over the Bills. I guess if they played in conditions like that all the time they would go undefeated?
Steve Grogan: I was actually at the game and I was glad I was sitting in a box where it was nice and warm, and I was not shy about making my wishes known to keep the window CLOSED! I never expected the Patriots to roll up the kind of yardage on offense (494 total yards) like they did in those conditions, but it was certainly a welcome sight to see. This was about as good an all-around game as this team has played in a really long time, and that is good news because with the playoffs just around the corner you want to head into the postseason playing your best football.
RRM: I’m sure everyone was a little nervous when Lee Evans beat Asante Samuel on a 58-yard bomb to start the game. But then after the Bills reached the Patriots 10-yardline they went backwards on two straight plays, and the series ended with Samuel redeeming himself with an endzone interception. It seemed the Bills never recovered after that?
SG: No, they didn’t and I thought it really gave the Patriots defense a boost when they kept Buffalo off the scoreboard on that trip. It really took the wind out of the Bills’ sails and it was never close after that. We’ve talked before about how important it is for the Patriots to avoid falling behind early on the road and being forced to come from behind, so that turned out to be a really big play turned in by the defense.
RRM: Last week Tom Brady became the first NFL quarterback to be named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year since Joe Montana. Seeing how Montana was his boyhood idol it must have meant a lot to him?
SG: Oh, I’m sure it did. It was nice to see Brady pick up that award from Sports Illustrated because that one is kind of special. He handles all of those award presentations very well and does a good job of spreading around the accomplishment to everybody that has helped him. He’s just a great kid with his head firmly planted on his shoulders.
RRM: Was it just me, or wasn’t that a pretty ugly trophy for Sportsman of the Year?
SG: It was [laughs]! I was surprised when I saw it. You would think they could come up with something a little better than that, but who am I to judge.
RRM: Tom Brady shrugged off the infamous Sports Illustrated cover jinx and turned in one of his best games of the season. How does a kid from California play so well in cold weather?
SG: That’s a really good question; I don’t really know! The formula for this team hasn’t change; if Tom Brady plays well they have a chance to win and if he doesn’t then they don’t. Considering the conditions it was just amazing to me the way he was able to throw the football with the snow and the cold (29 for 38 for 328 yards and two touchdown passes). He distributed the ball around just the way he usually does on a dry day. He’s now 19-0 in games played in less than 40 degree weather and that’s just an impressive accomplishment. His legend just continues to grow.
RRM: We already knew Brady was an accomplished passer but we also got to see him as a runner and as a blocker in this game. How did he grade out in those areas in your estimation?
SG: For a guy that doesn’t do it very often I thought he was pretty good! I thought he moved around pretty well, even with that injury to his leg that left him limping around.
RRM: Like most people I’m still trying to figure out why they threw a flag at him for the block he threw on the double reverse to Deion Branch. Was it a true crackback block in your opinion?
SG: No, I thought it was a strange call as well. If you’re going back towards the line of scrimmage you can’t block below the waist. In my opinion Brady wasn’t going back towards where the ball started, so I thought it was a bad call. He got robbed, and that’s no way to treat the Sportsman of the Year!
RRM: The TV broadcasters were guessing he drew the call because he extended his right arm and it looked more like he tackled the Buffalo defender rather than blocking him. Is that how it looked to you?
SG: It could have been. I know I got called for holding a few times in my career for doing the same thing. The defender puts a little juke on you and you aren’t used to blocking so you reach out and grab his feet. What was fortunate for the Patriots was it really wasn’t an important play in the game.
RRM: The Patriots were forced to start yet another player at left tackle in Tom Ashworth after rookie Nick Kaczur became yet another injury victim for this team. With a top flight defensive end in Buffalo’s Aaron Schobel to defend against you really had to be concerned about Brady’s health in this game, but it appeared Ashworth held his own?
SG: Schobel beat him early for a sack but once he got settled in I thought he played well. In fact I thought the entire Patriots’ offensive line played well, and when you pile up 494 total yards and break a franchise record with 32 first downs your offensive line has to be getting the job done. For a bunch of guys that are all mixed and matched right now they are getting it done, and that’s encouraging to see at this time of year.
RRM: You’ve talked about how much improved Rosevelt Colvin looked to you in recent games, and he just seemed to explode in this game and was a constant presence in the Buffalo backfield. Doesn’t it look like he has fully recovered from his injury?
SG: We knew Colvin was an extremely talented player when they picked him up, and then the injury really set him back. I don’t think the Patriots were really able to play a pressure defense for most of this season because of all the problems in the secondary. Now that the new corners have gotten a little more comfortable and they have been playing against some young, inexperienced quarterbacks they were finally able to come with some pressure and do some blitzing. That has freed Colvin up to use his talent to do what he does best, get to the quarterback, and he has really been getting it done in recent weeks.
RRM: Three interceptions by the Patriots’ defense against the Bills and only 169 yards allowed through the air. As you’ve said before, nothing makes a secondary better than a good pass rush?
SG: When you have Patriots’ defenders in your face it’s not so easy throwing for those 300 yards that every quarterback seemed to be getting against them. Not only is the Patriots’ secondary improving and getting more confident, the defensive line has to be feeling better about themselves with the amount of pressure they have been generating.
RRM: Corey Dillon seemed to find the weather to his liking, rambling for over a 100 yards against the Bills. If he’s still hurting he’s certainly disguising it well?
SG: This is Corey Dillon’s time of year. It’s that time late in the season when the weather gets bad and you just want to ram the ball down people’s throats, and that’s what Dillon does so well. He looked like the same Corey Dillon to me, and I’m sure the Bills defense is tired at looking at him. I also have to mention Kevin Faulk as well because getting him back in the offense has made a huge difference. It allows Brady to look for him on third down or use him on screen passes, and it gives the offense an entirely different dimension. That catch he made looking back over his shoulder with the snow coming down was just a really great play on his part and shows just what a great athlete he is.
RRM: Dillon skidded out of bounds in the first quarter and ended up near the sta nds where a fan grabbed the ball from him and spilled some hot coffee on him. Can you still get in trouble for losing the ball in the stands?
SG: It used to be you get fined as a player if you threw the ball into the stands. I think it used to be a $500 fine, so I don’t know if the league is going to fine him for letting that fan rip the ball out of his hands. I’d be more concerned about getting the coffee stain out of his uniform, that will kill the resale value on EBAY after the season!
RRM: It was a pretty nice sight to see only Patriots fans left in the stadium in the final minutes cheering their team on. That doesn’t happen too often to you as a player on the road, does it?
SG: No, it doesn’t and it stands out in your mind as a player when it does happen. I remember that happening a few times when we were playing up there in Buffalo and it’s kind of a special thing. A lot of Patriots’ fans make the trip up north every year for that game and I know that always gave me a little bit of a boost as a player when I saw them all there.
RRM: The Patriots had a chance to clinch the AFC East if the Dolphins had lost, but instead Miami pulled off a big upset in San Diego. Do you think in the long run that is a plus for the Patriots since it gives them an incentive this week with the division title still in play?
SG: I think it’s important to have something to play for, but in all honestly I think with Bill Belichick running things this team is going to play hard regardless of the circumstances. I suppose Miami’s winning will help keep their heads in the game a little bit more, but once the game starts on Saturday and their competitive juices start flowing all thoughts of the Dolphins will disappear and they will get back down to business.
RRM: The latest word is Brady suffered some sort of contusion on his calf. He was limping noticeably several times; any chance he won’t be able to go this week?
SG: Tom Brady should be able to play; it didn’t appear like he twisted anything. It looked like when he was rolling over in the endzone somebody caught him with an elbow in his calf. With those kinds of things you will go along for a few minutes and be feeling pretty good, and then you’ll get it banged again and it’s kind of like hitting your funny bone. It just hurts for awhile and then it will calm down again. He’ll get some treatment this week and I’m sure he’ll be fine for the game. One thing I’m certain of is that Tom Brady will be on the field if he can go at all.
RRM: The Patriots return home for a Saturday game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Does playing a day early on Saturday affect your internal clock as a player?
SG: Playing on a Saturday throws off your timing a little bit to begin with. You are geared to play every Sunday, and with the NFL playing on Saturdays, Mondays, and even the occasional Thursday any deviating from your normal routine can be upsetting to a player. But this Patriots team has been prepared by Bill Belichick to handle all situations, and while it may bother other teams I don’t expect it will bother them at all. I think the Patriots catch a real break getting to stay at home, because the team that has to travel on the short week is always at a disadvantage. The home team gets a little more preparation time and a little more rest time, and that always helps.
RRM: The Bucs polished off a pretty good Carolina team on the road on Sunday to raise their record to 9-4. What are your thoughts on their match up with the Pats?
SG: Tampa Bay is playing some pretty good football now. I think it’s a good time to get some of the kids on the Patriots tested against a quality opponent. They’ve beaten teams they should have beaten the past two weeks, now they are going to play a quality team and it should give us a good barometer of where they stand right now as they get near the playoffs. This should be a really good match up. Tampa Bay is a big, physical team that likes to pound it on the ground behind their rookie running back Cadillac Williams. The Patriots are playing pretty good run defense right now (only 14 rushing yards allowed against Buffalo on Sunday) and Tampa Bay has a good running game, so we are going to find out who is the toughest. The Patriots have that great record playing in cold weather games while Tampa Bay’s is the exact opposite, so let’s hope this cold front sticks around for a few more days!
RRM: What about in the Grogan household, is a Saturday contest going to throw off your normal weekend regimen?
SG: I’m not sure, I may have to get to that honey-do list that’s been hanging over my head for awhile. Sunday is the day I usually like to watch football while laying on my couch and I pass it off to my wife that I’m working; she’s not buying it but I keep telling her I have to do it!
RRM: What are Grogan’s Grades for the 35-7 win over the Bills in snowy Buffalo on Week #13?
SG: The Patriots just dominated on offense, defense, and special teams in this game. I didn’t see a whole lot wrong to criticize other than the missed tackle that helped the Bills ruin the shutout at the end of the game, so it’s another week of A’s across the board. The Patriots absolutely should have beaten Buffalo and they should have beaten them the way they did, but there were other teams they should have beaten soundly and didn’t. I think it was an encouraging sign to see them go out and dominate a game against a team that is really floundering right now like the Bills are. Hopefully giving out A’s two weeks in a row won’t ruin my reputation as a tough grader, but I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if I have to keep doing that for the next few weeks.
R.R. Marshall’s Q & A columns on the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, and Boston College Eagles appear year round in both the electronic and print media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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