November 14, 2006
Grogan's Grade: Week 9
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, many times before we?ve talked about some ugly wins by the Patriots but this week we have to talk about an ugly loss to the division-rival New York Jets. What in the world happened out there?
Steve Grogan: I found myself sitting there thinking as the first half came to a close that the Patriots will come out in the second half and take charge and win the game, and I think most people that have watched the Patriots play the last four or five years felt that way. By the end of the third quarter I?m realizing this isn?t going the way I thought it would. The funny thing is if you look at the final statistics the time of possession was about even and the total yardage wasn?t that far off. It boiled down to turnovers, sacks, and third down conversions. That last one was the key one with the Patriots converting only three of a dozen third downs. The Jets were close to 50%, but you would think with that kind of success they would have either more points or more possession time.
You?re right, it was an ugly game. I thought the Patriots got outcoached and they got outplayed in all phases of the game. The Jets came in and played with a lot more physical and emotional preparedness than the Patriots did, and it showed in the final outcome. I really thought this was a game where the Patriots got pushed around on the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively, and I haven?t seen them pushed around that much in a long time. The big guys didn?t do a very good job and Tom Brady didn?t have much time to throw. The Patriots ran the ball pretty well in the first quarter but didn?t have much success after that. It was just a really poor performance by the Patriots.
RRM: Ellis Hobbs took the blame for the loss for allowing the touchdown catch by Jerricho Cotchery that clinched the game late in the fourth quarter. In this instance I thought it was just an outstanding effort by the Jets? receiver and Hobbs had the play about as well covered as he possibly could have. Do you concur?
SG: Hobbs made a play where he should have knocked the ball down, but you?re right, I thought the Jets? receiver did a great job of concentrating to bring that catch in. It wasn?t all on Hobbs. This was a team loss. They didn?t play well on defense and they certainly didn?t play well on offense or on special teams. Everyone, even the coaches, had a hand in this loss and they understand that.
RRM: Doug Gabriel had a nice catch and run down the sideline that ended in disaster when he had the ball poked out from behind. He didn?t see the field again after the game, and my question is if they are going to punish him for making a mistake wouldn?t the entire team had been on the bench with all the mistakes that went on in this game?
SG: I know that?s an old Vince Lombardi disciplinary thing where you bench a player after he fumbles, but this is a guy that has made some big plays for you lately so how do you just take him and throw him on the bench because of that one mistake? It didn?t make much sense. Another big question I had was how do you stand Richard Seymour on the sideline for most of the second half? I heard Belichick say how they always rotate their defensive linemen that way but that wasn?t part of any rotation. It was obvious from his postgame comments that Seymour wasn?t happy about standing over there. I can?t remember a time when we?ve questioned so many of Bill Belichick?s coaching decisions, but he certainly has provided us with plenty of them this season.
RRM: After it looked like the Patriots? passing attack had come to life against Minnesota it has really regressed over the last two games. Did the Jets having an extra week to prepare play a major factor in this game, because it certainly looked like the Patriots were helpless in trying to counter what the Jets were throwing at them?
SG: I think the extra week the Jets had with the bye week had to help them. They brought a lot of blitzes that the Patriots weren?t prepared for and didn?t adjust to at all well. They had too many guys running clear through there and there isn?t a quarterback around that is going to prosper under those conditions.
RRM: We saw some extremely poor throws by both Tom Brady and Chad Pennington in this game. Just how tough is it for a quarterback to grip and throw the ball in wet conditions like that?
SG: It can get ugly. All the center has to do is turn the ball just a little bit as he prepares to snap it to you and all of a sudden you have a film of mud on there, and if it comes up where your fingers are trying to grab the ball it?s just horrible. But you have to play in those conditions sometimes if you?re a quarterback; it?s just part of your job. I thought Brady struggled a little bit in the first half with the wet ball and in the second half it looked like he adjusted for the wet ball and started throwing it like it was a dry ball. He even threw a couple that really sailed on him like he?d throw if it was dry!
RRM: I guess we?re so used to Tom Brady being razor sharp it stands out when he overthrows his receivers or throws balls behind them. How did you rate his performance in this game?
SG: If you look at Tom Brady?s stats he completed 68% of his passes (25 of 37 for 255 yards) and that?s pretty good in weather conditions like that. Sometimes I think we just expect too much out of the guy. He missed some open receivers, there?s no question about that, but the ball was hard to handle and his feet are sliding out from under him so there is a lot to deal with. He wouldn?t admit it on the interception that he threw on the ball intended for Laurence Maroney, but it looked to me like it was an option route and he expected Maroney to hook it right there in his tracks and Maroney expected it was a man-to-man and he was running a little out route. Brady threw it to where he expected Maroney to be and he wasn?t there, so that?s just miscommunication more than anything.
RRM: Another Brady interception got called back when his former Michigan teammate Victory Hobson got called for a roughing the passer penalty. I looked at that one a few times and at best it was a borderline call; certainly it wouldn?t have been a penalty back in your day?
SG: No, it wasn?t roughing the passer back then and it still shouldn?t be. I thought Phil Simms on CBS put it perfectly when he said how do you tell a guy to stop when he?s running full speed at the quarterback? The only thing he could have done when he went to the ground is put his arms out, like he?s trying to say I?m trying to hold up but I can?t. But you just planted your helmet in the quarterback?s chest and you can?t possibly think that fast. I know the league and the officials are trying to protect the quarterbacks but it can be terribly unfair to the defensive players. I thought the guy made a good play, and I guess Brady should be glad that it was an old college teammate from Michigan that hit him because I?d hate to see what a former rival from Ohio State would have done to him [laughs].
RRM: The postgame handshake between Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini had to be one of the quickest on record. The media reports appear to be accurate, there simply isn?t any love lost between the Patriots head coach and his former prot?g??
SG: No, there isn?t. I?m sure deep down Bill Belichick has a lot of respect for Eric Mangini because he brought him up in the coaching ranks and taught him a lot of what he knows. But when you go to a rival team where you play each other twice a year that relationship kind of goes out the window as far as Bill Belichick is concerned.
RRM: Even coaches that don?t care for one another usually are at least cordial to one another. Belichick won?t even refer to Mangini by name in his press conferences. Don?t you find that a little extreme?
SG: It?s hard to figure out why Belichick is so upset about this. There have been rumors of player tampering, but the only thing I can relate to it is if you raise your son to take over the family business and just when he?s ready to do so he goes to work for your hated competitor. Loyalty means a lot to him and we?ve seen how it affects him, and I guess it will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few seasons.
RRM: Were you as surprised as everyone else to learn that Corey Dillon?s 50-yard run in the first quarter was the longest running play from scrimmage of the Bill Belichick era?
SG: It was a little surprising, but if you think back to the backs they?ve had since Bill Belichick has taken over there haven?t been a lot of speed demons in the Patriots? backfield. You had backs like Antowain Smith and J.R. Redmond that weren?t going to outrun too many people, but it was nice to see a Patriots? running back bust one for a change.
RRM: After struggling to get into the endzone all afternoon it took the Patriots less than a minute to go 61 yards for the touchdown and two-point conversion that cut the lead to three points late in the final quarter. At least that gave the home town fans something to cheer about?
SG: The Jets defense did a few things differently on that drive that they hadn?t been doing all day that allowed that drive to take place. They rushed only three men and not only did it give Brady more time to throw, it allowed his receivers additional time to get from one hole to another. When you have time against a prevent zone like that an experienced quarterback can pick it apart pretty easily. The Jets changed things up on the Patriots? final drive, bringing some additional pressure on Brady and that made a big difference.
RRM: What about the old adage the only thing a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning? It could have come back to bite the Jets in the behind if the Patriots had managed to score at the end of the game and force overtime?
SG: A lot of fans have disdained the prevent defense for years because it seems whenever their team uses it late in a half the other team just marches right down the field and scores. The theory is you don?t want to give up the one big play, and if you continue to blitz and bring pressure there?s a chance they can hit a quick long one on you and then the fans are really going to be upset. There are times when it can do more harm than good so it really tests a coach?s ability when to employ it and when to come out of it.
RRM: Laurence Maroney was saying that this was the longest stretch of games he?s ever played and it feels like this season should be over already. He played 11-game seasons in college, shouldn?t someone tell him it?s time to suck it up?
SG: All rookies go through that. They?re used to playing an 11-game or 12-game schedule in college with a week off and suddenly you?re playing anywhere from a 20 to 23-game schedule factoring in preseason and postseason games, so it makes for a long season. It?s a good thing he?s shared the position with Corey Dillon or he?d be worn out by now!
RRM: This Sunday the Patriots travel to Green Bay for a game with the Packers. You played on the road at Green Bay so you know what?s it like there, what can the Patriots expect?
SG: We played in the first ever Monday Night Football game held in Green Bay back in 1979, and not only did we lose the game we lost three starters to injury for the rest of the year so there aren?t a lot of pleasant memories for me. Lambeau Field is a great football environment to play in and even when the team isn?t very good the Packers play well there. All three of the Patriots? losses have come at home this year so maybe a road trip is just what this team needs right now. I guess Brett Favre has bounced back after a rough start and is playing well now, which is something the Patriots don?t need to see while they are struggling. There certainly is a lot of improvement that needs to happen or they are going to their tails handed to them. But just like we said last week this is a game that the Patriots are expected to win and should win, and if that happens then things will go back to normal for at least one week and we can all toast a Patriots? victory at our Thanksgiving dinners.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 17-14 loss to the Jets at a dreary and wet Gillette Stadium?
SG: I?m giving out straight D?s, and that?s D as in dog because they played like dogs in this game. Not only was this the first time the Patriots have lost consecutive games since 2002, this was their third loss at home this season and that just should not be happening. The Patriots did some decent things on both sides of the ball yesterday at times but there weren?t enough of them. It was just a very disappointing loss, particularly at this point in the season. That includes the special teams as well because they haven?t played too well the past few weeks. The kickoff coverage in particular has been horrible. It was a real surprise to see Josh Miller have an off game punting the football. He kicked two of them through the endzone and you just can?t do that.
This is November and it?s time for them to shake off the cobwebs and start playing like we all know this team is capable of playing. Somebody has to step up and start making a play. It was only a couple of years ago when they were on a roll to the Super Bowl and it seemed like every week somebody different would step up to make a play to win the game. They haven?t had anyone do that this year; it?s like everyone is waiting around waiting for somebody else to get it done. My advice to them is they?d better not wait too much longer.
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