November 21, 2006
Grogan's Grade: Week 10
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the Patriots celebrated Thanksgiving a few days early by feasting on the Packers at Lambeau Field to the tune of 35-0. Coming off that sloppy loss to the Jets last week I don?t think anyone expected to see that kind of domination, did you?
Steve Grogan: No, I certainly didn?t and I don?t think anyone else did either. We talked last week about how the Patriots got dominated on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball against the Jets. On Sunday they came back and dominated the Packers on both sides of the ball. Green Bay couldn?t run the ball at all and before you knew it they were behind 14-0, and then the Patriots? defense just came right after them. It was the first time any Patriots? team has ever won a game there, and they sure did it in style.
RRM: What surprised me the most was the Patriots holding Green Bay to only 77 net yards passing despite missing three of their starting defensive backs. I guess having Troy Brown as you nickel back goes a long way?
SG: Troy Brown is invaluable but he keeps getting flags thrown at him all the time so he?d better tone it down [laughs]. The Patriots? secondary played well, but the fact that the people up front were getting a pretty good push on Brettt Favre and Aaron Rodgers had a lot to do with it. That helped the New England secondary immensely, and it certainly showed how important having Ty Warren back at his normal spot is to this team. He is one of the more underrated players on this team and he played really well. Then again he had a full week of rest so that helps, too.
RRM: As ragged as the Patriots looked on offense last week Tom Brady and his boys looked just the opposite against the Packers. Is this the best game you?ve seen from the offense this year?
SG: Consistency-wise I would have to agree. Aside from the Corey Dillon fumble they didn?t make mistakes and they didn?t let down. They did what they had to do; they drove the ball downfield, they converted third and fourth down situations, and they scored touchdowns all in a very workmanlike manner. You didn?t see anyone commit a penalty that was going to kill a drive. Tom Brady did play much better, but I thought a lot of the Patriots success was due to his offensive line playing much better. They gave him all kinds of time to throw the ball and it made a big difference. Of course they finally listened to me and started throwing the ball to Ben Watson early in the game and it paid off for them.
RRM: The story is Bill Belichick made his club practice in full pads for two days last week as a form of punishment for the Jets fiasco. If he gets the kind of results like he did on Sunday maybe he?ll consider doing it fulltime now?
SG: Practicing in full pads, wow, that?s really tough. When I heard that I couldn?t believe they didn?t practice with pads, because we practiced in pads every day including Fridays most of my playing career! I had no idea they were taking it so easy on the guys nowadays. Believe me, the pads are not that heavy! But it sounds like the team got the message, so maybe he needs to keep sending them the message.
RRM: You had to feel sorry for Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre. It was kind of sad to see a once great quarterback struggling just to complete a pass, wasn?t it?
SG: You?re right, he was really struggling throwing the ball early in the game before he got hurt. We?ve been asking what?s wrong with Tom Brady when he makes throws like that, and Favre made some throws that left you wondering what was wrong with him. That happens to quarterbacks sometimes but you don?t expect to see a guy like Brett Favre have that bad a day struggling to throw the football. When a great quarterback like Favre starts overthrowing and underthrowing his wide receivers like he was you have to believe that something is physically wrong with him. To be honest it was kind of a sad thing to see, and it was surprising because the reports are he had been playing really well the past few games.
RRM: Laurence Maroney had a nifty move on a swing pass to score the last Patriots? touchdown. Are we watching him gradually mature into an elite back in the NFL this season?
SG: It?s becoming obvious to me that Laurence Maroney is becoming the Patriots? feature back. He?s getting more and more of the playing time while Corey Dillon is becoming the short yardage, goalline kind of back. Dillon is getting up there in age, and if that is what he can do to help them then that is the role he will have with this team.
RRM: There was a lot of talk about how Bill Belichick was outcoached last week by his former prot?g?e Eric Mangini, but do you think that kind of thing really bothers him?
SG: Publicly he will tell you he didn?t know that anybody said that and that it didn?t bother him, but I would have to think that he reads what is being said or someone in his circle would mention it to him. I imagine having people say that Mangini outcoached him would sting pretty good, and the reality is he did get outcoached in that game. If the Jets were to make the playoffs and the two teams got to meet for a third time I don?t think that would bother Bill a bit.
RRM: Was the signing of Vinny Testaverde a show of a lack of confidence in Matt Cassell, or is Vinny strictly an emergency quarterback?
SG: No, I think the Patriots been playing a kind of Russian roulette by not having a third quarterback on the roster, and with Testaverde being available and a roster spot opening up they felt like it was time to get somebody into that position. Bill Belichick knows Testaverde extremely well and is comfortable with him being able to pick things up fairly quickly. If you are playing with only two quarterbacks and something did happen to Tom Brady and Matt Cassell had to go in, you would only have one week to bring in someone new to learn a new offense. Now that they are headed down the stretch towards the playoffs I don?t believe they wanted to take that chance of having to break in a third-string quarterback with no experience in their offensive system.
RRM: Paula from Colchester, Connecticut is just one of a legion of fans that was very upset to see Testaverde wearing your number #14. Just what were the Patriots thinking?
SG: The number has never been retired, although it hasn?t been handed out too often over the years. A lot of people were upset to see that and asked me about it and I appreciate that. But the number is there to be used and Vinny?s using it.
RRM: So, you have no problem with it?
SG: Well, he didn?t call me and offer me $25,000 to wear it like you read about some of these baseball guys doing [laughs]. I really don?t have a problem with it, and he?ll be done after this year anyway [laughs].
RRM: You know how protective New England fans are, and since you will always be one of their favorite players you really can?t be surprised by their reaction?
SG: I understand, and believe me I am very appreciative of all the kind things people have said about it.
RRM: You know, this may ultimately work to your advantage. With all the free advertising Vinny is giving your number you may start getting a flood of calls for you #14 jersey at your Grogan/Marciano Sporting Goods store in Mansfield with the holidays approaching!
SG: They?re not as valuable as they once were because now everybody can get them [laughs]. Actually I had a friend of mine come in the store the other day and asked if he could buy a #14 jersey but wanted me to put Testaverde?s name on it! He was joking around and we both got a big laugh out of it.
RRM: Having lived here the past 30 years are you still amazed at the lack of coverage that college sports gets here in the Boston area? You had one of the biggest college football regular season games ever last Saturday between #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan and it didn?t register a blip on the radar around here!
SG: As you know I?m originally from the Midwest where college sports are very big, but it?s just not a big thing around here and it?s always been that way ever since I came here. I remember it was my rookie year here with the Patriots and on the day after Thanksgiving I came back from practice ready to watch the annual game between Oklahoma and Nebraska. This is back in the mid-1970?s when the two teams were always national powers, and I flipped on the TV and was shocked to find out the game wasn?t broadcasted here.
RRM: You must have said to yourself I guess I?m not in Kansas any more? [Sorry, I couldn?t resist]
SG: Exactly [laughs]! But that?s the way it?s always been around here. Boston College is starting to get more attention because they?ve been a Top 20 team under Tom O?Brien for quite awhile, but it?s still hard to explain to people around here how big college football is in other parts of the country. They just don?t get it.
RRM: We should take a second to congratulate your old teammate Andre Tippett for making the cut of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
SG: I?m really happy for Andre. He?s a worthy candidate, and it?s good news after all these years that he?s finally getting some consideration. I?m sure your article in Patriots Football Weekly that went out to all the voters was a big factor in his getting more attention this year.
RRM: Actually Tip sent me a nice thank you today which really made my day. Writers rarely get feedback unless we screw up, so it gives you a good feeling when something like that happens. After all, it is a lonely profession.
SG: Try standing all by yourself in the backfield with a 275-pound defensive lineman coming full tilt at you on your blindside. That can be a lonely feeling, too!
RRM: Thanks, I think I?ll stick with just asking the questions like I usually do! This Sunday we get to see Gillette Stadium?s new field turf. Will the players get enough time to practice on the new surface this week?
SG: They should get some time on the new field late in the week, and they have played on it in other locations so the adjustment shouldn?t be that difficult for them. From what I understand there are a lot of little rubber pellets that go into this turf that give it its softness, and those have to work themselves down into the foundation of the turf over a period of time. That?s obviously not going to happen by Sunday, so you are going to see guys coming up with rubber pellets in their ears, eyes, and noses during the game. The good news is it will still be better than playing on that old field they had. I?ve been on that surface and I think the players are going to love it. It?s a uniform surface and it?s soft; it?s not going to cause your feet to grab or your knees to catch. I thought it was really a good move by Patriots? management.
RRM: Not to give the field top billing, the 9-1 Chicago Bears are in town on Sunday and they have been mopping the floor with everyone this season. Are they still the Super Bowl favorites like everyone was touting a few weeks ago?
SG: Even though they lost on Sunday I still think Indianapolis is the team to beat. I think we?ll find out a lot about this Chicago team this week, and I think we?ll find out a lot about this Patriots? team against Chicago. I?m really expecting a great battle on Sunday and it should be one of the better games of the season.
RRM: The Chicago Bears are the class of the NFC but they do it more with speed on defense than raw physical power. It almost makes for one of those classic boxer verus slugger match ups?
SG: They are well-coached by Lovie Smith and they are a smart football team. You look at their 9-1 record, and you don?t get to where they are strictly with luck. They have a lot of talent, and I?ve heard all about how they have compiled that record at the expense of all the weaker teams in the NFC and I just don?t buy it. A football team in the NFL is a football team in the NFL. It doesn?t matter what conference you are in, if you can play you win games and they?re winning games right now. You are right, team speed has a lot to do with their success, particularly on defense and it will bear watching to see how the Patriots will try and counter that.
RRM: Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman is still relatively young and has had some multiple interceptions games already this season. But will the injuries in the Patriots? secondary allow Belichick to do all the things he usually likes to do to confuse young quarterbacks?
SG: It?s definitely going to be harder for Belichick to do that with so many injuries in the defensive secondary. There?s not a real true, veteran-type guy who has played in the system a long time back there so it?s going to be hard for them to do a lot of different things. They still can do some things with the front seven that can confuse a young quarterback like Rex Grossman. The top priority is to get some pressure on him, and it looks like if you can do that he will make some mistakes.
RRM: Now it?s time to see if you will hand out that extremely rare A+ for the Patriots? 35-0 whitewashing of the Packers in Green Bay. What are Grogan?s Grades for this week?
SG: Sorry to disappoint, but it will be straight A?s across the board this week. The Patriots really did nothing wrong in this game and there really wasn?t anything to criticize. Even the special teams get a straight A because they did a better job covering kicks this week. You know things are going your way when a guy you just activated like Antwain Spann makes a bone-crushing tackle on the opening kickoff to start the game. But you have to play a game like that against a high-caliber team like the Bears to get an A+. If they play that kind of game this Sunday they will get my A+! I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving!
All the gang at Patsfans.com congratulates former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett for making the cut of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We?ll be rooting for you in January when the 15 finalists are announced!!
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