October 09, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 5
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, on the surface the Patriots 34-17 win over the Cleveland Browns seemed like just another demolition job over an inferior opponent, and yet the Pats allowed the Browns to stay around for just about the entire afternoon. What was your take on the game?
Steve Grogan: To be honest I didn't think the Patriots played very well, and Bill Belichick expressed that very opinion after the game. The tone of this game was set right from the very first drive where the Patriots held the ball for over six minutes and got to the five-yardline but got stopped and had to settle for a field goal. It was really an impressive drive to start the game but they didn't come away with a touchdown, and you felt this letdown that seemed to carry over for the rest of the game. If you look at the final stats the Patriots dominated this football game. Tom Brady threw for over 250 yards, Sammy Morris ran for over 100 yards, and Ben Watson had over 100 yards catching the football so they did a lot of good things in this football game. It was a given that the Patriots were the better football team and there was never really any question about the outcome of the game, yet as you watched this game unfold it just didn't look crisp. At times it looked like they were just going through the motions to get to the end of the game, and that's something to be concerned about.
Cleveland did some really good things in this game. They took Randy Moss out of the game which no one else had been able to do, and I thought they moved the ball pretty well on offense. The four turnovers they committed is what hurt them more than anything else, but they definitely have some talent on that team and if management can be patient with what Romeo Crennel is doing eventually they will be a factor in the NFL.
RRM: They don't have Homecoming Weekend in the NFL but with old friends Romeo Crennel and Willie McGinest back in town the game did seem to take on that kind of tone. Did you get that sense as well?
SG: Those are two guys that are really well respected by everyone on the Patriots' sidelines and I think they were shown that respect in this game. There's kind of an unwritten rule in pro football when you're playing against a particular coach that you've worked with for a number of years and have a great deal of respect for you just want to show respect to his players. When you do that you're showing respect to that head coach, and we saw a lot of that in this game with Patriots' players helping Cleveland players up off the field and being friendly in general.
Unfortunately that kind of permeated to the play on the field. It was like playing your little brother in a game of horse, you still want to beat him but you don't want to beat him too badly so you just kind of go through the motions for awhile. That's what it looked like to me especially in that third quarter when the Patriots offense looked as flat as a pancake. After the Browns scored they put it in back in gear and put the ball in the endzone, but you don't want to see them make a habit of going through the motions with a lead like that.
RRM: It was another big game for tight end Ben Watson who caught two more Tom Brady touchdown passes. Some members of the local media don't consider him among the elite group of tight ends like San Diego's Antonio Gates. What is your opinion?
SG: That's baloney. Watson is very good at what he does and he is simply one of the best tight ends in the NFL. We've talked about the depth this team has on offense. Cleveland effectively took Randy Moss out of the game so they turned to Ben Watson and he didn't disappoint. The Browns decided to try and play him using single coverage and they found out he's too good to play one-on-one with either a linebacker or a strong safety. Right now the Patriots just can't be stopped offensively because it's a pick-your-poison type of choice for the defense, and as long as this team stays healthy they should continue to rack up the points.
RRM: Bill Belichick put special emphasis on scoring in the red zone during last week's practice but after their troubles with that particular area in this game I guess it's back to the drawing board?
SG: I think the problems in the red zone are a legitimate concern. The Patriots also weren't very good on third down conversions (2 for 12), and they only scored a touchdown once on four trips into the redzone. Those are things you have to be a little worried about, and knowing Bill Belichick he will get them concentrating on those areas again this week.
RRM: I don't know which was the rarer event in this game, Junior Seau waving the ball up in the air while running back his second interception of the game or Bill Belichick smiling in his postgame conference when he was asked about the play?
SG: Did Belichick actually smile? I think there are certain players that Bill Belichick has great respect for and really cares about, and Junior Seau is one of those players so I think he gets a lot of latitude [laughs]! I was wondering if Seau was trying to lateral the football to a teammate but when they showed the replay from the endzone angle you could see there was no one around him so you couldn't tell what he was trying to do. It made no sense for him to be holding up the ball that way, and there was a Cleveland player sneaking up behind him about ready to knock it out of his hand which would have been really embarrassing. I think Junior was experiencing a senior moment. I'm sure Bill Belichick got a hold of him on the sidelines and explained to him that is not how we play football around here, and I wouldn't expect to see that happen again. I'm sure Junior was apologetic over the whole thing; he probably just got a little carried away with his getting two interceptions in the same game. I understand he hadn't one in over five years, so he was just a little overzealous in his celebration.
RRM: Seau's second interception got a lot of attention for obvious reasons but wasn't it his first in the endzone that ended a long Cleveland drive that really helped swing the momentum to the Patriots in the first half?
SG: You're right, that was a big play. Junior had two big picks in the game, and I thought that one in the end zone was huge. Cleveland drove all the way down the field on their first possession and could have gone ahead in the game, but Asante Samuel tipped the ball in the air and Seau grabbed it. It was a bad decision by the Browns' young quarterback Derek Anderson but otherwise I liked what I saw from him. He just has to get some experience and learn that his mistakes are going to hurt him more than his big plays are going to help him.
RRM: With Laurence Maroney out for the second consecutive week Sammy Morris once again filled in and reeled of his second straight 100-yard rushing game. For someone who was signed with little fanfare over the offseason he has already become an important piece of this Patriots' offense?
SG: Morris was really impressive, but it was one of those games where if you told me he had over a 100 yards rushing I would have said no way. Morris is one of those players that just quietly goes about his business, and those four and five yard gains tend to add up after awhile. One thing I noticed about him is you don't see him take too many for no gain, and that is something that is going to put him in good standing with both his teammates and the coaching staff.
RRM: Punter Chris Hanson continues to struggle and you have to wonder how long Bill Belichick will put up with his poor performances. Will there be some punters auditioning at Gillette Stadium this week?
SG: I would be surprised if there wasn't. I'm surprised they got rid of all the young punters they had during the exhibition season and it looks like they are regretting that decision now because this guy just isn't going to cut it. You don't hear a punter booed that often but the fans at Gillette Stadium were booing him in this game. Right now he is the only weak link on this football team, and knowing Bill Belichick they will find somebody because he will not allow this to go on.
RRM: This Sunday the Patriots travel to Texas for a showdown with the so-called America's Team. So let me ask you, How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?
SG: Actually Dallas is playing some pretty good football right now. They have a great young quarterback in Tony Romo and a lot of talent around him. From what I've seen the Cowboys are the best the NFC has to offer, at least for right now. I don't know how deep they are and if they will continue to play this well if they suffer some injuries. The fact that they are playing so well at this point in time with a new head coach in Wade Phillips is a little bit surprising to me, and to have that kind of success when you are implementing a new system is uncommon at this level. Offensively they can present you with a lot of challenges but their defense is probably not at championship-level caliber just yet. You hear that the players are happier there now that Bill Parcells is gone and I don't know how much of that is true. More to the point is they have better talent this year and their younger players have another year of experience under their belts and this coach knows how to get them to play.
RRM: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has been compared to the next Tom Brady. As our resident quarterback expert what is your opinion of him?
SG: I really like what I've seen from him. Romo has some good skills and seems to be a really good leader for a young player, but I think I'd compare him more to Brett Favre than Tom Brady. He kind of has that gunslinger mentality where he takes some chances and throws the ball into cramped spaces which are the kinds of things you don't see Tom Brady doing. Romo is a little bit of a gambler and that may come back to bite him, especially in a game where you competition is the New England Patriots.
RRM: Right now the remainder of the AFC East is a combined 2-12 so the only real competition the Patriots are going to get is from outside the division. This Cowboys team appears to be just the kind of opponent this Pats team needs at this point in time.
SG: I think you're right, the Patriots need a test like this right now. San Diego was supposed to be the team that challenged them but they didn't get that from them, so now they are starting the second quarter of the season and they need to play a team with some talent so they can find out where they stand with everybody else. This is definitely the best test the Patriots will have so far this season and I'm expecting a really good football game between two of the best teams in the NFL.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 34-17 win over old friend Romeo Crennel's Cleveland Browns?
SG: I think I'm going to go with a B+ for this game. The defense played a little better than the offense. Tom Brady had a pretty good day but he certainly wasn't on against the Browns. It looked there was a lot of miscommunication between him and his receivers, like where they were supposed to be and where he was throwing the ball and we haven't seen that happen before. A couple of times the Browns pass rushers got in Brady's face and made him throw early and you also don't see that happen very often, but on the plus side he wasn't sacked the entire game. The Patriots offensive line continued to do just a tremendous job despite the fact that they were missing staring center Dan Koppen. Russ Hochstein filled in for him and they never missed a beat which is just another example of the depth on this football team.
Right now the Patriots are undefeated, the Red Sox swept the Angels and will start the ALCS at Fenway Park on Friday night, and the BC Eagles are headed to Notre Dame ranked #4 in the country. I guess the real surprise is having BC ranked that high, but this is their best team in many years and you have to be happy for them. Let's hope all of them continue their winning ways and make this an October New England sports fans will remember for a long time to come.
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