October 23, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 7
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, on November 11, 1972 the Miami Dolphins en route to their perfect 17-0 season handed the New England Patriots one of their worst losses in franchise history with a 52-0 pasting at the Orange Bowl. Now 35 years later the Patriots finally settled the score with a 49-28 pummeling of Miami on the Dolphins homefield, so for guys like Jim Plunkett, Randy Vataha, Bill Lenkaitis, and Julius Adams this one's for you!
Steve Grogan: There you go! Now the Patriots will just have to get to that perfect 19-0 and do the '72 Dolphins one better and put them in their place. That old saying the game wasn't as close as the final score indicated really applied to this one. The Patriots just did what ever they wanted to on offense in the first half. Tom Brady threw only three incompletions and one was when he was chased out of the pocket and threw the ball away. The Patriots rolled up 336 total yards and 16 first downs in the first half, and I can't imagine any offense being more impressive over a 30 minute stretch than that.
RRM: Randy Moss turned in another couple of spectacular touchdown grabs. Does he actually practice making those acrobatic catches?
SG: I guess it surprised some people to learn that he actually practices making one-handed catches, but you have to practice that kind of thing to be that good at it. On the first touchdown he just went up higher and over the two Miami defensive backs, and that's just his size and leaping ability coming into play. The second one was just a fantastic catch by Moss. Brady couldn't find anyone open and it was like he decided I'm just going to throw it way down there and see what Randy can do. Moss actually just turned back and caught it with this right elbow and pinned it against his body, and he never fell down. I've never seen anything like it, I really haven't.
RRM: You knew it wasn't going to be the Dolphin's day when on their first series Miami quarterback Cleo Lemon fumbled after the rear end of one of his linemen slammed into his right hand which was holding the football. Did you ever lose the ball because one of your teammate's butts slammed into you?
SG: Actually it happened a couple of times to me and it's very embarrassing [laughs]. You're not anticipating to get bumped by someone in the same uniform and you stop paying attention and all of a sudden the ball comes out. I guess it isn't as rare a play as the average fan would guess because it does happen.
RRM: For only the second time in their history the Patriots have had two different players return kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season, with Willie Andrews joining Ellis Hobbs in that category after his 77-yard return against the Dolphins on Sunday. Are we supposed to know who Willie Andrews is ?
SG: Andrews is just another one of those special teams players that Scott Pioli seems to find for Bill Belichick. No one seems to know anything about him, and I'm not even sure how long he has been on the roster! All of a sudden he comes out of nowhere and he runs a kick back for a score, and that really took the sails out of the Dolphins after they had just driven for a touchdown. I guess we'll all know who Willie Andrews is now.
RRM: There were some eyebrows raised when Tom Brady didn't run out the clock with his team up 35-7 at the end of the first half. Why did they go into the two minute drill up by four touchdowns?
SG: I knew some people were wondering why there running the two minute offense at the end of half when they were already ahead by 28 points and the answer is Bill Belichick saw that as an opportunity to work on their two minute drill. They hadn't had an opportunity to do that yet this year and they had the ball with a little over two minutes to go in the half so they practiced their two minute offense during the game against the Miami Dolphins.
RRM: Bill Belichick didn't waste any time getting Tom Brady back into that game after Matt Cassel tossed an interception that Miami's Jason Taylor returned 36 yards for a touchdown. Brady settled the issue by throwing his club record sixth touchdown pass of the game, but was putting him back into the game a bit of overkill by the Pats' head coach?
SG: I think Bill Belichick is a typical head coach, and once Miami got within three scores with a lot of time left on the clock he didn't want to take any chance of any kind of miracle comeback by the Dolphins. Either that or he wanted Tom Brady to break the team record for touchdown passes in a game which Babe Parilli and I shared [laughs]. Yet another one of my records down the drain.
RRM: I guess if your record had to be broken it might as well be by someone like Tom Brady who is going to be in the Hall of Fame some day?
SG: He's a good guy who is going to set every passing record for the franchise before it's all said and done and probably will set a lot of NFL records as well. He's the only player I can remember that finished a game with a perfect quarterback rating. You can't possibly have any higher rating than he did in this game, and that's just incredible. He finished with a 158.3 rating in a system developed by some guy years ago that no one really understands. It has to do with passing yards, touchdown passes, completion percentage, and interceptions, and you merge them all together. Normally if you're playing pretty well you're in that 90 range and Tom Brady was up over 150, so that shows you the kind of game he had.
RRM: Was putting Jason Taylor in pass coverage a tough thing for Matt Cassel to pick up, or was it a play designed to take advantage of Taylor's unique abilities?
SG: No, it's a play that particular defensive scheme allows him to make. Taylor was on the left side of the field and on that play he is to drop back into coverage rather than rush the passer because they had a zone blitz called. Taylor read the quarterback's eyes and saw him looking that way the entire time and he decided to gamble and vacate the zone he was supposed to be in, and he made a nice play by covering a lot of ground to cut in front of the intended receiver to make the interception. The quarterback is looking at the coverage and he sees an open field there; he doesn't expect a defensive end to come running into that zone area. He throws the ball and out of nowhere comes Taylor who picks it off and runs it in for the score. That is a learning experience for a young quarterback, and now that Cassel has done it once he hopefully he won't do it again.
RRM: Third string quarterback Matt Gutierrez finished the game for the Patriots. Was this because Belichick was upset with Cassel for throwing that interception?
SG: I don't think so. I think Bill was probably just sending a not so subtle message to Cassel that if you're going to play you'd better be a more careful than throwing picks for touchdowns. Belichick has always put the third quarterback in at the end of the game to kill the clock. He did that with Vinny Testaverde when he was here last year, and two years ago it was Doug Flutie. That just seems to be his history; he likes to get the third quarterback on the field when all that is required is to take a knee.
RRM: The expression on two teams heading in different directions couldn't be more applicable than for this game. The Dolphins are now 0-7 and headed for oblivion, what has happened to this one proud franchise?
SG: It's a storied franchise that was one of the NFL's best back in the 1970s and 1980s that has really gone downhill and is not competitive at all right now. Having played against many of those teams it is a little disappointing to see that. It's really sad to see how far down this team has gone. There is just so little talent there right now it's shocking to me. They have nothing there. They just traded Chris Chambers and now there's talk of them dealing their best player in Jason Taylor at the end of the year. For what, more draft picks? If it's draft pick time you're looking at another three to four years before those will develop into good players for you, so they have a long road ahead of them.
RRM: Do you have any concerns at all with the way the Patriots defense played in the second half?
SG: I think there's a little bit of a concern with the way the Dolphins were able to run the ball against the Patriots' defense. Miami ran for 179 yards and that's somewhat of a concern. However, if you stop and think about it it was 42-7 at halftime and Miami did not really move the ball against them when the game was still competitive. In the second half when you're ahead by that much I don't care how good you are human nature takes over and you let down a little bit. I'm hoping that's what happened to the Patriots' defense in the second half but I'd also like to see them tighten up that run defense a little bit more.
RRM: The warm weather always seems to be a factor when the Patriots play in Miami. Was it as much of a factor this time around?
SG: The heat and humidity does take a toll on you, especially when you've been practicing up here in New England in the cool weather. It was pretty humid in Miami but fortunately this team is deep enough where they can roll a lot of guys in and out of there because those big fats guys don't like playing in that kind of weather.
RRM: Do those giant fans on the sidelines help at all?
SG: I wouldn't know, we didn't have those when I was playing. Now they have all kinds of high tech equipment we didn't have back then. We got a wet towel that was dipped in ice water, that's about all we had [laughs]!
RRM: Did it help?
SG: It helped a little bit, but we didn't beat the Dolphins in Miami very often so it didn't really help that much!
RRM: While everyone has been ecstatic about Tom Brady setting all kinds of passing marks through the first seven games is there any danger of the Patriots becoming a pass happy team that won't be able to run the ball when they need to in December and January?
SG: That's a small worry, maybe. Laurence Maroney is still getting back up to speed and Sammy Morris is still out, but once the two of them are healthy I expect they will start to run the ball a little more often. They haven't had to right now so it hasn't been issue, and I really don't see it as a major concern for this team.
RRM: The Patriots return home this Sunday to host the Washington Redskins, a team that defeated them in their last meeting in 2003. New England's old nemesis running back Clinton Portis returns to haunt them so I imagine this would be a good week for the Patriots to shore up their run defense?
SG: Yes, it should be a good week for the Patriots to work out the kinks in their run defense. Any Joe Gibbs-coached team is going to feature the rushing attack and I suspect this current Redskins team will be no different. They will try to run the ball straight at you and mix in some play action pass, but they have a young quarterback in Jason Campbell that may be pretty good someday but isn't going to beat the Patriots right now.
RRM: With this game falling the week before the showdown with the Colts in Indianapolis any chance the Patriots may come out a little flat for this one?
SG: In most cases I would say that would be something to be concerned about, but I don't think this team will allow that to happen. They are disciplined enough to think about one game at a time, and even if they are looking ahead a bit they are still good enough to go out and beat the Redskins. Even if it comes down to the last minute you just run Randy Moss in the endzone and throw him a couple of high balls to him.
RRM: So who do you like in the World Series?
SG: The Red Sox, if they don't get too many games snowed out! Go figure playing baseball in Boston and Denver at the end of October to decide the championship. After you sit around for over a week like Colorado has that roll you were on disappears in a hurry. It should be a quick series; I don't think it will go past five games.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 49-28 blowout win over the hapless Dolphins in sunny Miami?
SG: It will be an A- for this game. The offense deserved an A, but I thought the way the defense played in the second half was a little disappointing so they get a B+. I wouldn't say they just went through the motions but it was obvious they just didn't play with the same intensity in the second half. Even the punter Chris Hanson had a good game, knocking two punts inside the Miami 10-yardline so I guess we can hold off another week on auditioning new punters. Now that the punting situation appears stable this team officially has no weaknesses, which is extremely bad news for the rest of the league. That's something I expect Joe Gibbs and his Washington team will discover on Sunday afternoon.
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