October 30, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 8
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, any chances of the Patriots experiencing a letdown prior to their big game against the Colts were quickly dispelled as Belichick's Boys walloped the Redskins by a whopping 52-7 final score. Isn't this almost starting to get too easy for this team?
Steve Grogan: There's not much to talk about, is there? The Patriots are playing so well right now and they are so much better than everybody they've played that you almost get bored watching the game. You know the outcome from the start, the only question is how are they going to get it done this week and maybe who is going to get mad at them this time? The other team knows that once the Patriots hit them with a couple of quick touchdowns right out of the gate that the game is over. From then on all the other team can do is just go through the motions and get it over with and start looking forward to next week. I've been on that sideline before and believe me it is not a pleasant experience.
RRM: Many of the Redskins' players were upset after the game, feeling the Patriots had run the score up on them. You've been on both sides of this kind of game in the past, did the Pats pour salt in the wounds in this one?
SG: Both sides have a point. Joe Gibbs is a well-respected coach with three Super Bowl titles to his credit and I can see where he's upset that the Patriots are still throwing the ball with Tom Brady on the field in the fourth quarter. You can also see where Bill Belichick is coming from. He's putting his team on the field and he has to get his players ready to play every week, and he can't just pull them off the field after the first quarter like it's the preseason and sit Tom Brady on the bench. When you put your second string in the problem becomes those guys don't get to play that often so they are going to play just as hard if not harder than the starters were playing, so they are going to try and score points. It becomes a Catch 22 situation, and since there's no mercy rule in the NFL the Patriots' opponents have to stop them at some point. Matt Cassell got another chance to play and he felt he needed to redeem himself after throwing that interception last week, so he wasn't going to back off because the score was out of hand. There's really no right or wrong with this issue, it really depends on what side of the ball you're on.
RRM: Already there is speculation in the media that Bill Belichick is purposely running up the scores in these games to prove to everyone that Videogate had nothing to do with the Patriots success. It appears he and his team have really taken this issue personally?
SG: I think maybe in some small way that might be a part of it. But the main reason we are witnessing what we are seeing from this team is the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts are just far and away better than any other team in the league. These two teams don't lay down for anyone, and that's the primary reason for what we are seeing from them this season.
RRM: Tom Brady wasn't content to throw for 300 yards and three touchdown passes, he had to score two on his own. Is he the new running threat in the Patriots' backfield?
SG: It wasn't bad enough that Tom Brady had to break all my passing records, now they're trying to get him to break my rushing touchdown record [laughs]! It's very rare in the NFL today to see three rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks. Tom Brady had two and Matt Cassell had one, and I guess that's the first time the Patriots have accomplished that since they joined the NFL in 1970. I don't think you'll see it again anytime soon.
RRM: The Patriots defense has been a little leaky in recent weeks, particularly against the run, but Bill Belichick put specific emphasis on run defense in practice last week and it appeared to have paid dividends against one of the better rushing offenses in the league?
SG: It looked like the Patriots' defense finally decided the offense was getting too much attention and decided to do some things to get people talking about them. The shut down Clinton Portis and the Washington running attack and it all fell on the shoulders of their young quarterback. They took full advantage of young Jason Campbell, who made some mistakes that really ended up hurting his team. But it's important to realize that the Patriots were forcing those mistakes and Mike Vrabel was a major reason behind all of that, which was really nice to see.
RRM: Vrabel has really thrived after being moved back to his regular spot at outside linebacker which was made possible by the acquisition of Adealius Thomas. It makes you wonder why they moved him inside in the first place?
SG: At the time it was really out of necessity after they lost Tedy Bruschi and needed to shore up their need at inside linebacker. But Mike Vrabel had a huge game on defense, forcing three fumbles and getting three sacks. He's just a throwback football player, the kind of player that could have played in the NFL 40 years ago. He is just a very talented athlete that can do a lot of things for you on defense and even catch some touchdowns for you on offense. But when you put him on the outside on defense that's where he's the best. There's no question about that.
RRM: Former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman was the color analyst on the Fox broadcast and he said Washington's young quarterback Jason Campbell would learn something from this game. What exactly did you learn when you were a quarterback and you got your butt kick by 40 points?
SG: You learned that you have to get better for one thing [laughs]! It's no fun to be embarrassed like that, believe me. You don't learn a lot from having a team embarrass the heck out of you and make you play as poorly as he played, but the kid has some talent and he'll be all right. He just has to put this one in the rearview mirror and forget about it in my opinion.
RRM: Okay, enough about that game. It's time to finally talk about the game everyone has been waiting for since the start of the season. This Sunday the Patriots meet the Colts in Super Bowl XLI ˝, and I for one can not recall a more eagerly anticipated regular season game since I started following the NFL since 1969?
SG: No, at least not at the midway point of the season. This is going to be a fun one. It's two teams that are pretty evenly matched up, particularly offensively. Both teams have high-powered offenses that can put a lot of points on the board in a hurry. I think the Patriots have a slight edge on defense, and after the way they played on Sunday I think they are playing much better defensively. Do I think the season is over for the team that loses this game? Absolutely not, but this game will probably decide who has the homefield in the playoffs and that could wind up being a huge advantage.
I think the Patriots have a little payback in the back of their minds after the Colts beat them in last year's AFC Championship Game. It's definitely going to be a battle for the ages, I'm just glad the game will be played in the afternoon because I've lost a lot of sleep the last couple of weeks watching the Red Sox play in all of these playoff games!
RRM: I couldn't help but notice that Bill Belichick made a point of the fact that the Colts have beaten his team the last three times they have met. It's almost as if he's trying to plant that seed in the minds of his players this week?
SG: Oh, there's no doubt about it, that's exactly what he is doing. He'll be harping on that point all week. They haven't beaten them in their last three meetings and the Colts cost them a chance at another Super Bowl title last January. That will be the rallying cry in Foxboro all week long, and I'm sure Belichick will drag out the film of last year's AFC Championship Game loss just to squeeze out every last bit of emotion he can from his players. You can count on the fact he will leave no stone unturned this week.
RRM: Everyone knows about Colts' receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but their tight end Dallas Clark has really hurt the Patriots in their most recent meetings. Will the presence of Adalius Thomas help rectify that this time around?
SG: Adalius Thomas was a big addition for them; it's like the Patriots spent the offseason tweaking their roster a little bit in order to specifically beat the Colts. Much like the Red Sox try to find players that will help them beat the Yankees, it looked like that was the goal in mind for the Patriots last winter. Adelius Thomas is one of those guys that fits the bill. They just didn't have anyone on their roster that does the kind of things that he does, and like you mentioned with him out there on defense it gives Bill Belichick a few different options for dealing with Dallas Clark, who has been a real thorn in their side in recent meetings.
RRM: While Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning will draw most of the storylines this week the Colts ability to run the ball with Joseph Addai is a big factor that has to be addressed, don't you agree?
SG: It's very important that they try to limit what the Colts do on the ground because it gives Peyton Manning one less option to use against the Patriots. I also think it's important that the Patriots be able to run the ball themselves. You hear people talk all the time about how you want to shorten the game when you play against Peyton Manning, because the more you can control the ball and keep it out of his hands the better off you are going to be. As well as the Patriots have been able to throw the ball this season if they can run the ball successfully with Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk that is going to help them immensely in this game. I also think you'll see Wes Welker be a huge part of the game plan this week and the Colts will have some trouble defending against him.
RRM: This may be one of those rare games where you don't want to see 50-yard bombs to Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth because big plays translate into shorter drives which means your defense has to get back on the field that much more quickly, and we all know what Peyton Manning can do against a tired defense?
SG: Well, if you can score and do it that quickly you'd certainly take it! You aren't going to say you don't want it, but there is some merit in what you're saying. Ideally you want to mix up the run with the short pass and hold the ball for a long period of time to shorten up the game. The less time Peyton Manning has the ball the better off you are, so that will be the goal this Sunday.
RRM: You were dead on with your prediction of the Red Sox taking the World Series in four straight games. What does your gut tell you about this titanic clash on Sunday?
SG: I think the Patriots are playing on all cylinders right now and they couldn't have picked a more perfect time to play the Colts. The Patriots just seem to be on top of their game and they will have that little bit of extra motivation to knock off the team that beat them last year. I think this may very well be a game that they win much more easily than people would expect.
RRM: Now for the big question. Do you want A-Rod in Boston next year?
SG: No, I want Mike Lowell back at third base for the Red Sox next year. I like Mike Lowell a lot. He's a quiet guy that goes out and does his job; he's a quiet leader for that team and I think they will miss him a lot if he doesn't come back.
RRM: How about they resign Lowell but they bring in A-Rod and move him back to shortstop?
SG: No. I know Bill Belichick has had great success bringing in players like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss but that is football and this is baseball. Terry Francona is not the same kind of guy as Bill Belichick and I just don't think it would work out well. Plus the fact is I just don't like A-Rod. My feeling is the Red Sox won it without him and I think they can win it again without him.
RRM: Back to business. What are Grogan's grades for the tumultuous 52-7 win over the ‘Skins on Sunday?
SG: I'm going with A+'s across the board this week. Aside from a Brady fumble, the defense allowing a late touchdown, and Stephen Gostkowski kicking the ball out of bounds on a kickoff there weren't a lot of things to criticize in this game. I thought Kevin Faulk had a big game for the Patriots and deserves some mention. He had seven catches and ran the ball well, and he's is just a pleasure to watch play. It was really hard to find a better game being played by any team anywhere. Combine that with watching the Red Sox win their second World Series since 2004 and it's been quite a time around here. I don't see any reason for the good times to have to end, especially this weekend against the defending champion Indianapolis Colts.
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