November 21, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 10
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, any doubts that the Patriots might show a little rust coming off of their bye week were quickly dispelled as they blew away the Bills in frosty Buffalo with 35 first half points en route to a 56-10 victory. Imagine what these guys could do with two weeks off?
Steve Grogan: It's amazing how well prepared this team is and how there is not any letdown from week to week regardless of who they are playing. It doesn't matter if they are playing a good team like the Colts or a bad team like the Bills, they just go out and do their job methodically and just keep pouring it on people. This has become the best team ever to play in the National Football League. They have just dominated everybody, and some very good teams like the Colts and Steelers have had some slip ups the past few weeks. There are no slip ups with this Patriots' team. Everybody plays to their peak level every week, and that is unusual when you have this much talent.
RRM: Both Tom Brady and Randy Moss commented on how hard Bill Belichick rode the team in practice all week long, trying to make them feel like they were the worst football team to ever play in the NFL. I don't know what I find stranger, that Belichick takes that approach or all of his players actually buy into it?
SG: It has to be the right combination of head coach and players for that kind of approach to actually work. Brady said he was getting tired of Bill Belichick hounding them all week, so it makes you wonder how long you can get away with that. That's the fine line a coach walks, how much do you grind your players to keep that fine edge without pushing them over the edge. Sometimes you can push them too far and they say enough is enough, we know we're better than that so why are you hammering us constantly? A coach has to know when to push hard and when to lighten up, and Belichick is a master of knowing when to do which with his players.
RRM: Andrea Kremer was interviewing Tom Brady and Randy Moss for the postgame and after she ticked off all the numbers they had in the game she jokingly asked what Bill Belichick would find wrong with this performance. Brady quickly retorted, "Oh, he'll find something." It seems they already know what's coming?
SG: Belichick has them buying into the program, there's no doubt about that. We hear it all the time, that they're drinking the Kool Aid, but it isn't often that you can find 53 players to keep their mouths shut, to say the company line, to do everything they're asked to do, but somehow or another he gets them to do it and it's simply amazing to me.
RRM: NBC moved the starting time of the game for its prime time broadcast, and I thought the head coach himself perfectly summed up the proceedings when they caught Belichick stifling a yawn in the fourth quarter?
SG: I was watching the game and the Patriots were up 35-7 at halftime and I'm thinking I really should go to bed. The Patriots are just so good they're boring to a lot of fans. I'm sure they lost a lot of viewers after halftime Sunday night, particularly outside of the New England area. I was out in Kansas so the game was over before the 11 PM news out here so it worked out well for me!
RRM: Both Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk got dinged up in this one and didn't return, leaving Heath Evans and Kyle Eckels to finish the game. Are you at all concerned about the depth in the Patriots' backfield?
SG: If both Maroney and Faulk were hurt to the point where you down to two healthy backs then I would be concerned, especially since Evans and Eckels play on so many special teams. But they both ran the ball well against the Bills, and that's a function of the offensive line so they are still in pretty good shape.
RRM: There are several of the Patriots' regulars that play on special teams. Don't you find that unusual considering the risk to injury?
SG: I think you'll find a lot of coaches that like to find players that can do a lot of different things on the football field, but there is usually a core group of your stars, some five to six players, that do what they do and that's that. You want to put them on special teams or on the other side of the ball. Belichick has taken it to the extreme and he reasons these are my best players, if my defensive linebacker Mike Vrabel can play tight end in goal line situations I don't care how valuable he is on defense I am going to play him on offense once in awhile. That concept has made them a better team.
RRM: What more can we say about the Tom Brady to Randy Moss connection than we already have? Four more touchdowns for the duo in this game and if anything they're making it look easier with each passing week?
SG: I couldn't figure out Buffalo's defensive game plan at all. Most teams double team Randy Moss every chance they get and they were letting him run free with one defender most of the night. I just don't understand how you don't put a couple of bodies on him. In only 10 games these guys have developed a relationship that normally takes a little longer to forge. A good example was the touchdown they got on the stop fade route where Brady just throws the ball at his back shoulder and Moss just stops dead in the end zone. That's not as easy to do as they make it look. Al Michaels said it wasn't fair, that Moss should at least run a pass pattern down there because it really looks like he told Brady,"I'm going to run into the endzone, just throw it to me and I'll catch it." That's what they do, and it's just amazing.
RRM: Not only did Moss break your old teammate Stanley Morgan's 28-year old club record of 12 receiving touchdowns in a season, Brady smashed your team record for career touchdown passes. Did it hurt just a little?
SG: I did what I did and now he's done what he's done and that's that. I had 182 career touchdown passes with the Patriots and Brady now has 185. I still think I can hold onto the career rushing touchdown record for quarterbacks although Brady had a couple of running touchdowns a few weeks back [laughs]. I don't think he'll get too many more of those.
RRM: Actually Brady was very complimentary towards you when they asked him about the record during his postgame interview. That had to feel good?
SG: Tom Brady is good at saying the right things, which I can't say about Al Michaels. He said Brady had broken Babe Parilli's record instead of mine, but what are you going to do? The team records are falling fast and furious and the league records are next. He is going to go way past all of them so I certainly can't complain. It's a lot of fun to watch him play, it really is.
RRM: The Patriots offensive line turned in a stellar game against a Buffalo front seven that usually gives Tom Brady a lot of trouble. I don't believe he was sacked once the entire game (which was only three quarters for him)?
SG: The group that has been getting lost in all of this and deserves far more praise than they're getting is the offensive line. A lot of things Tom Brady has been able to accomplish this year have to do with the amount of time he has to throw the football, as the opposition is not even getting close to him. You give a quarterback that kind of time with ordinary receivers he's going to be good, but if you give him that amount of time with the kind of receivers he has now he's going to be great. I'm sure Tom Brady would be the first to tell you his offensive line is one of the big reasons he's been able to put up the numbers he's been ringing up.
RRM: One area I was paying particular attention to was how the Patriots' kick coverage units would do against the Bills' return men which are among the best in the league. I lost count of how many times Stephen Gostkowski kicked off but the Bills didn't break any so I guess you'd have to give them a thumbs up?
SG: The Bills actually had a couple of decent returns out past the 40-yardline if I remember correctly. They didn't have to worry about defending against punt returns because the Patriots only had to punt once the entire game, so it's hard to give them a review in that area!
RRM: Patriots' punter Chris Hanson is the leading vote getter for the Pro Bowl and he hasn't even punted enough times to qualify among the leading NFL punters! A free trip to Hawaii for doing hardly any work, it's the average American's dream come true!
SG: Hanson has to be asking himself why did I sign here when I don't even get a chance to play? At least he's holding for all those extra points which are starting to add up, so at least he'll have that on his resume [laughs]!
RRM: With the weather getting colder and a lot of home games coming up will the Patriots have to tone down their passing game and start gearing up their running attack?
SG: We've talked about this in the past, that this is the time of year that you want to get a running game going. The weather's getting bad and you're going to have to keep the ball on the ground, but these guys don't have to do that. It doesn't matter if it's pouring rain or blowing snow, they are going to throw it. The running game is merely an after thought to keep people honest, and if they have to play with Evans and Eckels in the backfield for a couple of weeks they'll do it. But I don't think the weather conditions are going to bother them or deter them because these guys can throw the ball anytime, anywhere, with any conditions. They are that good.
RRM: Old friend Adam Vinatieri has had his problems the past couple of weeks, including getting booed at the RCA Dome for missing a couple of kicks last Sunday. Once these older kickers start missing the chip shots don't you have to wonder if their better days are behind them?
SG: For a lot of guys you would say that, but I'm not sure you can for Adam Vinatieri. The kicker I played with John Smith is closing in on 60 and he can still go out there and kick the ball, so they never lose their leg. A lot of it is upstairs with the mental aspect of kicking. You just have to be able to put the misses aside and come back, and John was one of the best at doing that. The Colts keep hinting that Vinatieri might have an injury that is bothering him; he says no and it's hard to believe that he's lost it that quickly. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. He may have missed a couple but I think he'll get it back together.
RRM: The Philadelphia Eagles are in line to become the Patriots' next victim this Sunday night in Foxboro. They may have revenge on their minds for their Super Bowl loss a few years back, but do you think it will make any difference?
SG: Probably not. Donovan McNabb may or may not play in this game but to be honest I don't think it will make much of a difference. The Eagles may be better off without him if he is still hurting and not able to move around much. We saw Sunday night what a force Adalius Thomas can be when he is moved to the outside. I guess they've actually been playing him out of position all year! But if the Eagles try to roll McNabb out and he's still hobbling and you have Thomas and Mike Vrabel coming at you from the outside he's going to have a long night because they are going to be in his face the entire game.
RRM: The long range forecast is for some precipitation Sunday night. Does that change the game plan at all?
SG: No. I don't think so. In the bad weather they may throw the ball a little shorter than they have been but I don't see that affecting them at all. With the turf field they have down there in Foxboro I don't think any kind of wet weather will slow the Patriots down at all.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 56-10 demolition of the Bills?
SG: I'm giving out a healthy helping of A's all around for Thanksgiving. There's not a whole lot to find fault with right now, so I guess I wouldn't make a very good head coach like Belichick [laughs]. But seriously what do you criticize, Matt Cassell because he's not handing the ball off right? You really have to get nitpicky when you are trying to fault when you win a game 56-10. It was strange but as I watching the game on every close call or for the spot of the ball the officials were giving it to Buffalo because they felt sorry for them. It's reached that point, where you feel sorry for the team they are playing.
It's really tough to see any challengers left on the horizon with the Steelers losing to the Jets last Sunday. If you take the Patriots out of the equation you have some pretty good divisional races going on, but once you put them back in there it's like they are miles ahead of anyone else. There's no team left that I can see that is going to challenge them unless something happens to Tom Brady. No one has come close to showing me that they can play with these guys. It's funny but the whole Spygate episode that many thought would bring the team down has actually served to rally them together and make them play a little harder. I know I'd hate to go against them right now. Happy Thanksgiving every one!
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