December 05, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 12
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, after watching the Patriots' heart-stopping, 27-24 thriller over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night all I could think of was the famous words of Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, "I can't believe what I just saw.". Did you see what I saw, did it really happen?
Steve Grogan: Yes, I guess it did. It was the like the Ravens put the Patriots in the grave twice only to be resurrected and then they move on to win the game. The sequence of events that took place over the last four minutes was just incredible; I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Whenever you have one coaching blunder and one penalty against yourself that helps you win the game you have to thank your lucky stars that you won the game. It definitely was not pretty, and they probably did not deserve to win this game. They got a couple of big breaks in the last couple of minutes that helped them pull out a victory, but overall they probably did not deserve to win this one.
RRM: I was concerned the Patriots were going to get blown off the field in the third quarter when they fell behind by 14 points. Did it appear to you that they had a lot of trouble matching the Raven's intensity in this game?
SG: For whatever reason the Patriots weren't concentrating on the plays they needed to make. It looked to me that early in the game they were just going through the motions both on offense and on defense, and then in the fourth quarter they decided to get serious and pulled out the win. But for most of the game they just didn't seem to be playing with a whole lot of emotion for the first three quarters.
I think over the last two weeks the Eagles and the Ravens have been watching film of teams just getting hammered by the Patriots and they came into their games against the Patriots like it was their Super Bowl. They wanted to prove that they could play with the best team in the NFL, so the Patriots are getting everybody's best effort right now which means they in turn had better put forth their best effort or someone is going to sneak up on them and end their perfect season.
RRM: Is all the hype concerning the Patriots starting to get to them? How else do you explain what we have witnessed the past two games?
SG: I don't think they are buying into any of that hype. In all honesty playing three games in a row at night like the Patriots have can just wear you out. I thought the Patriots got beat up front on both sides of the ball in this game. Neither their defensive front or offensive front played that well. The Ravens ran the ball extremely well against them while the Patriots running attack was sporadic at best. That doesn't have anything to do with going undefeated, that is man-on-man physical football and those are the battles this team has to start winning on a consistent basis like they were earlier in the season.
RRM: We saw Randy Moss drop a sure touchdown in the cold weather conditions while the wind bothered both quarterbacks in this game. How tough is to throw and catch the football in those cold, windy conditions?
SG: It's not easy, especially when it's a cold, windy night like that. When we were playing the problem was your hands would dry out but now they wear gloves, so I guess they don't have as many excuses for dropping balls. The ball will move on a receiver as it is approaching him and a wind gust hits it, and that can cause problems. I hope that was what happening last night because they had no other excuse for dropping a few of those passes that were hitting them right in the chest. Dropping balls is just a lack of concentration, that's all that is.
RRM: Time for a point blank answer: Jabar Gaffney's game-winning touchdown catch, was it good or not?
SG: I thought it was good. Gaffney was moving the ball from hand to hand but I think he had control of it. He controlled the ball throughout the catch and got both feet down as far as I could tell. The replay made a big deal of his fingers moving but he had the ball in his palm the entire time so it was a good catch, and I'm not being a homer when I say that. I would have said the same thing if a Baltimore player had made that kind of a catch.
RRM: The Ravens can complain about the outcome all they want but they shot themselves in the foot by committing 13 penalties in the game, many of them right at the start of the game when they had a chance to really seize control of the game. Do you think they had a legitimate beef with the refs?
SG: To be honest you could complain about how the calls went in every game so I don't think that lost the game for the Ravens. They made a big point of it after the game and that was mostly out of frustration on their part. They gave everything they had and had nothing to show for it at the end, not that I feel bad for them though!
RRM: Did you see Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott throw the penalty flag into the stands? I wonder what the commissioner will have to say to him about that?
SG: You don't see a player do that very often. I've seen it happen a couple of times, and I'm sure the league is going to come down really hard for picking the flag up and tossing it. The Ravens were frustrated because they really outplayed the Patriots for 56 minutes and the Patriots got them in the last minute, and that can be extremely frustrating to you as a player.
RRM: The Monday night crew was annoying enough but when they brought Don Shula into the booth in the second half it became too much. He seemed absolutely gleeful in anticipation that the Ravens were going to pull off the upset and help keep his '72 Dolphins the only undefeated team in NFL history. Was there any satisfaction for you knowing Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, and Mercury Morris won't be doing any celebrating this week?
SG: Yeah, no doubt about it [laughs]! Coach Shula was a great, great coach in the NFL and is a pretty good guy as well. I've been around him at several events but I thought they went a little overboard on the Monday night telecast with keeping him in the booth so long, and the way he was openly rooting for Baltimore well let's just say that's not what I turned on to see. I tuned in to watch a football game.
RRM: Shula did make a good point when he said all through the 1972 season his club's focus was on winning the Super Bowl and not going undefeated. The Patriots say all the right things but the prospect of making history and going undefeated has to be weighing on their minds right now, doesn't it?
SG: They have to try and keep it out of their heads but now that they are 12-0 that's going to be a hard thing to do. They will all say the right things, that going undefeated is not that important to them, but they would love to run the table and go 19-0 and be the only team to ever do that. You've seen how important it is to the Dolphins who accomplished it 35 years ago, and if these Patriots can go 19-0 they will be able to claim the same thing in their old age. At the same time when it looked like they were going to go down Monday night I was thinking this was going to take a lot of pressure off of them if they lose. They can relax and start playing games for the fun of it and not worry about trying to go undefeated. It's a Catch 22 situation, no doubt about it.
RRM: The ESPN cameras also focused in on another old foe from your past, Buddy Ryan, who was layered in blankets watching his son Rex coach the Baltimore defense. Did that stir up some unpleasant memories for you?
SG: Buddy Ryan did a pretty good job against us in Super Bowl XX so I have a lot of respect for their family. They have a great football family, but his son made a huge error when the called time out on the fourth-and-one play just as Tom Brady was getting stopped on the quarterback sneak. That was a huge, huge play right there.
RRM: Brian Bellick blowing kisses to Rodney Harrison? If my father was still with us I can just hear him saying this isn't Vince Lombardi's NFL any more?
SG: …Yah… [laughs]! Actually it was interesting to see how Bellick was going to handle it. When I saw Rodney square off on him and say something I was anxious to see what kind of reaction Bellick would have, and I think he handled it a lot better than just screaming back at him. It was a unique and unexpected response to say the least!
RRM: Somehow I can't see an opposing player doing that to Bill Belichick and getting the same response?
SG: No, I think that's a pretty safe bet. I do remember when we were playing in Miami when something happened near the Dolphins' sidelines and Shula started yelling at one of our players. Steve Nelson was standing right there and he looked right at him and said: "You know Coach Shula, I used to have a lot of respect for you; I just lost it." Then he turned around and walked off. Sometimes that's the best way to handle things.
RRM: A lot of fans have asked why the Patriots' #1 draft pick Brandon Meriweather hasn't seen much playing time and I think we got the answer Monday night. First he had a very poor missed tackle on Ravens' receiver Devard Darling that led to a 53-yard completion, then he dropped what would have been a game-clinching interception on the play prior to the Hail Mary pass that almost pulled the game out for the Ravens. Is it too soon to start calling that draft pick a total bust?
SG: Sometime it just takes certain guys a little longer to get acclimated to playing at the NFL level, but sometimes they never acclimate. Right now Brandon Meriweather is not one of the better defensive backs they have on the roster so he hasn't been playing much. The Patriots had some players nicked up so he had to play in their dime package and he didn't play well. I don't expect him to get a lot of playing time if that's the way he's going to play every week. I don't think we're ready to write him off just yet, and I hate to say this, but it's starting to head in that Tebucky Jones direction where we have another great athlete that just can't figure out how to get it done when he's on the field.
RRM: Last week we talked about how the Philadelphia Eagles exposed a weakness in the Patriots' secondary. This week it appears the Ravens found a soft spot in New England's rush defense. The Patriots' linebackers are creeping up in age, are they starting to show some chinks in their armor?
SG: There is some age in the linebacker corp, there's no question about that, but they've got a young defensive front three that is supposed to be very good that I thought was essentially a nonfactor in this game. I think the fact they weren't able to match Baltimore's intensity level had a lot to do with what we saw. From the way I saw it the game looked a lot more important to the Ravens than it did to the Patriots until about the fourth quarter when the Patriots figured they'd better crank it up a notch and they started to shut them down and put themselves in a position to pull out the win. But for those first three quarters I saw very little intensity from this defense.
RRM: If the Patriots had a problem handling the Ravens things will only get worse this Sunday when they face one of the most physical teams in football in the Pittsburgh Steelers. What will need to happen for them to get past Big Ben and the men from the steel city?
SG: If this Patriots team is to go undefeated this season this would appear to be the biggest test for them left on the schedule. They have to get by this one and if they do they're looking good with only the Jets, Dolphins, and Giants remaining. I'm hoping that the fact that they are returning home and the Gillette crowd will be behind them, and they've been a little bit embarrassed the last couple of weeks defensively will be enough to motivate them to play with a little more emotion. It would really be nice to see the Patriots get off to a good start and build a two-score lead, particularly against a team like Pittsburgh, because if you can get ahead of them by 10 to 14 points by halftime you should be in good shape. But make no mistake about it, they are going to have to play a lot better than they have the past two weeks. They are going to need an A effort to beat the Steelers on Sunday, and I'm thinking that's what we will get from them.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the Monday night special 27-24 win over the Ravens?
SG: This was a very average performance by the Patriots. I thought the offense played a little better than the defense but overall they deserve an average grade. I was very disappointed in the play of the defense. The offense was far from perfect with some key penalties and some dropped passes. On a night when the wind is blowing like it was and its cold they needed a running game and they really didn't find one, so I think that has to be a little bit of a concern. I guess we shouldn't complain too much because to go 12-0 in the modern day NFL is a rare accomplishment, but I'm sure like me everyone will rest easier if this team returns to form with a complete, 60-minute effort against the Steelers on Sunday.
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