December 27, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 15
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, despite committing four turnovers the Patriots ran their record to an unprecedented 15-0 with a 28-7 win over the hapless Miami Dolphins in the regular season home finale on Sunday. I guess you could say that the game wasn't as close as the final score indicated?
Steve Grogan: Yes [chuckles], they pretty much had this one under control right from the start. It looked like they got out in front where they wanted to be by halftime and then just kind of went on cruise control in the second half. I thought you didn't see a whole lot of really good, consistent effort in the second half; they just looked really flat in the second half on offense. Defensively I thought they continued to play really well, but offensively it didn't look like their hearts were in it. I thought Matt Light really struggled in the second half with Miami's Jason Taylor coming off the corner. That wasn't a very good sign, and it just looked to me like they were going through the motions over those last 30 minutes.
RRM: Tom Brady was only four of 15 passing in the second half and you could have counted the number of first downs on one hand for the Patriots in the third quarter. Did you feel like most like he was forcing the ball downfield to Randy Moss to try and break those records before the home crowd?
SG: It certainly looked like that was what they were trying to do. If they were really trying to play their style of offense you would have seen the ball going to other people a little more often than what you saw in the second half. More than likely they just felt that they were comfortably in control and they wanted to see if they could get those records taken care of while they were at home.
RRM: Do you see any problem with a club like the Patriots that prides itself on individual accomplishments now going for individual records like Brady going for the touchdown pass record and Randy Moss trying to better Jerry Rice's mark of 22 touchdown catches in a season?
SG: No, I don't think so. I think considering the fact that they are 15-0 and accomplished that mark as a team I don't think there is any other player on the team that would begrudge Brady and Moss for their chance to go into the record books with individual records. I just really don't see that as a problem as far as the team is concerned.
RRM: Are you at all concerned that we haven't seen the Patriots put an entire effort together both offensively and defensively in awhile like we saw on a weekly basis during the first half of the season?
SG: It's hard to play at your peak level the entire season, especially when you're winning that easily. You get ahead at halftime and it's hard to say let's keep it going and score another 28 in the second half. It's just human nature for you to let down a little bit. Come playoff time I'm sure they will be mentally ready to play a full game, physically we'll find out.
RRM: You mentioned Jason Taylor who even not at 100% is still one of the best pass rushers in the game. I am always amazed when they drop him back into pass coverage like they did at times in the first half. Isn't that akin to a baseball manager having his top home run hitter bunt instead of swinging away?
SG: Yes, it is and it's yet another great example of coaches outthinking themselves. They think they are going to surprise New England by dropping Jason Taylor back into coverage, but Taylor can be beaten by most any back coming out the backfield running a route against him so you're not really surprising anybody. You're actually doing the other team a favor. The moral of the story is if you have a great pass rusher let him rush the passer!
RRM: Taylor remains Miami's premier player who is saddled on a bad team. Do you think the Dolphins' new GM Bill Parcells will deal him away for draft picks, and would the Patriots be interested enough to deal away their #1 pick (actually San Francisco's pick)?
SG: It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to deal Jason Taylor for draft picks, but I wouldn't want to see the Patriots give up that #1 pick for him. The Patriots are pretty solid up front and I don't know that they need Jason Taylor. I think with Bill Parcells now in charge you will see a lot of changes in personnel next season. I'm not sure so sure they won't let Cam Cameron have another year as head coach to see what he can do, but it's certainly going to be interesting. Bill Parcells has never really been in that position before, being the sole person sitting behind the desk making personnel decisions. I'm looking forward to seeing how he handles that.
RRM: It was nice to see Troy Brown back on the field in what may well be his last appearance before the home crowd. Aren't you glad he had that one nice punt return at the end to offset that embarrassing muff of a punt that hit him square in his facemask?
SG: It looked like he needed to put his glasses on or something after that one that hit him right in the facemask. Someone asked me if it looked like he took his eye off the ball, and I said no, it hit him right in the eye! He sure looked a little rusty on that one! He just hadn't been out there judging those kinds of things in awhile so you can be a little off your game, but still it was good to have him back so he can be a part of this historic season by the Patriots.
RRM: Laurence Maroney had a big game with two long runs of over 50 yards. Does this bode well for the Patriots' running game with the postseason about to begin?
SG: Maroney has been running the ball really well but I'm not sure how much you can take out of this game given the fact that he ran for over 150 yards against a team like the Dolphins. He got most of his yards on those two long runs, and that could have been a mental or a physical breakdown by Miami. I do think it is a good sign that he is running the ball better, and let's all hope he continues to do that as the Patriots head into the playoffs.
RRM: The biggest afterthought on the Patriots is punter Chris Hanson who had to be forced to punt from his own end zone to get off his longest punt of the year, a 64-yarder! Did that kick surprise you as much as it did me?
SG: I guess it did. I think that short end zone snap maybe got Hanson's adrenaline rushing a little bit for him because he boomed that sucker out of there! That was actually a big kick at the time because the Patriots had just stopped the Dolphins on a fourth down play after their quarterback Cleo Lemon failed to run the ball in (and that was a strange play), and rather than giving Miami good field position that punt put them well past midfield.
RRM: To be honest I didn't think Hanson had that kind of a kick in him?
SG: I don't think most people did. Everyone once in awhile you hit one just perfectly and they go like crazy, and that's what happened to him. I think he also had to shorten his approach to the ball because he was so close to the line of scrimmage and sometimes that results in a more fluid, compact motion that can help generate a longer kick. Whatever the reason lets hope he has a few more of those left in him with some big games coming up on the horizon for this team.
RRM: What's with Tom Brady and the beard? Given that he plays at a venue called Gillette Stadium I don't think they can be very happy about that?
SG: It's just the manly look this time of year I guess. I have no idea. Maybe he has a deal going with Gillette to shave with one of their razors when the season is over? I can tell you he hasn't called me for my advice, so I'm not going to worry too much about that!
RRM: On Saturday night the Patriots will take on the New York football Giants in the Meadowlands with a chance to make history by becoming the first team to ever go 16-0 in the regular season. Since the Giants are locked in as the 5th seed in the NFC playoffs this game means absolutely nothing to them, yet they just can't lay down with a national audience watching them, can they?
SG: No, they can't, and I don't think Tom Coughlin wants to get embarrassed heading into the playoffs so he'll have to play his regulars for awhile anyway trying to stay competitive, plus he'll want his team to have some momentum going into the postseason. It should be a pretty good game for a half. I think if the same things happens in this one like it did in this game against Miami where the Giants are down 28-0 or 28-7 you'll see some wholesale changes, but I guarantee you while Bill Belichick may be saying he doesn't care about this game they all want to win this one. They want to get that perfect season so they will go all out to get it.
RRM: The Giants have the ability to put some heat on Tom Brady and if their tight ends are out again for this one do you still expect the Patriots to go entirely with the three and four wide receiver sets like they did against the Dolphins and leave Brady exposed?
SG: I would think the Patriots would play this one a little close to the vest. I don't know how badly Ben Watson and Kyle Brady are hurt and whether they'll be back for this one or not, but they are going to have to find ways to help with the pass protection because as much as you want to win you don't want to lose Tom Brady. They'll either have to use the backs more in pass protection or press someone into service at tight end. Who knows what Bill Belichick will come up with this week?
RRM: Not only does Giants' quarterback Eli Manning have to play under the burden of being Peyton's little brother, he has also developed the reputation of being either very good or very, very bad. What's your opinion of him as a quarterback?
SG: Sometimes I watch him play and I wonder whether it's the offense that they're running that puts him in positions where he just doesn't feel comfortable with the plays they are calling him to run. You're right; Eli can be lights out at times and look like a great player. Then there are times where he starts making throws like he's not really sure what they want him to do. When that happens it sometimes means coaches are calling plays where they are contradicting what was drawn up in the game plan during the week, and it puts the quarterback in a bad situation. That's kind of what it looks like to me when I watch Eli Manning play, and hopefully we won't get the lights out version of him on Saturday night.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 28-7 win over the Miami in the regular season finale at Foxboro?
SG: I think overall I'd give them a B for this effort. The defense played pretty well throughout the course of the game but the offense really struggled in the second half. They did what they had to do in the first half so I guess I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for cruising in the second half. You have to mention Mike Vrabel, Heath Evans, and Maroney for all having particularly good games. Evans had a really good block on Maroney's touchdown run and then he had a really good one-arm necktie tackle on Ted Ginn Jr. on a kickoff return, and you have to be really strong to be able to do that. I really like their chances quite a bit on beating the Giants on Saturday and then running the table, but their accomplishment will be meaningless if they don't go 19-0 and I think they realize that as well. They're looking at 19-0 as being the only thing they want to accomplish, but before they can go 19-0 they have to win this one on Saturday so it's time for them to go back to work. Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!
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