January 01, 2008
Grogan's Grade: Week 16
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, they did it!! The Patriots rallied from a 28-16 deficit in the second half to beat the New York Giants 38-35 to become the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 in the regular season. As a former player can you try to explain to us the magnitude of this incredible accomplishment?
Steve Grogan: It's truly a feat I never would have thought any team would ever be able to do in this day and age of football. The fact that you have so many players going and coming every year, and to be able to stay on top of your game and meet the level of intensity of your opponent every week is quite remarkable. The more you win the more every team wants to peak when they play you, and to be able to withstand that throughout the course of the second half of the season like the Patriots did I think is just amazing.
RRM: The win certainly didn't come easily. It seemed the Patriots were facing an uphill climb all evening long, but in a way the dramatic second half comeback made the win that much more sweeter after all?
SG: I think you're right. It would have been nice to get it over with by halftime, but to go out and earn it the way they did by coming from behind down by a couple of scores has to feel like a great accomplishment to them and they should be very proud of the way they rallied when they needed to. But they've done that several times during the second half of the season so it was really nothing new for them.
RRM: Were you surprised the Giants provided such tough opposition for them and played them tooth-and-nail down to the wire?
SG: The Giants played them a lot tougher than I know I expected them to. I knew they had a pretty solid defense and their pass rush with their defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora was very good. When I found out the Patriots had two starting offensive linemen out on the right side of their line I thought that might be a problem and it was at times, but they were able to scheme around it. I thought the Giants offense played much better than I expected them to play. I also felt Eli Manning played a pretty solid football game outside of that one throw at the end that Ellis Hobbs picked off to seal the victory.
RRM: Tom Brady stood up to some fierce pressure to complete 32 of 42 for 356 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants only sacked him once but it could have been a lot more than that if not for Brady's uncanny pocket presence?
SG: The Giants did get to Tom Brady a number of times after he released the ball and with great pass rushers like the Giants have that is going to happen. Brady kept his cool in the pocket which he always does, but he certainly was on the ground a lot more on Saturday night than he has been in previous games but was still able to hang in there and deliver the football. I thought it was a very good game on his part.
RRM: The 65-yard touchdown bomb to Randy Moss that put the Patriots out in front to stay was not only the record-breaking touchdown for both Moss and Brady but had so many different aspects associated with it that it almost defies description. Moss had dropped a long pass the play before, the Giants decided to double Wes Welker and give Moss single coverage on that play, should I go on?
SG: It was basically the same kind of pattern that Brady and Moss had just missed on the play before, the difference being I really don't think Moss was the primary receiver on what turned out to be the biggest touchdown of the season. Brady had his reads from deep to short, and I think when he read deep first to Moss he came up with a great throw and hit him right in stride. Moss caught it out in front of him without having to slow up and he was off to the races. It was a great throw by Brady and a very big mistake by the Giants.
No one really talked much about the previous throw but I thought Brady had someone in his face which didn't allow him to get much on the ball. I honestly thought Moss wound up dropping it because he was trying to run with it before he caught it. If he had gone down on his knees to get it he probably could have caught it, but then again we wouldn't have that dramatic score on the next play!
RRM: Brady told Moss he could keep the record-setting football. Would you have been as magnanimous if that had been your 50th touchdown pass of the season?
SG: Probably not, because I'd probably figure I'd never have another chance to do it again [laughs]. Brady probably figures he's going to do that and more some day, so he's looking ahead to the season were he throws 51 touchdown passes!
RRM: If there was one area of concern in this game it was the continued inconsistent play of the Patriots' defense. They let themselves get pushed around at times and I imagine that has to be a bit of a concern as we head into the postseason?
SG: Maybe just a little bit. Actually the Giants didn't really run the ball that well (only 79 yards rushing) but the Patriots didn't get any pressure on Manning which is what allowed him to have such a good game. The Patriots weren't really getting in his face all that much and that's a little bit of a concern, but I'm sure that will be addressed and they'll get that all worked out before the playoffs start.
RRM: It's been speculated that the loss of linebacker Rosevelt Colvin has shown up with the inconsistent play of the Patriots' defense the past few games. Do you feel that way?
SG: Perhaps. Colvin's loss has meant a lot more playing time for players like Junior Seau. I thought Seau was guessing a lot against the Giants and guessed wrong several times. He would come up to fill in the run and it turned out to be play action. Adalius Thomas is making plays occasionally but not often enough for what I saw from earlier in the year and what I thought he'd be able to do. I do think their linebacker corp will need to step it up just a little bit as they go into the playoffs.
RRM: I don't know about you but I was a little put off by all the chippiness and trash talking in this game. Didn't you feel at times you were watching an old Miami Hurricanes' game?
SG: Yes, there was some of that in this one. It was the last game of the season and even thought the Giants had nothing to play for everybody was playing hard because of the whole situation they found themselves in. If the Patriots had been 15-1 I think you would have seen an entirely different football game with a lot of starters sitting on the bench getting ready for the playoffs, but because of the way this all shook down they had to stay out there longer and things probably got a little chippy because of that.
I thought there were two bad plays that could have cost the Patriots in this game. The first was the celebration penalty after the first Moss touchdown and that hurt them when the Giants had the short kickoff and Domenick Hixon returned it 74 yards for a touchdown (although I thought they should have had him stopped). Then Rodney Harrison got that stupid personal foul penalty late in the game which Bill Belichick rightly took issue with and removed him for a play to get his head back into the game. I guess in a game with such magnitude and so much emotion involved there are going to be a few things like that, but they were fortunate that none of that came back to hurt then and I'm sure it is something that Belichick will make a point of to his players with the postseason now here.
RRM: Many feel that the 16-0 regular season means nothing if the Patriots fail to go 19-0. Do you agree with that sentiment?
SG: That is true, so you can put me in that camp as well. There are no rings for going 16-0 in the regular season, and I'm sure everyone on the Patriots understands that and agree with it. If the Patriots were to get beaten and not win the Super Bowl it will be very disappointing not only to the fans and people in New England but I'm sure to those guys as well if they don't go all the way after all this. You can count on the fact that the national media will be all over them if that happens, and maybe that can serve as a little extra motivation to them for the next three games.
RRM: The Patriots broke the scoring record of the 15-1 1998 Minnesota Vikings and Brady surpassed Peyton Manning's touchdown pass record of the 2004 Colts. Neither club even reached the Super Bowl that year, so is there a problem with teams that rely on offense to get them to a championship?
SG: The old adage has always been that defense wins championships, so it may very well have something to do with what happened to those teams. However, I'm not sure that applies to this particular Patriots' team. This team has great offense but they still have a pretty solid defense, and a good enough defense to help them win the championship. But if you are solely relying on offense it's going to be an uphill battle to win the whole thing.
RRM: The Patriots and Colts both get a week off before starting their playoff runs. You've played on playoff teams that had a bye week and others that had to go right into the postseason, so is it better to have that time to recuperate or is it better to keep playing and stay sharp?
SG: I think as good as both of these teams are playing right now and with them being such veteran teams I think the week off will be a big help for them. If you have a younger team that has built up some momentum over the end of the season you want to just keep it going, but teams like the Patriots and Colts know how to prepare and what needs to be done as they head into the playoffs so a week off will be good for them.
RRM: Of all the possible opponents the Patriots could face at Gillette Stadium for their first playoff game is there one team you would like to see them avoid?
SG: The way that everybody has been talking about the Jacksonville Jaguars and what a physical football team they are I wouldn't mind not having to play them. I'm not sure with a young starting quarterback in David Garrard they scare me tremendously, but I think the Patriots have some trouble with teams that get really physical with them and that could be Jacksonville.
RRM: So you'd rather see the Patriots play Pittsburgh than Jacksonville? I know some Steelers fans that won't be happy with that lack of respect!
SG: That's okay with me [laughs]!
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the history-making 38-35 win over the Giants in the regular season finale?
SG: I think the best I can do in spite of the win is a B+. I'll give the offense an A- because they played pretty well, but the defense has some problems especially at the beginning of the game so they'll get a B. Other than kicker Stephen Gostkowski I thought the special teams was only a C+ at best because they had some breakdowns. I know they didn't give out any game balls after this one because they considered it a team effort but one player I strongly feel that should be mentioned and you never hear much about him is Kevin Faulk. He caught eight balls and had three big catches for first downs where he caught the ball short of the first down and ran through people to get there. He knew how far he had to get to pick up the first down to keep the drive alive, and I just thought he did a heck of a job.
It certainly wasn't their best game but once again they did what they needed to do when they needed to do it, and that's become the M.O. of this team that last six weeks of the season. Now it's time for the second season to get underway, and as remarkable an achievement as going 16-0 in the regular season is the Patriots know this is the time of year that every player lives for and the stakes get much higher. I have no doubt that after taking a day or two to celebrate this win they will get back to work and get ready to play two weeks from now when they host a divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Happy New Year to everyone; enjoy the win and get ready for what I'm sure will be a very memorable postseason in New England.
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