October 07, 2010
Grogan's Grade: Week 4 - New England at Miami
BY: Steve Grogan
Patsfans.com is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for another season. Grogan played in 149 games with the Patriots from 1975-1990, and was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995. Steve will join us each week to provide his insights on the progress of the Patriots during the 2010 football season.
R.R. Marshall: Steve, in a shocking move the Patriots jettisoned star wide receiver Randy Moss this week, sending him to the Minnesota Vikings for a third round pick. Everyone knew about Moss' unhappiness over not getting a new contract offer from the Patriots, but did it have to come to this?
Steve Grogan: It's just extremely odd to me. From ever tying you hear he wasn't a distraction in the locker room. He was open about his desire for a new contract and I know they didn't want to pay him the kind of money he was looking for, but I think I would have let him play the rest of the year and then walk. There's something going on behind the scenes there that we'll probably never know about because the Patriots are tight-lipped, but you don't take a player of Moss' caliber and ship him off to another team for a third round draft pick four weeks into the season.
SG: I don't think he's at the same talent-level but he's still a tremendously talented wide receiver, better than most of the other players at his position. Without him out there to stretch the field it's going to be interesting to see what that does to Tom Brady's underneath passing game.
RRM: If I would have told you going into that game Monday night that Tom Brady would throw for only 150 yards and Moss would have zero catches chances are you wouldn't have liked the Patriots chances?
SG: You would assume with that happening there is no way they win the football game. There were a lot of plays made in that game, especially in the second half, that paid off for them. They scouted Miami well and the special teams play was just huge; it was really a fun second half to watch. I think Bill Belichick knows what he is doing coaching-wise. You look at it statistically on defensive they still gave up 400 yards which is a little scary. Time of possession was almost five minutes differential between Miami and the Patriots having the ball. Defensively they gave up yardage but they got turnovers and one of those turnovers was run back for a touchdown which always helps. When you do those kinds of things you do not have to play real well offensively, so although we have been saying the Patriots' offense is going to have to score a ton of points for this team to win it was the special teams and defense that scored points and helped the Patriots win.
RRM: The Patriots defense allowed Miami to march up and down the field against them for the first three quarters but two big interceptions and a timely sack by Rob Ninkovich was just what the doctor ordered. I don't think many fans know much about him other than he came up with a big game against his former team?
SG: I thought the kid played a really nice ball game. Going into the season everyone said who is he? Turns out he is just another one of those guys we have not heard of that Belichick (who being a genius and who has a knack for finding kids like this) finds and teaches him the system, and then they play it right and make big plays for him.
RRM: After destroying them as a member of the Denver Broncos last year everyone feared the worst with the Patriots trying to defend against wide receiver Brandon Marshall. How did they manage to take him completely out of the game this time around?
SG: They did shut him down and I am not sure how they did it, but they just found a way to get it done. They really confused Miami quarterback Chad Henne and with not seeing the game film it is hard to tell what they did. He was making some throws he should not have made, and that is partly being a young and inexperienced quarterback seeing things for the first time. He got confused on a couple of those interceptions so Belichick's defensive game plan must have really had him off-balance.
RRM: The Patriots special teams were truly special on Monday night led by Patrick Chung with two blocked kicks and an interception return for a touchdown. I don't think I've ever seen such a diverse performance on special teams by a club in a single game, have you? SG: Patrick Chung should definitely be named a Player of the Week for the game he turned in. For most defensive backs or a special teams player that is a whole year's worth of highlights in one game. You block a punt, you block a field goal, and you run an interception back for a touchdown, how often does that happen in a game for one player? The Patriots scouted Miami well and found something to get Chung free in there. He got through to block those two kicks, and if I was a Miami special team coach I would be worried about my job. [I guess he was fired the next day.]
RRM: As one-sided as this game became it was still in doubt when Ricky Williams scored to make it 20-14 in the third quarter. Didn't you think the 12-play touchdown drive engineered by Tom Brady that put them back up by two scores at 27-14 was one of the key segments of the game?
SG: It was a key drive and I really liked the way they mixed things up with the run and the pass. It is fun to see them running the ball for a change especially late in the game when you want to keep the ball out of the opponent's hands. They are doing a great job with the offensive line coming off the ball and picking up four or five yards every time they run the ball. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had another nice game and the young kid Danny Woodhead seems like a guy who is going to contribute much in the same way Kevin Faulk was doing.
RRM: A lot has been made of the Patriots' inability to win games on the road. While I know Bill Belichick will say that there are no such things as big games the fourth week of the season, doesn't this decisive victory have to be a confidence builder for this young team?
SG: It was absolutely a confidence builder, but it is not just winning on the road (although they have had a problem winning down in Miami) that is the issue. You are going into your bye week feeling good about yourself with the way things are progressing. Everything fell into place in the second half against Miami and had it not, had they continued to struggle and wound up losing the game I think we would all be sitting here with a lot of worries, but now we can relax for two weeks.
RRM: The Patriots don't play this weekend and some might argue the bye week came a little too soon this year. But giving Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare for a team like the Baltimore Ravens is probably a blessing in disguise?
SG: It is a little early in the season and you would rather have those bye weeks a bit later in the season, but you take them when you get them. As Belichick says, "It is what it is," so they will take it. They will heal up a little bit and maybe Tom Brady will have time to get a haircut and they can get back to work because that Ravens game is going to be a big one. The way the Patriots got pounded by them last year in the playoffs it will be a really good battle to watch, and of course it will be interesting to see how they respond with Randy Moss no longer on the team.
RRM: The NFL owners are pushing for expanding to an 18-game schedule next season. My question to you is how many players will be left standing at the end of the season if they do that?
SG: I think it is a ridiculous proposal, but I know where they are coming from. The fans are frustrated with having to pay $160 for a ticket to a game where nobody plays in the preseason. The owners would be better off cutting the ticket prices in half for preseason games and keeping the four preseason game schedule because you are just going to put a lot of extra wear and tear on a player's body that doesn't need to happen. Even if you expand the rosters, you are still going to lose guys throughout the course of the season. Even with the expanded rosters you are getting players that normally wouldn't even make the taxi squad so I just think it is a bad idea all the way around.
RRM: The coaches have been quiet on the subject, but they can't be too happy about it and certainly they do not think that two exhibition games are enough to get their teams ready for the season, right?
SG: They do so much in the offseason now with the organized team activities, but you still can't see the young guys in particular in game type situations and how they are going to react. So if you go to the two preseason games you are going to put pressure on the coaching staff making decisions about draft picks and free agents that they brought in with a very small sample size, and that can be extremely tricky.
RRM: You were a player in 1978 when they switched from the 16 to the 14- game schedule and they are trying to make the same argument that it is the same thing, but is it really? Was there a big adjustment to make for that?
SG: I don't remember it being a big adjustment, but six preseason games back in my first couple years was a bit too many. You were there forever in training camp it seemed like. Four is kind of a nice number, two would be not enough. But eighteen is definitely too much wear and tear on the body in the NFL.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 41-14 demolition of the Dolphins?
SG: All in all it was an outstanding performance. The offense and defense rate an A-, but it was the special teams that really deserve the credit for this one so they get an A+. Brandon Tate had the touchdown on the kickoff return to start the second half and he also had eight catches so he deserves a mention. I thought the offensive line played really well once again. There wasn't much pressure on Brady and they were able to run the ball consistently. The defense was also able to pressure Chad Henne a little bit so that was a welcome sight. All told there were some good signs all around, and hopefully that will carry over into the Baltimore game after the bye week, even without Randy Moss.
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