November 11, 2010
Grogan's Grade: Week 8 - New England at Cleveland
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, all week long the Patriots said they knew the contest against the Browns was a potential trap game and that they would be prepared, but after watching the 34-14 debacle in Cleveland you can't help but wonder if they looked past the Browns after all?
Steve Grogan: They said the right things, but they did not do the right things. It was as bad an effort and as poorly prepared a football team as I have seen in a number of years watching the Patriots. There was not any phase of the game where the Browns did not beat them. It was truly an embarrassing performance by this Patriots team.
RRM: Old friend Eric Mangini had an extra week to prepare for Bill Belichick's Patriots and whatever he did it appeared his Browns outplayed New England in every facet of the game?
SG: There is no question that they beat them in all aspects. They had them looking confused offensively and defensively they just manhandled them and ran the ball down their throats. Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy made a couple of nice throws but for the most part it was the fullback Peyton Hillis that was tearing them up. On special teams the Patriots opened the game with a stupid mistake not covering a kickoff, and they had a couple more of those glaring errors along the way. You just can not play that way and expect to win in the National Football league regardless of your opponent.
SG: I think there is some correlation there. They're not stretching the field at all which is allowing people to bunch down there in the box and play the Patriots' short passing game. Until someone steps up to threaten down the field it is going to be a lot easier to defend Wes Welker, and even the tight ends that they are trying to get the ball to. I think they do miss Randy Moss a great deal, but it was a move they had to make based on what we talked about a few weeks ago. Right now they need to move on and make the necessary adjustments to have a productive passing attack without him.
RRM: The only downfield threat the Patriots have at wide receiver that can stretch the field is Brandon Tate, who didn't exactly distinguish himself against the Browns. Not to single him out but had a big drop on a third down play that cost the Patriots what could have been a promising drive?
SG: You just can't make mistakes like that, especially when you are trailing and trying to get something going on the road. Someone has to make a big play and step up and get everybody excited, and that did not happen in this game. There were just too many drops by the receiving corp, and the Tate drop was a really big one, too. He certainly has potential but I just don't know how much we can expect from him at this point in his young career.
RRM: You mentioned Cleveland's quarterback Colt McCoy who made some pretty big plays in this game. The rookie has now beaten Super Bowl quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady in consecutive games, not a bad way to start a career I imagine?
SG: Not bad at all. I liked him a lot in college and I like what I see from him now with the Browns. I think the fact that they can run the ball helps him, and anytime you have a young quarterback and you can run the ball and really hammer it that puts him in a position where he doesn't have to win the game by himself. Instead it allows him to have his talents take over, and that is a good thing. That is what the Browns have been doing, at least they did that to the Patriots on Sunday! They just handed the ball off to Hillis and let him hammer, hammer, hammer and then come with a play action pass which was easy for McCoy to complete. The kid's confidence seemed to grow as the game went along and he may well turn out to be a good one in this league.
RRM: Lost in the aftermath of this game was the return of All-Pro guard Logan Mankins. The fact that he started the first week he reported back shows that everyone in the media who was wondering how many weeks it would take to work himself back into the lineup were way off the mark?
SG: He apparently showed up in pretty good shape. The Patriots have not changed enough on offense that it was going to be confusing to him. Mankins is definitely the best offensive guard they have on this football team and they found a way to get him in there. I am sure he will be tired and sore for a few days, but it was a little surprising to me that he worked his way back in there that quickly.
RRM: In general is it easier for a lineman as opposed to a skill position player to come in and play right away?
SG: Knowledge-wise it is probably easier, but conditioning-wise most of the time for those big ugly fat guys it is harder for them to get into game shape [laughs]. That's why for him to come out and start and play the whole game his first week back was pretty amazing to me. That was about the only positive thing you could take out of this game. With all the injuries and changes involving the skill positions on offense keeping this offense line intact and healthy is going to be a big key to the Patriots' success over the second half of the season, and now with Mankins back in the fold you have to hope it will give them a real shot in the arm.
RRM: As bad as things were this week the Patriots now have to go right back out to the Midwest to play the Steelers on Sunday night in what initially looked to be a showdown game for the best record in football. Now I don't think anyone knows what to expect from this team?
SG: The Patriots do have a lot of work to do and their task becomes that much tougher against the Steelers who are playing good football. Usually when a game like that comes around Bill Belichick finds a way to get his team ready to play, although you can argue he usually finds a way to get them to play in these trap games, too, and that did not happen on Sunday! It will be interesting to see whether they can pull it all together in a week and be ready to play one of the better teams in the league, and also a team that plays a very physical brand of football.
RRM: Will the Patriots have a slight edge in the fact that the Steelers had to play a Monday night game on the road against the Bengals last week?
SG: That is always a little bit of an edge. You have one less day to prepare and one less day to heal up and get rested, so it's a slight edge but both of these teams have seen enough of each other over the last four or five years where I don't think it will be much of an issue. I think there is no love lost between these two clubs and I am expecting a really good battle.
RRM: I've been dreading this part; what are Grogan's Grades for the 34-14 blowout by the Browns this past Sunday?
SG: I have to go with a failing grade. It's F's all around. It was frustrating and embarrassing to sit and watch this game. That is a much better Patriots team than what we witnessed on Sunday. No one is singled out this week; they all have to take responsibility. Now we will find out what kind of team this is and what kind of leaders they have with tough games against the Steelers and Colts coming up. If they go out and blow up like they did in this one then we have a lot of problems, but I really do not expect that to happen. We'll find out if I'm right on Sunday night.
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