November 18, 2010
Grogan's Grade: Week 9 - New England at Pittsburgh
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, a week after their worst defeat of the season the Patriots rebounded with what has to be considered their most impressive victory of 2010, a 39-26 pounding of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Were you as surprised as everyone else in Patriots' Nation with how thoroughly they dominate one of the elite teams in the NFL on their home field?
Steve Grogan: I was not surprised to see them play well with more intensity than what they did a week ago. I think they were embarrassed by their performance last week and really wanted to atone for that poor effort. They took Pittsburgh out of everything they wanted to do, but it really wasn't surprising to me. We've seen glimpses of what this team is capable of this season, it's just that they had never put together a total consistent effort from the offense, defense, and special teams for an entire game, and that was a lot of fun to see for a change.
RRM: Tom Brady had a magnificent game, shredding the Steel Curtain for 350 passing yards and three touchdowns. What was your take on his performance?
SG: He was well prepared and the Patriots had a great game plan. You could tell by his demeanor when they showed him on the sidelines that this game meant a lot to him; he really wanted this one badly. The results showed he was well prepared but he also got the guys around him to prepare well and consequently they won the game fairly easily.
RRM: You mentioned how emotional Tom Brady was in this game, and he certainly demonstrated that with an emphatic spike of the football after scoring a touchdown on a quarterback sneak. You scored 35 TDs and I can't ever recall you spiking the ball like that?
SG: I only spiked it one time in a game against the Chargers. I had a poor game and the fans were all over my case at home. I scored on a sneak and came out and spiked the ball so hard I fell down [laughs]. I think Brady was making a statement to those Pittsburgh fans, "You have a good football team, but we are better."
RRM: Some of the Steelers top rushing linebackers like James Harrison were consistently dropping back into coverage instead of rushing Brady. Didn't you get the impression that they were afraid to blitz Brady fearful of what he would do to them?
SG: You're right; they did not blitz a lot. When they did, he made them pay. Honestly when you look at those receivers he is playing with there is no dominant receiver out there and yet they all made contributions. Maybe the Steelers plan was to drop back into coverage and get some pressure on him with their regular front four, but they were not able to do that and Brady had all the time in the world to pick out open receivers.
RRM: Credit has to go to the Patriots' offensive line who protected Tom Brady so well he could have played the game in a tuxedo!
SG: The offensive line did a great job protecting Brady, and when they did get some pressure on him he was able to get the ball out of there quickly before they could reach him. If they play that well the rest of the season Tom Brady will be a very happy man.
RRM: The much-maligned Patriots' pass rush finally came alive, sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times and forcing a lot of hurried throws. They also kept the Steelers out of the end zone for three quarters which I thought was really impressive considering the way Cleveland marched up and down the field at will against them the week before?
SG: Yes, it was a completely different game for the defense, and you have to give credit to the other side of the ball. The Patriots did to the Steelers what Pittsburgh had been doing with their blitzing all year. They had people coming from all kinds of different angles and places, and I did not think Pittsburgh handled it very well. The Patriots defense sacked Rothlisberger five times and got in his face a lot more than that, which does not normally happen to him. Rothlisberger missed some big throws where he had open men downfield, and that made a big difference in the game. But for the most part he couldn't get comfortable back in the pocket and it threw his timing off and he was forced to improvise a lot of the time. Usually that works to his advantage but the Patriots defensive backs were well-schooled on staying with the receivers downfield and not allowing any big plays. They really showed some good discipline.
SG: It is just hard to defend Peyton Manning. You want to get him at home because that always helps with the crowd noise. It (the noise) does not bother him a lot but it can bother him some. The Colts are riddled with injuries and they did not play very well last week, but they still came away with a victory. I feel they will come in here with an attitude like the Patriots had going into Pittsburgh; we did not play well, we need to play better, and Peyton Manning will make sure they do that. It should be a great football game to watch. Two good teams, two great quarterbacks both with limited guys around them this year. Then it is just a matter of who wants to play better.
RRM: As you mentioned the Colts have continued to win despite a rash of injuries to key personnel, particularly on offense. Everyone likes to denigrate Manning around here but clearly his leadership has to be respected with the job he has done keeping this team on top this year?
SG: Manning is a great player, period. He makes anybody and everybody who is playing around him better than they should be, and there aren't too many guys who can do that. Tom Brady is also one of them. You put two guys like that on the field in charge of their offenses and there's always the chance there will be a lot of points going up on the board.
RRM: The Patriots expended a lot of emotion with their big win over the Steelers. Any chance of a letdown this Sunday, or will the mere presence of #18 in white and blue be enough to get their adrenaline flowing?
SG: I think it might. The guys love Tom Brady on that football team. They will do anything to make people realize Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning, so there will be a little incentive going that way.
RRM: The consensus opinion was that the Patriots-Steelers game would be a low-scoring, defensive struggle. By contrast everyone's expecting a high-scoring affair with the Colts, but do you think that will be the case?
SG: On paper there should be a lot of points scored in this game but again both teams are not playing with the best skilled players that they had over the last five years, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it turn into a defensive struggle.
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the 39-26 slapdown of the Steelers on Sunday night?
SG: I'm giving out A-‘s across the board. The only thing keeping it being straight A's is due to the missed extra point by Shayne Graham that could have come back to haunt them. I also notice his kickoffs were consistently around the five to ten-yard line instead of in the end zone like we were used to from Steven Gostkowski. I think that is something that may come back to haunt them , and it is going to give teams a little more advantage than they have had over the past few seasons as far as field position is concerned. But you look forward to games like this against the Colts, games with great leaders and good coaches. I'm anxious to see what kind of game plan Bill Belichick comes up with, and it should be a great afternoon of football on Sunday.
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