December 02, 2010
Grogan's Grade: Week 11 - New England at Detroit
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, after a shocking first half that caused most of Patriots Nation to lose their appetite during Thanksgiving dinner the Pats turned it on and feasted on the Lions in the final 30 minutes. Why did they get off to such a slow start?
Steve Grogan: I think the Patriots were feeling things out in the first half, trying not to do anything to put the defense in a bad situation. In the second half it looked like Detroit just realized they were not the better team out there, and then they boiled over there at the end. The Patriots started making plays offensively and Tom Brady was just fantastic in the second half. When Tom gets rolling there is not much you can do to stop him, and the young Lions got a first hand lesson in that regard.
RRM: The Lions controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for the entire first half. Was it simply a matter of the Patriots not matching their intensity for those first 30 minutes?
SG: This team plays either up or down depending upon the level of their competition, which is what happened in the first half. It was a short week, they had to travel, and they only had two days of practice. It just looked like they were not ready to play. They knew the Lions were not that good and they probably just figured if they hung around they would have a chance to win the game. Anytime a team like the Lions plays the Patriots it is their Super Bowl. They know they're one of the better teams in the league and they want to go out and prove that they can play with a good team. They played with a lot of emotion and that is what kept it close for the Lions, for awhile anyway.
RRM: This game was starting to resemble the Cleveland fiasco until Devon McCourty picked off a pass from Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill at the start of the second half, and then everything seemed to start going the Patriots way. Did you sense the shift in momentum at that point?
SG: Yes, and that interception had a lot to do with it. I really think it gave the defense a little bit of confidence and you could see their aggressiveness come back after that. McCourty had a great game, and after halftime they decided they would get a bit more physical with the Lions and put some pressure on the quarterback. They forced Hill into some bad decisions, but overall they just played much better defensively in that second half.
RRM: For a guy with a bad foot that hasn't been practicing every day Tom Brady sure looked pretty healthy, completing 21 of 27 for 341 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. So how do you improve on a perfect quarterback rating?
SG: He looks pretty healthy for a guy with a bum shoulder and foot, doesn't he (laughs!) Maybe they should let him (Brady) take four days off every week if he's going to be perfect! It seems like he has settled in with what he has to throw to on the field. He is playing some impressive football right now and the offensive line is giving him great time and doing a really nice job up front. They seem to be coming together with the addition of Logan Mankins back into the line-up, and that has helped him a little bit. They can not improve much more with what they did in the second half.
RRM: The Lions knocked Brady around a few times in that first half. In retrospect I guess it just made him mad?
SG: He took some pretty good shots in the first half, and he does not like that. You can tell when he is getting pounded pretty good; he is not happy with the officials, he is not happy with the offensive line and with the defense doing that to him. Maybe that did give him some motivation, and the second half he turned in was just utterly impressive.
RRM: After being noticeably quiet the past few weeks Deion Branch emerged with his newly healed hamstring and grabbed two key touchdown passes from Tom Brady, the first one a spectacular 79-yard score that had me feeling sorry for Detroit corner Aphonso Smith. Be honest, didn't you feel badly for him being so totally embarrassed on national television like that?
SG: You have to feel badly for a kid like that in some senses, but on the long one he had several chances to tackle him. He just did not give much of an effort. If I were the coach, I would be a little upset with the kind of effort I was getting out of the defensive back like that. When Darius Butler had a game like that back in September Bill Belichick pulled him from the line up, and I'm guessing this kid probably will not play a whole lot next week either.
Branch looks like he is getting healthy and is getting a feel for this offense again. You can't expect a guy to come in off the street after having been gone for nearly 3-1/2 years and produce immediately. He is back in the flow of things right now and certainly was a big factor in the game, and that bodes well for the remainder of the season.
RRM: We are all familiar with the weaknesses on this Patriots' club and yet the Pats have now won three games in a stretch of 12 days including two on the road, and I don't believe last year's club could have done that, do you?
SG: No, you are probably right, and a lot of the credit has to go to all of the young players, particularly on the defense. They are still a young defensive team that is learning every week. They have their ups and downs defensively but they have speed there now and they have guys who can make plays that I do not think could have been made last year. Even though they are young and are making mistakes, you can make up for some of those mistakes with speed. The more experience they get the better off they will be defensively.
RRM: Next up is a Monday night showdown with the hated New York Jets in a game that will in all probability decide the AFC East crown and homefield throughout the playoffs. The Patriots are sight favorites, but can you see them pulling this one off against such a physical opponent?
SG: I watched the Jets play against the Bengals last week and they really do not do anything impressive offensively. I think they are vulnerable and even though they are winning, and we can say this about the Patriots, too, they are not playing their best football. I see some weaknesses on the Jets' offense that will give the Patriots the advantage, particularly playing at home.
RRM: The Jets have shown vulnerability in covering tight ends. Do you think we will see a lot of Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Gronkowski in the game plan this week?
SG: You would think that if they are having trouble covering tight ends that would be big part of their scheme this week. You have two of them who are pretty good pass catchers for the Patriots even though they are rookies. They make big plays and I'm sure they will test that early in the game and find out if the Jets made corrections or not. However, if you made corrections to cover them you will be leaving Welker and Branch all alone outside.
The Jets have good corners and it is one of their strong points defensively. Those two corners are extremely hard to throw against and they took away two of the better receivers in the league against Cincinnati, although I do not think Carson Palmer is even close to what Tom Brady is as a quarterback so it will be a fun game to watch, no question about that. They are probably the two best teams in the NFL right now, and when you put that head to head it is always a lot of fun.
RRM: The Jets totally shut down the Patriots' offense in the second half of their first meeting back in September. Do you feel they can be more consistent putting points on the board against this very tough Jets' defense?
SG: I think what they will really need to do is control the clock, and this Patriots team is very good at that. If you go back and look at the previous four or five games, I'm pretty sure from what I've seen the other teams have had more possession time than the Patriots have had, so they're going to try and do that and they need to do that, but that is not the M.O. of this football team. The defense is out there a long time hoping not to break and then the offense goes out and puts up some points fairly quickly. That is why the time of possession is not in their favor. However, when all is said and done the points on the board have usually been in their favor, so it will be interesting to see if they can control the clock. But it is a good Jets' defense and it is difficult to do that sort of thing.
RRM: The Jets have shown an uncanny knack for last second comebacks recently, so I assume given the Jekyll and Hyde personality of this young Patriots defense you don't want to see this come down to a last possession-type of game?
SG: No, you do not want to put the ball in the Jets' hands at the end of the game with a chance to win it because it puts a lot of pressure on a young defense. So it is going to be imperative that the Patriots jump out to a lead and keep it a two-score game if they can for as long as they can.
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the 45-24 slaying of the Lions on Thanksgiving Day?
SG: I'm giving the offense an A even though they struggled in the first half. The running game was also not overly impressive in this game. They ran the ball a little over 100 yards and that is not what they have been doing recently. They have been putting up some pretty good yardage totals on the ground, but it seemed Tom Brady didn't need the ground game in this one. He just took over in the second half and just couldn't miss. He seems to be getting a little more comfortable with Deion Branch, and Wes Welker is always going to make plays for you. Between the two of them they just ripped the Lions apart in the second half.
The defense gets a B+ but they are still giving up a lot of yards (nearly 400 to the Lions) but they made plays when they needed to and that is pretty impressive. The special teams were solid and it was nice to see Julian Edleman make a nice play on the punt return team. He is a guy they need to get involved because he can make plays. He has been banged up but it was nice to see him make a big play. Sometimes at times like this during the season in a game involving two great teams it comes down to the special teams, and it will be a big factor to watch to see how special teams affect the game on Monday night.
Site-specific editorial/photos Copyright 2001-2004 PatsFans.com. This website is an unofficial and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school, team, or league.