December 15, 2010
Steve Grogan on Patriots-Bears Week 13
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the Patriots celebrated the 28th anniversary of the famous Snowplow Game by dusting off the Bears 36-7 in the snowflakes in Chicago. It now seems like neither rain, snow, wind, nor even Brian Urlacher can slow this Patriots' offense down?
Steve Grogan: Right now it really does not look like anything can slow them down. I was just extremely impressed. Usually in those conditions a team will go conservative and run the football and not make mistakes, but the weather and field conditions did not change the Patriots offense one bit. They started out and threw the ball all over the field and made big plays on defense when they needed to make plays. It was just a very impressive performance.
RRM: I thought the Bears had one of the best defensive fronts in the NFC, and yet the Patriots offensive line protected Tom Brady almost flawlessly and opened up big holes for BenJarvus Green-Ellis who rambled through the elements for 87 of the Patriots 124 rushing yards?
SG: The Patriots dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It looked like to me the weather affected the Bears and the weather had no effect on the Patriots. They were just mentally tougher. They just said to themselves we are just going to go out and play, period. Brady did it in the Oakland game in 2001 and then a couple years ago in Tennessee. They just did not let the weather affect them, and it seemed to me the Bears should have been home in front of the fire!
RRM: What exactly where the Bears doing on the last play of the first half? Tom Brady and Deion Branch had to be laughing themselves silly at halftime after than ridiculously easy 59-yard touchdown that closed out the half?
SG: Yeah, they had to be laughing. One play left in the half, Brady pumped down the middle to the tight end, and if you are a smart defense you know that a tight end catching the ball over the middle on the last play of the half is not going to score a touchdown 99% percent of the time. You play the sidelines and make sure the quick guys do not beat you deep, and they just got caught flatfooted and the safety jumped the tight end in the middle and Branch ran by in the corner and there was basically flat coverage. Brady was throwing into the wind and he laid the ball in there perfectly and Branch scored. Again, to me it really looked like the Bears did not want to be there.
RRM: The Patriots defense has gone from horrible to being downright stingy since the second half of the Thanksgiving game. Have you ever seen such a dramatic turnaround in such a relatively short amount of time?
SG: No, not that I can recall. It is a young defense and they were going to have their ups and downs. For a long time they would play well in the first half and struggle in the second half, and it looks like now they have it figured out. They are still young but they are playing with a lot of confidence, poise and playing smart defense, and as a result they are not giving up many points.
RRM: I guess you know things are going your way when you lose the services of starting outside linebacker Brandon Spikes and his replacement Gary Guyton comes up with a pick, a few tackles, and, oh yes, a fumble return for six points?
SG: The Patriots are deep and they are going to get even deeper with next year's draft. It has really been an impressive rebuilding year by Bill Belichick to have so many young guys playing out there and to be able to lose a couple guys and have other young guys come in and fill the void. Remember when everyone ridiculed him for not naming a defensive coordinator and taking on the role himself? Well he has done a tremendous job of rebuilding this defense, and they could be a major factor in everything they do in the future.
RRM: The four-game suspension of Spikes for using ADHD didn't seem to be a big issue here but after going through Spygate three years ago and how hard Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick have worked to restore the Patriots squeaky clean image since then you know they have to be upset over his actions?
SG: I'm sure they are not happy at all with Brandon Spikes. He has had two strikes against him now with that problem with the video back at the start of the season, and they are going to have to make it clear to him that on the third strike they will find someone else, and they maybe already have in Guyton who can fill that role. Spikes is a kid who has to get his act together quickly or you can be sure he will be playing for someone else.
RRM: Amphetamines were widely used in the NFL when you broke in during the 70's. They aren't considered performance enhancing drugs like steroids so why do players use them?
SG: From what I understand it really does not improve your performance but it makes you feel like you are improving your performance. It becomes a crutch for some guys that they need that in their body telling them that they are better than they are. Hopefully this was just a one time thing and not something that Spikes has been doing all along, but maybe he did, maybe he played with them in Florida. Like I said he can not afford to have that happen again, that is for sure.
RRM: The Patriots led by four touchdowns at the start of the fourth quarter and yet Tom Brady was still in the game. What does poor Brian Hoyer have to do to get into a game?
SG: It is just the nature of the NFL coaches. It has been this way forever. They just do not feel comfortable throwing the back-up quarterback in even with a 30 point lead half-way through the fourth quarter. They just feel more confident with their starting quarterback in there and sometimes that is to a fault. Brady has come through several times he has had to stay in there but they finally did make the change late in the fourth quarter. I was a little bit surprised because if you thought they were going to make the change it would have been last week when they were blowing out the Jets but no change was made. But maybe the weather conditions had something to do with it and Belichick decided to play Hoyer.
RRM: Not to belabor the point but Brady took some decent shots by the Bears in that fourth quarter and you can't help but wonder why risk his health in a game that is already decided?
SG: I agree, but like I said it is the mindset of the NFL coaches. Maybe it will take a serious injury to a quarterback in a one-side game to get them to rethink their philosophy.
RRM: This Sunday night's contest against Green Bay looked to feature the talented Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers who could have given the Patriots' young secondary a bonafide test. Now that his status for the game is questionable isn't starting to look like this one might be another walkover for the Pats?
SG: There is a very good possibility that this game will not nearly be the game most anticipated earlier in the year. Rodgers had his second concussion of the year last Sunday, and I would be highly skeptical that he would play after two of them. He is probably going to sit out another week or two. The Packers do not run the ball well so if he is not in there throwing the football they do not have a lot going for them offensively. But it is still an NFL team, and if you make the mistake of looking at them on paper and saying we are better than them because Rodgers is not playing then that can jump up and bite you. That's why it is imperative that the Patriots make sure they are prepared for this game, and I am sure they will be.
RRM: It appears the Jets are still suffering from their collective hangover after being destroyed by the Patriots, losing to the Dolphins at home on Sunday. They still have to go to Chicago and Pittsburgh and it appears there is a real possibility things could get really ugly for them, what a shame!
SG: For the Jets their playoff hopes may come down to the Miami game here in two weeks, and wouldn't that be something. Who would have thought Miami would still be in the picture after the way they played earlier in the year? It's been that kind of year in the NFL.
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the 36-7 snow blowing of the Bears?
SG: This is a tough one. The only negative was the special teams coverage. They did a horrible job on covering punt and kickoff returns although Chicago has a great return specialist in Devin Hester. I think if they would have played better on special teams I would have given them an A+ because they just dominated from one end to the other. It was a great performance under extreme conditions and something you did not expect to see. You really have to play three phases of the game to get an A+ from me so they will have to settle for straight A's this week.
In my opinion this Patriots' team is playing better football than they played three years ago. They started off slowly this year but they are playing better than anyone in the league right now, and as long as they stay healthy they have to be considered the favorites to be holding the trophy at the end of the season. Wouldn't that be something?
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