October 04, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 4 - New England at Oakland
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, for the 26th time in the Bill Belichick era the Patriots bounced back after a loss, this time registering a 31-19 win over the Raiders in Oakland. Was the balanced offensive attack a big key to the win?
Steve Grogan: It was nice to see them run the ball and throw the ball 30 times apiece. I keep telling people that I'm old school and that you have to be able to run the ball effectively in the NFL. Right now Stevan Ridley looks like he's going to be able to help them out in that respect and take a little pressure off of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Danny Woodhead got nicked up but Ridley stepped in and had some big runs for the Patriots. He's going to have to pick up the slack if Woodhead is going to be out and you have to wonder if he is going to be able to pick up the pass protection part of the position for a team that puts the ball in the air over 40 times a game. That's a big question mark right now.
RRM: If there was a turning point in the game it had to be Jason Campbell tossing an end zone interception to Patrick Chung near the end of the first half. Campbell said he was trying to the throw the ball out of bounds, but as a quarterback don't you aim for the 20th row in the stands if you're trying to do that?
SG: The Raiders seem to have a knack for finding quarterbacks that make stupid mistakes like that. They just can't seem to get someone that can do the right thing in pressure situations. If you're going down to score at the end of the half like Oakland was and you do something like that it takes all the wind out of your entire team's sail. It affects not only the offense but the defense, and you could see it had that effect on the Raiders because the Patriots came right down the field on them and tacked on a field goal to go into the locker room at halftime by 7 points instead of possibly trailing at the half. It was really a big turnaround in momentum.
RRM: Old friend Richard Seymour was a little too fired up against his former team and committed three penalties in the first quarter. Other than that it seemed he had little impact in the game?
SG: Seymour got a roughing the passer, an offsides, and a facemask penalty all in that first quarter which is quite the hat trick for a player [laughs]! There's a big difference between being keyed up and being so mad about being traded away from your old team that you make stupid mistakes, and that's apparently what happened to Seymour. He was going to repay the Patriots for shipping him out of town unceremoniously and he got himself and his team in trouble in that first quarter.
RRM: Looking back three years later do you think the Seymour trade was a good one for New England?
SG: Well, the Patriots didn't get that top 10 pick in the draft they probably envisioned when they made the deal because the Raiders improved their record, but Seymour hasn't been the All-Pro lineman he was with the Patriots either. He's not the player he once was and even if he were still here they'd still have their problems on defense and giving up too many yards. They've gotten decent people to replace him over the course of time that he's been gone so it's a matter of perspective. It was probably time for him to move on and that's apparently what Bill Belichick felt about Seymour. He certainly hasn't helped the Raiders do a whole heck of a lot so it was probably the best move to make.
RRM: We found the answer to the Patriots' pass defense problems. Move Vince Wilfork to defensive back, right?
SG: He might be a better fit at tight end or even wide receiver the way he's been running downfield with the ball [laughs]! He'd make a heck of a tight end! I sure wouldn't want to try and tackle him head on if he was rumbling downfield in my direction. I remember in 1985 when Refrigerator Perry got to carry the football and scored a few touchdowns so maybe they'll start lining him up in the backfield!
It's really amazing that a defensive lineman would have two interceptions this early in the season. He has to be strutting around the locker room doing a lot of boasting right now. It's really been something to watch.
RRM: Once again the Pats yielded well over 300 yards of passing yardage and even playing more zone this week the defensive backs still looked lost at times. They don't seem to be able to look back for the ball, is this a problem with just basic technique?
SG: The technique is that at some point you have to turn your head and look back for the football, but I don't think the Patriots defensive backs are confident enough to do that right now. They're too worried about letting the receiver get by them when they start to look back, so they just keep watching his eyes and hope they can tell when the ball is about to get there so they can get their hands up. It's not working, we've all seen that, but the Patriots aren't getting much pressure on the quarterback which is a problem for defensive backs. Overall they're playing very average defense right now, not only in the secondary but up front as well, and they have to get better in both of those areas.
RRM: The Jets come to town on Sunday riding a two-game losing streak and facing their third straight game on the road. The Patriots have a golden opportunity to bury their hated rivals but I guess we all remember what happened in the playoff game last season?
SG: A win over the Jets right now would really put them in a deep hole and force them to play catch up the rest of the season. They still have a pretty decent offense with some good receivers and I would expect them to put up some points, and you can bet that Rex Ryan is going to have that defense really fired up to get after Brady. I'm sure it will be a game that the Jets know they have to have, and will come out with a lot of intensity so I'm expecting a very physical contest.
Right now the Jets have a lot of injuries on their offensive line including their All-Pro center Nick Mangold, and that really hurts a team when you have to start moving players around on your offensive line. The Raiders and Ravens really took advantage of that weakened offensive line the past two games but you have to wonder if the Patriots front seven can exert that same kind of pressure on quarterback Mark Sanchez. You can't imagine the Jets losing three games in a row because they are a good football team, but right now they aren't playing good football. The Patriots definitely have them right where they want ‘em, now they just need to take care of business.
RRM: One would have to think the Rex Ryan's priority would be to take Wes Welker and his 40 catches out of the game. Is that what you expect him to do?
SG: I would expect containing Welker will be a big part of the Jets defensive game plan. If you look at the statistics he had 9 catches against the Raiders to go along with his 16 against the Bills two weeks ago, so if I'm a defensive coordinator I'm not going to be concerned about the Patriots other wide receivers because they don't have anyone else that's going to kill you catching the football. I'm going to take Welker out of the game and see if you can beat me with what you have left. I don't think you can totally take Welker out of the game, he's just too hard to match up with even if you double team him because of his quickness.
RRM: So what kind of game are you expecting on Sunday afternoon between these two fierce rivals?
SG: I think it's going to be a smash-mouth, everybody bashing on each other type of game. I assume both the Patriots and the Jets are going to try and run the football so I don't think you will see the ball in the air over 40 times for either club unless one of them falls behind early. I really expect both teams will try and run the football, and the team that does the better job will have a big advantage in this game.
The old philosophy is when you are playing against a great offense is to keep the ball away from them as much as possible and I'm sure that's what Rex Ryan will try to do. He'll try to run the ball against a Patriots defense that hasn't been great up front and figures to be hurting without Jerod Mayo in the middle. He's going to try ball control because the less Brady has the ball in his hands the better chance they have of winning.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 31-19 win over the Raiders in Oakland?
SG: I'm giving the offense an A because they put up over 30 points again and they didn't turn the ball over. It was also nice to see them run the ball as effectively as they did. Tom Brady didn't have one of his best games but he knows enough to get the job done. The defense once again gave up a ton of yardage but they held them to less than 20 points so they get a B and that averages out to a B+. One way to look at it is if they can hold the opposition under 20 points while putting up 30 every week they are going to keep winning games.
Wes Welker turned in another excellent game on offense and deserves a mention. On defense I was surprised to see the two leading tacklers were both defensive backs which is not something you want to see on a weekly basis. This injury to Mayo is going to force Belichick to make some kind of adjustment on defense. They've gone from the 4-3 back to the 3-4 a few times in the last few games as a change up so maybe he will have a new wrinkle to throw at the Jets. But one way to look at it is that they've been giving up a ton of yards whether they're in the 3-4 or the 4-3, so the key as always will be Brady putting up over 30 points and if they can do that they are going to win.
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