October 11, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 5 - New England vs. NY Jets
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, despite leading the entire way the Patriots couldn't put the New York Jets away until the final minute of the game but wound up prevailing 30-21. What was your impression of the big victory over their archrivals?
Steve Grogan: It was definitely a big win, pinning the Jets with their third loss in a row and put them two games back is very important at this point in the season. They did let them hang around a bit too long, but when they needed to in the fourth quarter they controlled the clock and kept the ball out of the Jets hands and didn't give them a chance to get back in the game which was an encouraging sign.
RRM: Despite the loss of Jerod Mayo the Patriots defense held the Jets to under 100 yards rushing and forced seven three-and-outs. While they still bent quite a bit on defense are you encouraged that at least they showed some improvement?
SG: They played better on defense, and they're playing better every week. They are playing better up front but they're still not putting a lot of pressure on the passer and I thought Mark Sanchez had way too much time to throw. They appear to be getting more comfortable with each other and they did stop the run so they are making improvement which is something you want to see from this defense. If you can shut the running game down Sanchez is still not good enough to beat you by himself, and that's pretty much what happened on Sunday.
RRM: The star of the game had to be BenJarvus Green-Ellis who rushed 27times for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Wearing that throwback uniform didn't he bring back memories of your old teammate Mosi Tatupu running the football?
SG: He's not quite as big as Mosi but there are a lot of similarities there. He runs north and south, he covers the ball up and doesn't fumble, and he's always going forward. He's a fun guy to watch carry the ball and he's definitely got some talent. It appears the Patriots have finally found someone to pick up those tough yards on the ground.
RRM: One of the biggest plays of the game had to be Green-Ellis converting a key third-and-three situation at midfield on a direct snap from center. The Patriots have been using the old "Kevin Faulk" play for only eight years now, don't you think the Jets might have seen that one before?
SG: It's a play you know they've seen before and you know it's probably coming, but when you're focused on getting to the quarterback you can get taken by surprise and I think that's what happened to the Jets. It was a really good call and it was the perfect time to call it.
RRM: One of the aspects of this game is the chess match that occurs between the two head coaches, Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan. Ryan was declared the winner in the Jets upset in the playoff game last year, but it appeared Bill outcoached his rival in this one?
SG: I think he did. You have to keep in mind the Jets are banged up a bit right now and I think they are going to get better as the season goes on. They still have a lot of talent, but this time around Bill Belichick had the better game plan for everything involved than Rex Ryan did and that's why the Patriots controlled the game.
RRM: Tom Brady had his usual 300+ yards passing game but was very serious and unsmiling in both his pregame and postgame press conferences this week. Do you think his demeanor stems from him taking last year's playoff loss to the Jets personally?
SG: I didn't even realize watching the game that he had 300 yards, he just did it so efficiently. I think he did take last year's loss very hard. They haven't won in the playoffs now for over three years and I know that's bothering him and makes these games against the Jets important to him. It must have meant a lot because he finally went out and got a haircut and now he looks like a regular football player again [laughs]! He looks much better with short hair and in my opinion he played better that way, too! I actually think this game meant a lot to many of the players on this team and you could tell, so this was an important win for many reasons.
RRM: Everyone wants to know, are the Jets in trouble and are the Buffalo Bills for real?
SG: I think it's still too early to say they're in trouble. They've dug themselves a hole to be sure but there's still a long way to go and they've gotten through some rough stretches the past two seasons so you can't count them out. I still can't believe Buffalo is 4-1 and tied with the Patriots for first place in the division. It's still too early to brand them a bonafide contender because teams can jump out to that kind of a record and then suddenly a couple of players get hurt and they wind up 8-8. It's still too early to say one way or the other whether the Bills are actually that good or the Jets are that bad.
RRM: Oakland Raiders' owner Al Davis passed away at age 82 over the weekend. What are your recollections of him and his legacy?
SG: He was really an interesting character. You're talking about a guy who did just about everything in the game of football from coaching to scouting to being the commissioner of a league to owning the team. I talked to some of my former teammates like Mike Haynes and Don Hasselbeck who got traded to the Raiders and they would come back and tell stories about him. I remember them telling me he would attend every Raider practice but he wouldn't cross the line onto the field. He would stand right on the sidelines but he would never step on the playing field because that's where the players and coaches belonged and as an owner he didn't.
Ted Hendricks was a great player for them for many years and he told me how Al Davis would show up for practice wearing a fireman's hat or he drank a little too much and how he made sure someone drove him home after practice. He was an owner that took on a lot of characters and turned them into a good football team and won a lot of games and several championships.
RRM: Davis coveted strong arm quarterbacks that could throw the ball deep. Wasn't there some talk about his being interested in acquiring you in your later years to play for the Raiders?
SG: No one ever specifically talked to me about that possibility but like you I did hear rumors that Davis had inquired about me late in my career. I guess fortunately for me it never led to anything and I got to play my entire career here in New England. I have to admit it might have been fun playing for his team because he loved for his quarterbacks to throw the ball deep and that was probably what I did best. He had a lot of fast receivers and the weather out there in December was a lot nicer than it is here so it would have been a lot of fun.
RRM: Next up for the Pats is a Dallas Cowboys team that is loaded with talent but has self-destructed at times this season. How ?
SG: Yes, they do have a lot of talent. Tony Romo has imploded on them a couple of times this year, and they have a new head coach in Jason Garrett and that can take some getting used to for a player. I think they are still going to be a good football team this season and probably a playoff-caliber team as well. The bye week has given them some extra time to heal up and prepare for the Patriots, and I expect they will be a dangerous opponent next weekend for the Patriots.
RRM: Jerry Jones' ‘Boys desperately need a win and are coming off a bye week while the Patriots had an emotional game against their chief division rivals in the Jets. Is this the first trap game of the season for the Patriots?
SG: I would say there's a good possibility that it could happen. This team was so focused on the Jets that it's easy to lose that focus coming off of such an emotional win. They know Dallas is a good football team but sometimes there is that letdown after facing a divisional rival. Bill Belichick has to be very careful about that this week, and Dallas does have a good offense you have to be prepared for. Even though Romo has made some mistakes they can move the football so the Patriots defense has to try to keep getting better every week because they will be challenged this week.
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the big 30-21 Week #5 win over the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets?
SG: I'm giving them an A-. The offensive line allowed Brady to get sacked four times and knocked down around 10 times so that needs to be shored up. They allowed a couple of long returns by Joe McKnight that really kept the Jets in the game. Other than that I thought everyone played pretty well on both sides of the ball. Any time you beat Rex Ryan and the Jets it's a good win, so you have to give the Patriots some credit for a good overall effort.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis deserves special mention for running the ball 27 times for 136 yards and two scores. For the second straight game the Patriots ran a balanced offense and you could see how difficult it made things for the Jets trying to defend against them. They still didn't generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback but I thought the defensive backs played a little better so there are a lot of good things you can take out of this win. Now they just have to keep improving, and they should get another good test this week against a Cowboys team that can move the ball and score a lot of points.
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