November 02, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 7 - New England at Pittsburgh
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, somebody should have told the Patriots their bye week ended on 4:15 P.M on Sunday because they sure looked like they were still on vacation against the Steelers. Was this is a case of the Pats coming out flat or the Steelers putting together a very sound offensive game plan?
Steve Grogan: It was probably a little bit of both. I thought the Patriots had a little too much time off and they didn't look like they ready to play this football game. Pittsburgh on the other hand came out firing and it became obvious that the Patriots weren't able to make any adjustments offensively or defensively. I think their offense was only on the field for three plays in the first quarter while the defense just couldn't get the ball away from the Steelers, and Pittsburgh controlled the clock from start to finish. When your offense only gets the ball for some 20 minutes it's going to be hard to beat a quality team like the Steelers.
RRM: In past weeks Bill Belichick's defensive game plan was focused on taking a dangerous tight end out of the game. Were your surprised Pittsburgh's Heath Miller was allowed to do so much damage to the Patriots, particularly in the first half?
SG: It seemed like they couldn't find anyone to cover Heath Miller at the start of the game. He was just running wild down the field that entire first quarter. They appeared to be blitzing a little more than normal to start a game, and when you blitz someone has to have coverage on the tight end. I don't know if they were confused with the blitz or who was supposed to cover on the blitz, but there were a couple times Miller was running wide open downfield and there was no one around him. The Patriots weren't able to get to Roethlisberger with the blitz and he was able to sit back in the pocket and pick them apart. To be honest it was embarrassing.
RRM: It appeared that Miller was decoying being a blocker and then he would use a delayed release to slip out of the pack and no one would pick him up. Did that appear to be by design to catch the Patriots off guard?
SG: Usually on a blitz you would use the tight end to help block with a hot adjustment but Miller would stay there for a second and then slide out underneath and apparently he was going to a spot they hadn't seen him go to before on any of the film they studied. As I said they certainly weren't there to pick him up.
RRM: Was it just me or did it seem the Steelers' got away with a lot of cheap shots and other blatant penalties in this game?
SG: I didn't notice that so much. The Steelers are a physical football team and they'll knock you in the mouth every once in awhile. Troy Polamalu had a couple of hits that maybe could have gone as personal fouls but he got away with them and that's because of his reputation as being one of the best players. When you have that kind of reputation you get the breaks.
RRM: Is this was that mean when they talk about the home field advantage?
SG: It sure is. That has a lot to do with it. I think the officials on a subconscious level give the home team a break because they don't want the home crowd all over them.
RRM: It took well over a minute for the Patriots to finally score on their drive late in the fourth quarter after an apparent touchdown catch by Rob Gronkowski was ruled just short of the goal line. Bill Belichick said he didn't think there wasn't enough evidence to challenge the play but don't you think it was worth the gamble given the circumstances?
SG: Absolutely. I thought at that point in the game it would have been worth the timeout to at least have the officials look at it. The thing was the Patriots were in the hurry up offense and that play wasn't replayed until after the next play, so it may have been the fact that the coaches upstairs in the booth weren't able to get a replay to determine whether or not to tell Belichick to throw the red flag. I would have liked to have seen him take that chance. They scored a few plays later but it wound up killing a lot of time off the clock which came back to haunt them.
RRM: The decision to try an onsides kick right after the Aaron Hernandez touchdown raised a few eyebrows in these parts. What side did you take in the debate?
SG: I thought the onsides kick was a really risky play. At that point in the game the Patriots still had three timeouts. With 2:30 left to play I think you kick the ball deep in that situation. I did understand Belichick's reasoning for trying the onsides kick. His defense hadn't stopped Pittsburgh all day but your chances of stopping them I think are greater than getting one of those crazy kicks to bounce your way. It just doesn't happen very often.
RRM: I guess when you haven't had a successful onsides kick since 1994 that should tell you all you need to know?
SG: There you go! The odds were against them, no doubt [laughs]!
RRM: It sure felt good to see Kevin Faulk back on the field, but will reducing the playing time of Danny Woodhead be a good thing for this Patriots' offense?
SG: I was a little surprised they were using Kevin Faulk more as a first and second down guy as much as they were a third down back. If they are going to use him like that it's going to take time away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Woodhead, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. It may be that Green-Ellis is banged up and they are keeping it to themselves, which would account for him touching the ball only five times in this game. It will also affect Woodhead, who really hasn't been a factor that much this year. It's interesting to me that he's kind of disappeared along with Julian Edelman. Both of them are guys that can make big plays for you at different times during a game in different ways, and it's surprising to me you wouldn't try and take advantage of their abilities a bit more often.
RRM: Every week we've been hammering away at Chad Ochocinco and his lack of production thus far, but it would seem the Patriots other big free agent acquisitions Albert Haynesworth hasn't exactly merited headlines with his play either?
SG: I think it was sometime in the second half I turned to my son and asked him if Haynesworth had been on the field yet. He didn't know either, but I could see him standing on the sidelines. He did play late in the game, but he wasn't any kind of a factor, that's for sure. Whether he's not totally healthy and Belichick is trying to insert him into the line up for certain situations isn't clear to me, but he isn't the disruptive force everyone was hoping for when they signed him.
RRM: This Sunday will be the first meeting of the Patriots and the New York Giants since that Super Bowl meeting four years ago in Arizona. Is there a time limit on revenge in pro football?
SG: Nope. There is no time limit, and I'm sure there are enough players remaining from that squad that feel the sting from the loss in that Super Bowl and it will be a little bit of a motivating factor for them. The other motivating factor is they just played poorly this week, and I think these guys are proud enough that they are going to work extremely hard this week and see if they can't get things turned around and get back out there and do what they are capable of doing, which they certainly didn't do on Sunday.
RRM: Coming off a loss to the Steelers this game becomes of great importance to the Pats. What would you like to see from them this Sunday against Tom Coughlin's Giants?
SG: I haven't followed the Giants too closely but from what I understand they have a pretty good pass rush and that's going to be one of the keys to the Patriots' offense getting something done. They have to be able to protect Tom Brady and get people open down the field, neither or which they were able to do with any consistency against Pittsburgh. On defense I thought the Patriots stopped the run pretty well but they have to figure out pass coverage. They registered a lot of sacks, but when they were sacking him Roethlisberger was just standing there forever which means it was decent coverage downfield. There were just too many plays where guys were running wide open, and they have to figure out some way of correcting that or they will be in trouble.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for 25-17 road loss to the Steelers?
SG: I went D, D, and D. The score was not indicative of the game. It may have appeared to be a fairly close game but when you were watching it you just felt like the Steelers were in total domination the whole day. Even when the Patriots held Pittsburgh in the red zone and limited them to only two second half field goals I thought a lot of that was the Steelers stepping on their own toes more than anything the Patriots' defense was doing.
The special teams had their own issues, with Stephen Gostkowski missing a field goal and failing to kick the ball 10 yards on the onsides kick. All in all it was a pretty dismal effort, and they'll have to get things shored up in a hurry or they'll end up making Eli Manning look like his older brother this Sunday.
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.