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November 09, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 8 - New England vs NY Giants
BY: Steve Grogan

R.R. Marshall: Steve, in an eerily similar finish Eli Manning drove his Giants to the game-winning touchdown with just seconds left to play just like he did four years prior in Super Bowl XLII. Was this as Yogi Berra would have said déjà vu all over again?

Steve Grogan: It was very similar. I thought the Patriots did a great job of coming back and scoring the touchdown to go ahead but unfortunately they left too much time on the clock and couldn't play defense in the last two minutes. The pass interference penalty was a huge call at that particular time in the game and it set the Giants up for the game-winning score.

RRM: It was a strange game where no points were scored during the first half and then the two teams combined for 44 points in the second half. Have you seen many games unfold in that fashion?

SG: Not many. It looked like two heavyweight fighters feeling each other out during the first half and then in the second half they decided it was time to start hitting each other and points started flying all over the place. I thought this was two good football teams battling each other for 60 minutes, but the wrong team ended up on the short end this time.

RRM: For the second straight week Tom Brady was beaten up physically and missed some key throws but still threw for over 300 yards and two scores including what should have been the game-winning touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. Do you think his critics are being too hard on him right now?

SG: He's still playing better than most of the quarterbacks in the league but to me he just doesn't look like himself. I wonder if he's having some arm issues. They keep showing him warming up throwing the football between series and normally quarterbacks don't do that unless something is bothering them, so I'm a little curious. Of course Bill Belichick will never tell us if something is wrong but I'm starting to wonder if something is bothering Brady and he is having some elbow issues. His accuracy just isn't what it's been in the past. I can see that with Chad Ochocinco out there since they aren't familiar with each other, but he's familiar with the rest of his receivers and he still doesn't seem to be nearly as accurate as what we've become accustomed to in New England.

RRM: Four turnovers didn't help the Patriots cause but take away the two pass interference penalties committed by Kyle Arrington and Sergio Brown and we're probably discussing a different outcome?

SG: There's not question about it, but then you start looking at some of the names in that defensive backfield and you wonder who in the heck they are. Where did these guys come from? I didn't even recognize a couple of these guys as even being on the roster! Right now they are playing with some inexperienced guys back there and it showed big time in this game at the worst possible time.

RRM: The bottom line appears to be a poor pass rush combined with talent-challenged defensive backs has made for a lethal combination that is becoming increasingly more difficult for this Patriots team to overcome week after week?

SG: That certainly seems to be the case. The Giants tried to establish the run in the first half and I thought the Patriots' defense did a nice job of taking that away and forcing them into some long third down throws which are harder to pick up and makes it easier for your defensive secondary. In the second half I thought the Giants got away from the run and tried to take advantage of the weakness in the Patriots' secondary, and they certainly did exactly that.

RRM: The Patriots have reached the midway point of the season with a 5-3 record and find themselves in a three-way tie in the division with the Jets and Bills. Is it too soon to conclude that they no longer have the talent to be considered one of the elite clubs in the NFL?

SG: If not we're getting close to that point. I think the next three weeks are going to answer that question for us. We'll find out whether this club has the ability to rebound and play with the elite teams. They have to face the Jets on the road and then come home to host the Chiefs who have a fairly decent team. Then you have the Eagles who are coming on strong right now, so they have a tremendous challenge in front of them and we'll find out what we need to know about this team after those three games.

RRM: What does this kind of a gut-wrenching, last second loss do to a team, specifically one that is still searching for its identity at midseason?

SG: It's very disappointing. It's going to be hard to get over, just like the loss last week in Pittsburgh. When you have two in a row like that which most of these Patriots' players are not used to it's going to be a challenge for them to get their heads straightened out and ready to go for practice on Wednesday and get ready for the Jets. They know how big that game is going to be and playing down there on Sunday night with everybody in the world watching, so it's going to be a challenge to put this game behind them. However, I believe there's still enough of a veteran presence on this club that they'll be able to do that.

RRM: Speaking of the J-E-T-S Jets were you surprised at how thoroughly they dismantled the Bills in Buffalo no less?

SG: I was, and I think the Jets are playing much better both offensively and defensively than when they left Foxboro a few weeks ago. That's what you want to see if you're a head coach, your team improving in all phases of the game as the season goes along and that's what the Jets appear to be doing. Right now the Patriots are going in the opposite direction so they need to get things turned around in a hurry because they can't afford another loss in the division, particularly to an archrival like the Jets.

RRM: Looking at this game at the start of the season many figured the Patriots would lose this game against the Jets on the road because this has essentially become a home-and-home for the past several years. Now that it's a must win for the Patriots how do they pull this off?

SG: It's going to be a challenge for them, no question. I would think you would want to run the ball against the Jets and keep their offense off the field. The Jets strength is pass rushing so it's not going to be easy to throw the ball against them so the Patriots need some kind of a running game against them to keep them honest.

The Patriots tried to use this strategy against the Giants in the first half and I thought it was a good move because you wanted to wear down their defensive front and try to neutralize their pass rush as much as you can. It looked like it was working to me, but then they fell behind 10-0 in the second half and they got away from the running game and I thought it wound up hurting them.

RRM: A bit off topic but former Colts' tight end Marcus Pollard and his wife are currently competing in The Amazing Race on Sunday night. Interviews for the next season of the show will be taking place in Boston soon, can we convince you to throw your helmet in the ring?

SG: I will NOT be trying out. I told somebody the other day the only reality TV shows I watch are football, basketball, and baseball games. That's real reality there!

RRM: So I shouldn't continue with my efforts to draft Steve and Tyler Grogan as a father and son duo for The Amazing Race?

SG: No, please don't. I've seen bits and pieces of that show and you have to do a lot of running and I can't do that any more so I'm out!

RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the disappointing 24-20 loss to the Giants?

SG: I game them a C-. The defense was average so they get a C. The offense gets a B+. They had some problems on special teams with a missed field goal and the Julian Edleman fumble on the punt return which I thought really hurt them a lot. Special teams get a C- so overall that's a C- for the game. I also thought their starting field position put them at a big disadvantage. They just seemed to always be starting a drive backed up inside their own 20-yardline, and when you have to go over 80 yards to score it makes it difficult to put up the 30 points you need to win because of your troubles on defense.

Another issue they need to address is the lack of diversity in passing targets. Every week we hear people talk about Chad Ochocinco and how he's not involved in the passing game. I want to know where Deion Branch has been. He's caught what, maybe one or at most two a game? He's a better receiver than that and he hasn't caught nearly as many balls as he should up to this point to take some pressure off of Wes Welker. They need to find somebody besides Gronkowski or even Aaron Hernandez because they're really playing with only one wide receiver right now and that's Wes Welker. They have to get some diversity into their passing attack because the Jets are a team that can take advantage of that, so I'm expecting to see some adjustments from this offense on Sunday night.

Grogan's Grades for Game #8

Offense: B+
Defense: C
Overall: C-


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