November 15, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 9 - New England at NY Jets
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, I am very happy to report that the demise of the New England Patriots has been greatly exaggerated, as the Patriots humiliated their archrivals the Jets by the tune of 37-16 on Sunday night. I guess for once Rex Ryan was left at a loss for words?
Steve Grogan: I didn't see the postgame interviews but I understand he didn't have much to say. His team made too many mistakes and you can't get away with that against a good team. It was amazing to me that it was easy for the Patriots as it was. I really expected the Jets to play a much better football game, especially against a secondary that was composed of just about anybody they could find to throw back there. The Patriots shut down the run and they finally got some pressure on the quarterback and forced him to make some mistakes. Once again when their offense can score 30 and their defense plays half way decently they're going to win football games, and the Jets found that out for the second time this season.
RRM: The Patriots had been shut out in the second half in their last two trips to Met Life Stadium but this time around they won the game by going no huddle and putting up 21 points over the final 30 minutes. Of course it helps when you have a quarterback like Tom Brady going 26 of 39 for 329 yards and three touchdowns?
SG: The game was definitely won in the second half. They were feeling each other out in the first half and Stephen Gostkowski hit a couple of key field goals to give them some early momentum. I thought the 50-yarder that he hit to tie the game at 3-3 was big because if he misses that the Jets get the ball at midfield and they have another chance to put some points on the board and put you in a hole.
I thought the Patriots had a much better game plan than the Jets did in the second half. Tom Brady played well but he still had some throws that were a little unusual for him where he missed a couple of open receivers, but overall he appeared to be pretty comfortable. Right now he has something special going with Rob Gronkowski, and Wes Welker didn't have to carry the load which was fortunate because I thought the Jets did a nice job of taking him out of the game.
RRM: You and others have criticized the Patriots offense for being too predictable by targeting either Wes Welker or the tight ends on nearly every play. I guess when one of those tight ends is Rob Gronkowski that's not necessarily such a bad thing after all?
SG: No, it's not. The kid has just got a knack for getting open and catches almost everything thrown to him. He's really turning himself into one of the premiere tight ends in the league.
RRM: Rex Ryan was asked why Gronkowski was so effective against his defense and he said because he is 6-7 and catches everything that is thrown in his direction. It seems pretty obvious he had no answers for Gronk?
SG: He's an incredibly difficult player to defend against. If you put a linebacker on him he can run away from him, and if you try and put a safety on him he's so much bigger than a safety that balls that are up high they're not going to get he will. He's a little bit of a freak to be that big and be able to run routes the way that he does and have the hands that he has. He's a fortunate guy to have around right now.
RRM: We talk about the chess match that goes on between Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan when the Patriot and Jets get together and the bunch set the Patriots used on offense really seemed to confuse the Jets secondary this time around?
SG: They've used that bunched look a little bit before but not as much as they used it in this game. Apparently the Jets hadn't prepared for it because they hadn't seen that much of it, which is surprising because other teams run it and you would think they would have an idea of how to cover it but apparently they didn't because it worked to perfection. Even Chad Ochocinco got open against them!
RRM: Bill Belichick finally let the dogs loose on defense and came after Mark Sanchez with blitzes and an aggressive push from his defensive ends. Did he make that decision to throw caution to the winds because Sanchez was the opposition quarterback?
SG: I think it probably was. Sanchez is the kind of quarterback that if you get some pressure on him he is going to make mistakes. He's proven that since the start of his pro career, that he'll make some crazy throws if you get someone in his face. I think they had a game plan coming in that they were going to get in his face and if they could sack him great if not they had to rattle him a little bit because that Patriots' secondary is playing with people that no one has ever heard of. It was actually the first time I've ever watched a Sunday or Monday night game where they say let's meet the Patriots' defense and the player will introduce himself and name his college, and the Patriot had two players where all they had were pictures. They hadn't had time to film the piece where they tell people who they were and where they came from [laughs]! I've never seen that before, that was just crazy.
RRM: Last week we speculated on how much that gut-wrenching last second loss to the Giants would do to the emotional state of this Patriots team. Given they way they responded against the Jets I guess it's fair to say this team has a little more character than we gave them credit for?
SG: That's probably true. Bill Belichick and his coaching staff have always found a way to get the team motivated after they've suffered a loss they figured they shouldn't have had. He's a great motivator, and somehow he found a way to get his team to believe in themselves. He put together a great game plan and got his team to execute it almost flawlessly. It was just a great effort by the coaching staff and the players.
RRM: The Patriots' reward for the victory is a day of rest on Sunday before they entertain the Kansas City Chiefs at home on Monday night. Do you get the feeling old friend Romeo Crennel is not looking forward to trying to defend against Tom Brady and company this week?
SG: Traveling to and from Kansas quite a bit I've been able to follow the Chiefs quite a bit and I can tell you their defense it just absolutely awful. Their secondary has struggled all season and the team is just reeling right now. They've lost two straight games to mediocre opponents in Miami and Denver and they don't have the talent on defense to stop anybody. I'm still trying to figure out how you lose to Tim Tebow and the Broncos when they complete only two passes the entire game against you. The Chiefs just aren't a very good football team right now, but again the Patriots can't take them too lightly because as we saw all across the NFL last Sunday any team can jump up and bite you if you're not ready to play. Just ask people in Baltimore and Detroit right now. I'm sure the Patriot's coaches will be stressing that this week in practice and the hope is they can jump off to a quick lead and take the Chiefs out of this game early.
RRM: Matt Cassel left Sunday's game against Denver wearing a cast on his hand which leaves him doubtful for this week. Is his back up Tyler Palko ready for prime time?
SG: It's a shame if Matt Cassel isn't able to play in this game given the time he played here and that really good season he had as the starting quarterback in 2008 when Tom Brady was hurt all year. I haven't seen Palko play so I can't give you a report on him, but if the Patriots defense continues to play at the level they played at against the Jets the young man will have his hands full.
RRM: Stanford's Andrew Luck had absolutely no luck against Oregon on Saturday night as his team's championship aspirations were dashed by the visiting Ducks. From what you saw does Luck have the goods to be the #1 quarterback in next year's draft?
SG: I did watch the game and I wasn't overly impressed with his performance. I hadn't seen much of him before that but I had heard all the hype. He's got the physical tools an NFL quarterback needs; he's got the size and he's got the arm. Oregon really put the pressure on him and made him look bad at times, so I don't know if that is going to affect his #1 pick status or not.
RRM: Phil Simms has already come out and said that Luck doesn't make NFL-type throws. Did you see enough to conclude that he is right about him?
SG: That's funny because after they mentioned that on the broadcast the announcer kept saying the rest of the night, "That looked like an NFL throw,…, that looked like an NFL throw." Everybody has a bad game once in awhile and he had one the other night, but if he has another couple like that then the questions will start.
RRM: Right now the Colts with their perfect 0-10 record will own that #1 pick but rumor has it that Luck does not want to force Peyton Manning out of a job if he wants to try and play again. What's your take on that?
SG: I'd be extremely surprised if Peyton comes back and plays. Having had the neck problem if it is not fixed after three operations and you're waiting for nerves to regenerate it's going to be awhile before he sees the football field and even then it's going to be a little risky going back out there. But he's made enough money so I think he can slide right into the broadcast booth and still make a bundle and be a lot safer.
RRM: Would you like to see the NFL adopt a draft lottery like the NBA to avoid any controversy about teams tanking games to improve their draft position?
SG: No, I don't think so. I think that NBA Draft Lottery is totally unfair. There were a couple of times when the Celtics had the worst record and they had so many ping pong balls and they ended up picking fifth or sixth. To me whether you try to be the worst team or not, you wind up the worst team you get the first pick. That's the way it ought to be.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 37-16 blowout win over Rexie's boys?
SG: I'm giving them A's across the board. I may be going easy on them this week but I hate the Jets so much any time you beat the Jets you get an A! You have to single out Andre Carter and Rob Ninkovich for their efforts on defense, and certainly Gronkowski needs a special mention as well. This win is gong to provide a big confidence boost for this defense. When you play a good team and play that well no matter who you are, a no name player in the secondary or Vince Wilfork you're going to feel pretty good about yourself and that only helps going into your next game.
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