November 24, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 10 - New England vs Kansas City
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the Patriots managed only 33 yards on their first four series against the Kansas City Chiefs before they got their act together and pulled away for a 34-3 victory on Monday Night Football. Was the Pats' slow start due to a let down after their emotional win over the Jets or the defensive schemes Romeo Crennel threw at them in the first half?
Steve Grogan: I thought Romeo had a nice defensive game plan for the Patriots early in the game which they eventually adjusted to, but a lot of times when you come out to play a team like the Chiefs knowing that they're not very good and they are starting a back up quarterback like Tyler Palko it's hard to get emotionally ready to come out and play at your top level at the very start of the game. On the other hand you have a team like Kansas City that's coming out sky-high emotionally to play one of the better teams in the NFL and they want to prove that they are able to play with them. I think that combination of the two forces made for what was quite simply a pretty boring first half.
It was pretty obvious the Chiefs started the game with a lot more intensity than the Patriots, but New England was able to raise their level of play as the game went along. I thought the Chiefs had a pretty good game plan to take the pressure off of Palko early in the game. Once they fell behind they had to start forcing the ball downfield and that's when he made mistakes. Bill Belichick always features defenses that bend but don't break and forces the other team to make mistakes along the way, and that was vintage Belichick on Monday night.
RRM: Didn't it seem like once Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski hooked up on that 52-yard touchdown near the end of the first half the Chiefs seem to deflate like a punctured balloon?
SG: That's what you have to do against a team like the Chiefs. You have to get up on them early and make them chase you. The Patriots didn't do it early but they got it done near the end of the first half with that big catch and run. They made the Chiefs go into the locker room at halftime trailing in the game after giving up a touchdown they felt they shouldn't have. You're right, the air had left their balloon after that and in the second half it wasn't much of a game.
RRM: If a talented defensive coordinator like Romeo Crennel can't shut Gronkowski down you wonder who can. Gronk is already being called the best tight end in football today, do you agree with that assessment?
SG: I think he's one of the better ones, but I believe Tony Gonzalez is still the best in the NFL. There are some other good ones out there but Gronkowski is certainly making his case that there aren't too many better than he is. He just keep making plays regardless of the opponent and what kind of defense they throw at him. He's a pleasure to watch, and if you get to see a game in person you can have a lot of fun isolating on him at the snap of the ball.
RRM: Julian Edelman did his best Troy Brown impersonation with his debut as a three-way player on the Monday night. He seems to be making up for the all that time he lost at the beginning of the season when he wasn't contributing?
SG: The Patriots are getting really thin at defensive back and fortunately they have a player like Edelman that can do a lot of different things. I thought he made a couple of nice plays as the nickel back and he had that great punt return, but that's been Bill Belichick's M.O.. He finds players that are versatile and Edelman certainly fits that mold.
RRM: With free agency looming for star wideout Wes Welker will the Patriots be able to use Edleman as leverage to help in contract negotiations?
SG: Very small leverage, if any in my opinion. Edelman is certainly not Wes Welker. He has similar tools but to this point in his career he hasn't shown me that he can take it to the elite level like Welker has. I think Welker is going to get a lot of money from some team, hopefully that team is the Patriots.
RRM: We all know the Patriots don't like to give out long term contracts for big bucks. Would they consider slapping Welker with the franchise tag?
SG: I would consider franchising him. In all honesty he's had such success here that I can't see him wanting to go somewhere else. Tom Brady and Welker have such a great combination going that he may consider taking a bit of a home town discount to stay here, but you never know what his agent is telling him and what other teams would be willing to pony up for him.
RRM: Doesn't it seem strange that we heard the Red Sox players complain about all the late night games they had to play which they felt contributed to their late season demise, but we never hear any such things coming out of the Patriots' camp?
SG: No you don't, and that goes back to the Bill Belichick philosophy of it is what it is and we'll play them when tell us to play them. I think they caught a break with the Colts game in two weeks being shifted back to a 1:00 PM start instead of Sunday night. As a player you're trying to get into a set routine on a Sunday. Your internal body clock is always saying 1:00, 1:00, 1:00 and instead you're playing at 4:15 or 8:30 and it can be difficult to adjust, but these guys have done a great job of it.
RRM: What about this particular team that has so many young players that aren't accustomed to this pattern and a large group of veterans where their age becomes a factor over the long grind. Do all the late games affect them more so?
SG: I don't think so. I think the young players don't know any better and the older guys have been through it before and know how to adjust. It certainly doesn't appear like it's bothered the Patriots at all. Their coach tells them when they are supposed to play and they get ready to play at that time.
RRM: The last six games on the Patriots' schedule shows nary a team with a winning record in sight. We all know Bill likes to play them one game at a time, but as a player don't you have to lick your chops at what you see for upcoming opponents?
SG: I don't think any player would admit he's looking past the next game but let's be honest, they are. They're looking at the remaining schedule and figuring they could run the table and finish 13-3, win the division, and have at least one home playoff game. They're looking ahead far enough to know what they need to do, and with the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins in the rearview mirror the division title looks to be theirs for the taking. Looking at the remaining teams on the schedule the Colts are going to lose on purpose so they won't pose a problem…
RRM: Careful! The commissioner may be reading this!
SG: It's only a joking statement [laughs]! Philadelphia's the only team left that really looks like they could give the Patriots a challenge. I thought the Eagles played okay in their upset over the Giants, but I didn't the Giants played all that well. All in all I can't see the Patriots losing more than one of their six remaining games on the schedule.
RRM: The first of those "gimmies" is a trip to face those afore mentioned Eagles in Philadelphia this Sunday. I don't know what makes me more uneasy, facing an unpredictable quarterback in Vince Young or those vociferous Philadelphia fans?
SG: I think Vince Young will have more of an impact on the game than the Philadelphia fans will.
RRM: Remember, they're the only fans that have ever booed Santa Claus!
SG: Yeah, that's true. I played there a lot and they can be brutal but at the same time I thought Vince Young played pretty well in his last game subbing for Michael Vick. They also have some weapons in some guys with speed that can put a lot of pressure on the Patriots secondary. They are going to have to continue to get some pass rush pressure, but when you rush a guy like Young you just don't pin your ears back and go after him because he'll come out of the pocket and hurt you with his legs. I don't know if Vick will be back and ready for this game or not but Vince Young poses a lot of problems for you defensively that could be a problem.
RRM: If anyone understands how to contain a running quarterback I guess it would be you #14?
SG: That was a long time ago but the idea is the same. Pass rushers have to remain disciplined and stay in their lanes and not allow him to sneak through an opening and get downfield. You don't really have to get to him, you just have to stay in front of him and get your hands up when he starts to throw the ball. They don't get any sacks but if they're causing problems with his passing lanes, then that's what I'd be looking for from the Patriots on Sunday.
RRM: The defending champion Green Bay Packers go into their Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions a perfect 10-0. Will they go undefeated the rest of the way and tie the record set by the 2007 New England Patriots?
SG: It certainly looks like they will go undefeated. They have a lot of talent on that football team. Quarterback Aaron Rogers is playing better than anyone else at his position. He has a lot of weapons to throw the ball to and his running game is decent. The defense is okay, and I just can't see anybody beating them before the end of the year unless they have clinched the division and decide to sit out a lot of people and rest them for the playoffs like the Colts did a few years ago. If that happens it becomes a different scenario but right now if they keep playing the way they've been playing with their starting line up they are going to win out.
RRM: Everyone wants to know, how will the Grogan household be spending Turkey Day? I assume taking in the NFL tripleheader will be a part of the festivities?
SG: The NFL tripleheader for sure, but our dining plans are not settled at this point. I'll be out in Kansas and right now there are a lot of family members that can't make the trip in so I'm not really sure what they plan is at the moment. But the tripleheader will remain a fixture of my day to be sure! It should be three good games, and I'm really looking forward to the Sunday night game when the two head coaching brothers will face each other. That should be fun.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the as expected 34-3 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs?
SG: I gave then an A-. They were a little slow coming out of the starting gate so I knocked them down a half a peg because of that. I didn't think there were a whole lot of issues to be critical of, but it's hard to give someone an A when they do something they're supposed to do and they don't do it from start to finish.
If you look at the stats at the end of the game they were pretty equal, and if you were just looking at that you would think it had been a close football game. But with the four turnovers the Patriots defense forced it became a totally different kind of game. Kyle Arrington had the two interceptions and he now leads the league in that category, and the pass rush has been coming along the past few weeks so they have been making progress on defense. Right now they really need to get a couple of those guys healthy in the secondary, but overall they are headed in the right direction defensively and that's certainly encouraging. Happy Thanksgiving!
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