December 06, 2011
Grogan's Grade: Week 12 - New England vs Indianapolis
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, during the second and third quarters the game between the Patriots and the Colts went pretty much as expected. Unfortunately there are two other quarters in a regulation NFL game which made the Pats 31-24 win over the Colts seem a little disappointing. Did you feel the same way?
Steve Grogan: Yes, I think a lot of us did. Offensively the Patriots got off to a very slow start which is surprising since the Colts were as bad as they were advertised to be. The way the Colts finished the game in the fourth quarter with three straight touchdowns made it look like the Patriots had no defense out there at all. It was extremely disappointing to watch, so overall it was not a really good performance by the Patriots on either side of the ball for the full 60 minutes. I guess any time you walk away with a win should be considered a good thing, but this one left you shaking your head.
RRM: Bill Belichick held what had to be his shortest postgame press conference of the season after this game so I imagine no one was more upset with the way his team finished up the game than him (except maybe those with a wager on the game!)?
SG: He certainly didn't look too happy. I started to watch it and as he started to answer the first question I could tell he wasn't going to say anything of any importance. He can't be happy with the way his team is playing from start to finish. They have their moments on both sides of the ball and they're still putting 30 points on the board every week, but it's taking them awhile to get started every game and eventually that will catch up to you.
RRM: The Patriots started yet another different center in Nick McDonald. Considering all the crucial things the center is responsible for including making the blocking calls at the line and being responsible for the snap from the shot gun formation it's a wonder that Tom Brady seems to make a seamless transition from one center to the next?
SG: The transition of playing with a new center can be more difficult than what you think it is, but when you have someone like Brady who is making a lot of the calls anyway it shouldn't take that long for the offense to get started. I know they were also missing Clyde Vollmer at tackle, but it still doesn't account for the fact that there is no consistency from this offense early in games. They aren't throwing the ball with any consistency and they aren't running the ball well at all, and they only had 73 yards rushing for the entire game on Sunday which was a little disappointing against a team like the Colts. I think a lot of the problem made be due to the fact that they have a makeshift offensive line out there right now. They're starting to run out of time to get everybody back and healthy and get ready for the playoffs, and if they were starting the playoffs next week I'd be an extremely concerned fan.
RRM: I imagine like me you were looking for signs that this Colts team had packed it in for the season, but it appeared inserting former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky has injected their offense with some new life. Was that your take as well?
SG: The Patriots were playing against a quarterback that had only three days of practice, and he came into Foxboro and put up 24 points against them while throwing for over 300 yards. I think the Colts are going to have to find a way to get rid of him before he actually wins a game for them [laughs]! He played well and he exposed a lot of those weaknesses in the Patriots' secondary. Then again if you look at who the Patriots had starting in the defensive backfield including Nate Jones and Matthew Slater, one guy you just signed and another switched over from wide receiver, I guess what happened shouldn't be considered shocking. Still there was very little pass rush and the people up front should have had a better day then they had.
RRM: Peyton Manning was shown on the Colts' sideline several times during the game. I couldn't help but think that if he played for the Patriots he wouldn't be allowed on the field because Bill Belichick doesn't allow injured players to accompany teams on road games?
SG: That's Bill Belichick's way of doing it, but when you have a guy that has as much knowledge like Peyton Manning does and knows that Colts' offense better than anybody I'd have him standing next to that young kid quarterback and giving him advice just like they were doing. You're right, Tom Brady was never on the sidelines when he was out all season with the knee injury back in 2008 but that's just the way things are done here.
RRM: Were you disappointed when the fans booed old friend Adam Vinatieri when he came on the field for the Colts?
SG: I was a little surprised they did that. I guess he's been gone long enough that they've forgotten what he did for this franchise, but that's the nature of the NFL fans with their "what have you done for me lately" attitude. Vinatieri is no longer a Patriot in their eyes, and with the Colts being the Patriots longtime rival it's kind of like when Johnny Damon left the Red Sox for the Yankees I guess.
RRM: The Patriots hit the road for the next couple of weeks starting with a trip to the Nation's Capitol to play the Washington Redskins. The ‘Skins did the Pats no favors by blowing a fourth quarter lead to the Jets on Sunday, so is this another team about ready to have the fork stuck in them?
SG: Could be. They are not a very good football team and it's human nature not to get up for a game like that, and when you have three or four of them in a row like the Patriot have coming up you have to be really careful about letting your guard down. Washington gave the Jets a game for awhile before the Jets put it away in the fourth quarter. I would like to see New England go into Washington and take control from the start and get a big lead early so they can get their veterans off the field in the second half and keep them from getting banged up before they really need them.
RRM: That's assuming the Patriots' defense doesn't fall into their usual trend and turn Washington quarterback Rex Grossman into a Hall of Famer?
SG: Exactly, which is something this secondary can do on any Sunday. They can turn just about any quarterback into a Hall of Famer! But for those two new faces in the Patriots secondary they will have a week of experience under their belts and every little bit helps. I heard Patrick Chung is close to getting back on the field and that would be a big boost for this defense.
RRM: Your Patriots' clubs never had much success with the Redskins going 0-4 against them during your playing days. Lifetime the Pats are 2-6 versus the ‘Skins and have never beaten them in Washington, so it's a good thing past games have no bearing on this one, right?
SG: I don't think the current players will pay any mind to any of that. It's like facing any team, if you're not ready to play and don't give it your best effort there's always a chance they're going to get you and they are going to have to be very careful of that this week.
You can count on Bill Belichick being on their cases all week long. Tom Brady mentioned how he was really hard on them last week leading up to the Colts game and it still didn't work, so I would expect him to lean even harder on them this week.
RRM: Carolina rookie QB Cam Newton broke your record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season on Sunday. Did you even know that record you set back in your second year in 1976 was still on the books?
SG: I knew I still had the record and I figured it wouldn't last once Michael Vick came into the league, but he wound up missing a couple of years and now he can't stay healthy. Kordell Stewart came within one of the record one year, but Cam Newton is a special kind of player. He scored three in one game to set the new record so he deserves it. Newton is a heck of an athlete and he's run the ball in college and they're not afraid to let him run it here in the pro game. He's a tough guy to bring down with his size, especially in the red zone. I think you are going to see more and more of that kind of offense being played down in that area because there are more and more quarterbacks like him and Tim Tebow coming out of college systems where they have played that spread offense and run the option, so it's just natural for them to run the ball when they get near the goal line.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the 31-24 decision over the winless Colts?
SG: This was a tough game for me to grade. I gave the offense a B+ because of the slow start, but they played well in the second half for the most part. The defense I gave a C- because they didn't play well for most of the game. Even though the Colts only scored three points in the first half they still gave up a lot of yards to a quarterback that shouldn't be doing that kind of damage against them. The defense is still the major concern for this team. There were some good performances to be sure. Vince Wilfork had 11 tackles and he doesn't get many sacks but he got one in this game. He's the stalwart of their defensive line and you get a full effort out of him every week. It was also good to see that Jerod Mayo seems totally over his knee sprain as he was extremely active and moving around pretty well.
Right now Bill Belichick is making sure his injured players are getting enough time to get healed up and be ready for the playoffs, and that's always been his way. The last four weeks are the games that get you ready for the playoffs, but it's just a little scary when a team as bad as the Colts are able to get within seven points of you at the end. As playoff time gets closer they need to start buckling down and get some things shored up, and there's no better time than this week when they take their show on the road to Washington.
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