September 18, 2012
Grogan's Grade: Week 2 - Patriots vs Cardinals
BY: Steve Grogan
PatsFans.com is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for the 12th straight season. Grogan played in 149 games with the Patriots from 1975-1990, and was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995. Steve will join us each week to provide his insight on the progress of the Patriots during the 2012 football season.
Ron Marshall: Steve, it appeared that despite what can best be a described as a lackluster performance by the Patriots on Sunday afternoon, it seemed they would escape with a victory until Stephen Gostkowski's field goal went wide left in the final seconds. How could a team look so good one week ago and then lay an egg on their home opener seven days later?
Steve Grogan:Kind of hard to figure out what happened Sunday. Whether they took the Cardinals lightly or whether the Hernandez injury on offense really messed up their game plan. It's really hard to tell, but they certainly -- at least offensively -- didn't play all that well. Now all the reports after the fact said that the Cardinals had a pretty solid defense -- and they looked like it -- but the Patriots have too many weapons offensively not to put up more than 18 points on the board. And then to see Gostkowski miss what basically for him was a chip shot field goal, you just don't see that happen and that has a lot to do with concentration. He's been in pressure situations before so I don't think the pressure got to him, I think none of them seemed to be concentrating real hard on Sunday.
RRM: As badly as the Patriots had played in this game, you still had the feeling they would find a way to pull it out as they so often do until that blocked punt came late in the 3rd quarter. When was the last time you can remember that happening to a Bill Belichick coached team?
SG:That's been a long time since that's happened. But even with that, Brady took them down the field and scored a touchdown. I wasn't real thrilled with the call on the two point conversion, I'm not sure that was their best option but they apparently thought it was. And then it looked like it was over and then the kid turns the ball over to them and all they had to do was move the ball down in there a little bit, kick the field goal, and they walk away with a win that they probably didn't deserve to get. Woodhead runs the ball in for a score and you get a holding call on Gronkowski, which was very questionable in my opinion, but still they had a chance to win the game and it just didn't look a normal Patriot team the way they played all day on Sunday.
RRM: Not too many people talked about it, but I really thought it was the ability of the Arizona front seven to outplay the right side of the Patriots' offensive line that was a big factor in this game. Did you see that as well?
SG:Yes, I didn't think the offensive line played very well at all. Brady was under pressure quite a bit and we all know that he doesn't have the ability to get out of the pocket and make things happen, so you've got to give him somewhat of a clean pocket to throw the ball, but he didn't look on either and that's partly because he was getting hit a lot. They couldn't find the running game they had a week ago, Ridley broke off a couple nice ones but it wasn't consistent. I thought defensively they played fairly solidly, especially the front seven, but you just can't play a lackluster game against anybody in this league and expect to walk away with a win, and that's what happened to them Sunday.
RRM: As you mentioned, the Patriots lost tight end Aaron Hernandez early in the game and it really seemed to leave their offense in a funk for at least the first half. Did you kind of a sense kind of a letdown on the team when that happened?
SG:There seemed to be a little bit of a letdown, and there seemed to be…I'm sure Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator, I mean we've talked before about how this offense was going to revolve around those two tight ends this year, and suddenly when you don't have one of them, Josh McDaniels looked like he was kind of searching for what to do next without Hernandez and never really found a rhythm in his playcalling to get them back on track. So hopefully Hernandez, I know they said it wasn't broken, but he may be out a week or two. They're going to have to find another way to go offensively for a little bit.
RRM: They said it could linger up to 4-6 weeks depending on the severity of the sprain and if that's the case, how do you think Josh McDaniels will go about reorganizing his offensive strategy to cope with the loss?
SG:Well I think they've got to get Welker a little more involved. I know he had five catches yesterday for 95 yards but he's going to have to take up some of the slack, I think Edelman's going to have to take up some of the slack...it's not going to be easy. They don't have but what, four wide receivers on their roster? They've got a couple extra tight ends, I don't know what those guys are like, haven't seen enough about them whether they can fill the role that Hernandez had, but probably not. So he's going to have to make a lot of adjustments this week for the offense.
RRM: You mention Wes Welker, and the Wes Welker conspiracy theorists are out in full force after first two weeks with him not starting games and from supposedly being punished for not signing a long-term deal. What do you make of all this? Do you see any kind of effort by the team to deemphasize his importance to this offense?
SG:It certainly looks like that, but I'd be really surprised if that was the real reason. I think there's got to be something else going on behind the scenes that nobody knows about that caused them not to start him in the game, he wasn't all that involved a week ago.
RRM: You hear rumors that he might be hurt, or that they're trying to groom Edelman as his replacement, I mean, you hear all sorts of things…
SG:There's going to be all kinds of rumors until he either has a big game and does the things that we're used to seeing him do, or they sit him down entirely, which I don't think they can afford to do. I don't think anybody really knows what's really going on there except Bill Belichick and a few of the players and they're not going to talk about it. So it will be purely speculation from here on out.
RRM: Any guesses yourself?
SG:I have no guesses. I just can't see them punishing him for not signing a contract. You don't do that in the NFL and I don't think Bill Belichick does that. He may have been late for a meeting or said something to somebody that he shouldn't have said…again, it's just purely speculation and I have no answer for that.
RRM: Well even the big tight end Rob Gronkowski had his moments of ineptitude in this game. He dropped what would have been a key touchdown pass late in the second half and he had that key holding penalty that would have been the winning score on Danny Woodhead's run. It seems that the big guy can be fallible in these situations?
SG:Everybody's going to make mistakes at certain times in a football game and he made a couple of them at the wrong times yesterday. I saw him interviewed after the game and he admitted that he didn't play well and he's got to work harder. I think they all have to work harder. It's unfortunate that when a guy does make a couple of mistakes they turn around and bite you in the tail because he's such a great player and does so many good things for them that you just don't expect to see him make mistakes at key moments like that.
RRM: You mentioned the holding call a while back. I mean, technically was it a holding call, or was it one of those calls like a hockey penalty in the last two minutes that's something that's not called in that situation?
SG:Yeah, I think it was far enough away from the play that it really didn't influence the outcome of the play. If you'd have had the normal NFL refs in there they probably wouldn't have thrown the flag on that one. He really didn't grab long enough to keep the linebacker or defensive back from getting over and making the play, but you've got guys out there working the game that aren't used to seeing this kind of thing at this kind of speed. He did have a grasp on the jersey for a short period of time and the flag got thrown. I think normally you probably would have let that one go.
RRM: Well it's been two weeks worth of replacement officials in the NFL and this is the first time it became an issue in a game involving the Patriots. What do you think it's going to take to settle this? Is there going to have to be some kind of egregious error in a prime time nationally televised game for the NFL owners to come to terms and get these regular officials back on the job?
SG:I think the NFL has made their decision on what they're going to pay the regular refs or what kind of benefits they're going to give them, and I'm not sure anything's going to influence their decision until the refs decide they're going to accept what they're being offered. If that means a game is lost because somebody blows a call or these replacement officials screw up a game somewhere along the way, I just think they just look at that as the cost of doing business. Until the regular officials decide they're tired of sitting at home watching the games, we're going to see the replacement guys.
RRM: I would think as a former player, if you're going out there and busting your butt, risking your life and limb for sixty minutes every Sunday, you probably don't feel too good about that?
SG:The players are not happy about it, and I know the coaches are not happy about it [Laughs] you see them complaining all the time on the sideline to these guys. I know everybody that's on the field wants this thing settled, but again, the league has decided what they're going to pay and the benefits they're going to offer. It's their business and they're not going to give in apparently.
RRM: Well next up for the Patriots is a prime time rematch of the AFC Championship game in Baltimore on Sunday night. After this fiasco, can the Patriots pull themselves together for the Ravens? Both teams lost so they'll have that motivation going for them. But usually when the Patriots play this poorly, they snap back with a really good effort.
SG:I think the Patriots got embarrassed Sunday, and when they get embarrassed, they usually come back with a vengeance and I would expect them to go out and play a very good football game this week against a good football team who, as you said, is in the same boat so it should be a great game. I wish it was it home, I think that would help the Patriots more, but it's going to be a fun game to watch because both teams struggled last week and they're going to want to go out and play well this week.
RRM: I'll ask you this question before the game and I'll ask it again next week, what is your assessment of Joe Flacco as a quarterback? Should he be counted among the NFL's elite quarterbacks?
SG:I don't think he's an elite quarterback with the Peyton and Eli Manning's and the Tom Brady's, but he's just a notch below. He manages a game really well, he's got a great running game which helps him out a lot, doesn't make a ton of mistakes so he's almost there but to this point I wouldn't put him in the "elite" category.
RRM: So early in the season and yet I'm afraid to ask. What are Grogan's Grades for Week 2?
SG:I think I had a D for the overall grade. The offense, probably an F and the defense probably a C- or a C…the defense didn't play all that poorly. Special teams, just because of the blocked punt you have to give them a D. So it wasn't a good performance all the way around. Not a total failing grade, but just above it.
RRM: I thought if there was any encouragement to take out of these first two weeks, it's the fact that what was the Achilles heel for this team last year, the defense has acquitted themselves fairly well so far?
SG:The defense has played fairly solidly. Not giving up a lot of big plays. The two rookie first round draft picks seem to be contributing a lot early on, which is highly unusual. So if they can keep playing that well defensively and get the offense back on track, they should be O.K.
RRM: And the best part is they're still in first place, albeit a 4-way tie?
SG:Exactly [Laughs]. Hey, that's all you can ask for. I think it's definitely better to have a game like this early in the year than late in the year because you have plenty of time to recover. If this happened in December then I think you'd have a lot of concerns about which direction this team was going. But it's still early, they've got a lot of time left. They'll get it straightened out and should be back in the hunt shortly.
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