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October 03, 2012
Grogan's Grade: Week 4 - Patriots at Bills
BY: Steve Grogan

R.R. Marshall: Steve after some 32 anxious minutes for the faithful fans, the Patriots offense exploded for a team record 45 second half points to dust off the beleaguered Buffalo Bills 52-28. We kept hearing about the Patriots new diversity on offense, but who knew it could have been this explosive?

Steve Grogan: Well they certainly waited long enough to show it. That first half was extremely disappointing and a little worrisome but I'll tell you in the second half, they showed what they can do offensively and hopefully it will be a big confidence booster for them to continue to do those kinds of things, keep it so balanced and have so many so many players contribute from here on out.

RRM: The Patriots offense came into the league near the bottom of the league in red zone efficiency. You can't help but wonder if trailing 21-7 and facing the possibility of falling to 1-3 helped motivate them to bring their execution up to a higher level?

SG: Well I don't know what Bill Belichick and his coaching staff said at halftime, but whatever it was, it worked. You go in at half time, you're down by two touchdowns, your field goal kicker, who is usually reliable, has missed two field goals and as a player you're saying to yourself, ‘maybe this isn't our day.' But somehow or another the coaches got them straightened out at halftime. They readjusted a few things and came out in the second half and not only did the offense dominate, but the defense forced a bunch of turnovers to get them the ball in great field position and that also helped them put so many points on the board.

RRM: Well for the first time since 1982 the Patriots had two players had two one hundred yard rushers in the same game in the presence of Bolden and Ridley -- which kind of sounds like the new law firm in town. Were you surprised about the Patriots' commitment to the running game for the entire game despite being down by 14 points in the second half? Usually they kind of toss it away and go no-huddle?

SG: I was a little bit surprised. But they were having such success with it when they did use it, even early in the game. They were gashing them not great, but enough and the defensive front four for Buffalo's supposedly better and such a great pass-rushing defensive line -- supposedly from what you read - that I think the Patriots just decided to see if they could stop the run and it wasn't a complicated running attack. They basically ran the same counter play right and left, right and left, right and left and tossed the ball every once in a while. They were just running it right up the middle and saying, "try and stop us." Those two young runningbacks were getting to the second and third level before anybody was touching them and I think you have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line for the way they were coming off the football and opening up holes.

RRM: Good point. But what made 247 rushing yards even more suprising was the fact they were missing their best offensive lineman in Logan Mankins.

SG: Yeah that was a little surprising, not having Mankins in there and still being able to dominate like that.

RRM: Wasn't the Bills strength supposed to be their rebuilt defensive line with Mario Williams?

SG: That was supposed to be their strong suit, particularly from what I read and saw on the pregame show they've got four great pass rushers up there. Well, apparently they can rush the passer but they can't stop the run. You've got to be able to do both.

RRM: I guess in the modern NFL the one skill doesn't translate into the other?

SG: No, apparently not. It was amazing to me how big the holes were. You see runningbacks that have great days. Well, they had two runningbacks that had great days but there weren't a lot of cuts made at the line of scrimmage. They were hitting the hole and they were five yards up the field before anybody knew where they were at. So that front four of Buffalo really wasn't doing the job for them.

RRM: The Patriots came up with several big plays in this game, but I thought perhaps the biggest one came at the end of the second quarter where Brandon Spikes put on a hellacious hit, knocked the ball loose, and kept Buffalo from getting into the endzone and going up 21-7 at the half. I couldn't help but think that that's the type of play that's been missing from this defense in recent years, and I thought that was a really good sign for this team?

"You need some of those kind of hits by your defense to kind of motivate everybody, get everybody cranked up a little bit, they had two of them Sunday. That really sets the tone not only for your defense but your offense loves watching it." - Steve Grogan (FILE:USPresswire)

SG: I would agree with you. I think that at that point in the game they needed somebody to set the tone. There was another big hit by Vince Wilfork on an inside screen play that just leveled the wide receiver, and you need some of those kind of hits by your defense to kind of motivate everybody, get everybody cranked up a little bit, they had two of them Sunday. That really sets the tone not only for your defense but your offense loves watching it.

RRM: Even Devin McCourty got out of the doghouse with two interceptions in this game. But be honest, both the balls were underthrown. Don't you really want to see him moved back to safety where he can keep the plays in front of him where he can excel?

SG: It looks like that would be his best spot, but I think they've got two guys playing safety that are playing pretty well and they need somebody at the cornerback, and McCourty's the guy to be out there. Fitzpatrick's not the greatest quarterback in the world, he did make some really poor decisions and throws Sunday. But lot of defensive backs still don't make those catches so you've got to give McCourty credit and hopefully he'll continue to get better and continue to contribute.

RRM: It was certainly a relief to the regular officials back in this game. Actually I thought the only play they blew all day long was on Brady's rushing touchdown?

SG: Yeah, I think that was probably the only one they did blow, and that was pretty close. I think it surprised everybody so much they figured they just had to give it to him [laughs]. But yes, the game ran so much smoother with the regular officials in there. There wasn't a lot of discussions, there weren't a whole lot of replays. It still was a really long game, but when you're scoring 80 points between two teams, that has a tendency to make the game last a little longer but it certainly was a much more smoothly officiated game than we've seen.

RRM: I didn't get a chance to talk to you last week about the Monday Night Football game, the "Seattle Debacle." Everybody was saying it would take some kind of horrible call by the substitutes to get the league to cave in and unfortunately it came on a nationally televised game on a Monday night where everyone witnessed the mistake. Two days later, all of a sudden the officials were back. Looking back on it, you just think what a waste three weeks of the season with the substitute refs, what's the real gain out of this?

SG: It came at a perfect moment for the officials. It certainly made their bargaining stance look a whole lot better. You know, it's a big business. The NFL's a big business nowadays, there's so much money out there. To go three weeks using referees that are substandard, it just didn't make sense to a lot of people. There's enough money to keep everybody happy I would think, but in a big business, the people that own them are always trying to make a point. They made a little bit of a point, but I think they also realized they made a mistake. Fortunately they got it settled and we're back to regular officials and regular football games that we're used to watching.

RRM: Unfortunately Bill Belichick is $50,000 lighter in the wallet.

SG: [Laughs] Yeah, he'll have to cut his vacation to Nantucket next summer by a week probably.

RRM: Old friend Peyton Manning comes to town on Sunday wearing Denver orange and he warmed up for the meeting with the Patriots by beating up the Oakland Raiders defense by throwing three touchdowns going 30-of-38. Do you expect another high scoring affair when these two teams get together on Sunday?

SG: It always seems that when Brady and Manning play each other that a lot of points go on the board. I think the Patriots defense is much better than Denver's defense. But Peyton Manning is certainly not back to his normal self, getting closer every week and feeling more comfortable in that offense and this should be a really good battle, a really fun game to watch. I think somehow or another the Patriots have to find a way to pressure the quarterback with their front four guys because they certainly need everybody in coverage.

RRM: The Brady, Manning rivalry will certainly take center stage. But do you really think the rivalry is quite as intense after Manning took a year off and switching the color of his jersey?

SG: I would say that it probably diminishes it a little bit. When he was in Indianapolis for so long and they played so many games against each other, regular season and playoffs, so much was on the line for a lot of those games. That's what made it a rivalry. I don't think it's going to be quite as intense with him being with the Broncos, a team that Patriots haven't erally seen that often in the last few years. So it won't be quite the same intensity, but it will still be fun to watch because they're both still great quarterbacks.

RRM: What are Grogan's Grade for the Patriots blowout win over the Bills in Buffalo?

SG: This one was hard to grade because the first half I was ready to give them a failing grade all the way around, it was just awful the way the played the first half. But the second half was so impressive, I gave them overall grade of an A. The second half was so much better than the first that you can't give them anything but that. The only thing that might have dragged it down a little bit was the special teams and the two missed field goals but they really didn't factor into the outcome of the game. So I'm going to give them an A for the second half and just forget that they even played the first half.

Grogan's Grade: Week 4 -- Patriots at Bills:

Offense: A
Defense: A
Overall: A

Game Ball: Brandon Bolden


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