October 09, 2012
Grogan's Grade: Week 5 - Patriots vs Broncos
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the 13th meeting of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning didn't disappoint and although Manning won the battle of the passing statistics, it was Brady that came out on top by a score of 31-21. How did you assess the two quarterbacks' play on Sunday?
Steve Grogan:Well I thought they both played up to their capabilities. They're two of the greatest players at that position in NFL history. It's just fun to watch guys that are that good play against each other. I think Brady's playing on a little better football team than Peyton Manning is right now. He's much more comfortable with his offense and his players and Peyton Manning's still learning the personnel and how they get their offense implemented. But it was a fun game to watch and fortunately Brady came out on top.
RRM: Manning said he didn't watch either of the game films from last year's two meetings between the Patriots and Denver, but rather the last time he played against the Patriots back in 2010. As a former quarterback, did that seem a little strange to you?
SG:No, I don't think so. I think you want to see how teams play against you and the offense you're running, and the offense he's running in Denver is very similar to what they did in Indianapolis. So I think that probably would give him a better feeling for what the Patriots were going try to implement against him as opposed to what they did against Denver the last couple times when he wasn't there.
RRM: Despite rolling up 35 first downs, you could make the argument that if Willis McGahee had been able to hold onto the ball in the fourth quarter, this game could have gone right down to the wire. Would you have liked to have seen them put this game away a little earlier than they did?
SG:Well, they had it put away and I think they took the foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter and were just trying not to make any mistakes to let Denver back in the game and by doing that they became less aggressive and they almost let them back in. You know, when you've got a good football team like Denver is with a great quarterback like Peyton Manning is, you've got to keep your intensity level up and I think defensively I saw the intensity level drop just a little bit in the fourth quarter, figuring that they had the game pretty much in hand and all they had to do was not let Manning make a big play. But he took them down the field in 3 minutes and scored a touchdown to get them within 10, and that could have been a big problem had McGahee hung onto the ball on the fourth down throw, and had hung onto the ball when he fumbled.
RRM: We finally saw some blitzing by the Patriots that forced Peyton Manning into some hurried throws and I was wondering if perhaps this was Bill Belichick getting a little more comfortable with his young players out on defense to be a little more aggressive and daring?
SG:Yeah, I think he likes what he sees in his front seven and the secondary seems to be rounding out a little bit. Because of the score, and the Patriots being in control, maybe he just decided, ‘I'm going to put these guys in a pressure situation, see how they handle it, and make them better for next time.' It looked like they were trying to keep Manning throwing the ball to the outside most of the day. Those throws take longer to get there and if you can get some pressure on them, it's harder to complete those outside throws. As I said I thought the defense played pretty well most of the day until the fourth quarter.
RRM: Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter ended up proving disastrous and it lead to the, as you alluded to, the Denver touchdown that got the Broncos within 10 points. Did you agree on the surface that it looked like a curious decision?
SG:I thought it was a very curious decision. You think back to the Monday night game when they went for it on 4th down way back in their own territory against the Colts, but it was a strange call at that time in Indianapolis and I think sometimes maybe Bill Belichick gives Peyton Manning a little more credit than he deserves. I really feel like most coaches probably would have punted the ball down the field and made him go an extra 30 or 40 yards to try to score a touchdown. It's hard to argue with a coach that's been as successful as Bill Belichick but it was a strange decision in my book.
RRM: You almost get the feeling that he's going to do it until his team gets it right so he can say see….[laughs]
SG:Yeah, he may be [Laughs]. Keep trying. It's not worked twice now, but keep trying, maybe sooner or later he'll get it figured it out.
RRM: It was curious all the success the Patriots have had running the ball, and I was a little taken aback by all the criticism I heard about playing Danny Woodhead when you have such success using Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley running the ball. But did you think Woodhead silenced his critics -- at least temporarily -- with those two huge 3rd down conversions he made on 3rd and long?
SG:I think there's no question that they have three runningbacks all with slightly different skills, and I think Belichick and his staff - Josh McDaniels - they look at a defense and they see which one of them that they think will match up better and Woodhead had two big plays to pick up for first downs and that's probably the reason he was in there. Ridley had a wonderful game, he just keeps piling up the yards and it's fun to see. If you believe what you read in the paper -- and the Patriots don't talk about it much -- but Bolden was a nicked up just a little bit and that's probably why he didn't play as much yesterday.
RRM: The game did feature some recently familiar themes, like a Brady rushing touchdown, some breakdowns on the Patriots' offensive line, and the now obligatory Devin McCourty pass interference penalty in the endzone. I don't know about you, but quite frankly I could do without seeing any of those again this season?
I think McCourty's getting a little bit of a bad deal. People are throwing the ball his way a lot, and when you're getting thrown at a lot, you're going to have a better chance of having penalties called against you. But I think all in all he's getting better, and he'll be fine. Defensive backs have a hard time in the NFL nowadays because of the rules and the way the game's being played. You don't see how many times that he's covering people tightly and that's why the ball isn't thrown in his direction. When it does get thrown in his direction, there's a good chance there's going to be a penalty called. That's just the way the game's played now.
RRM: It was fun to see former Patriot Dan Koppen back in Foxboro under center for the Broncos although I imagine him going up against Vince Wilfork at actual game speed was a lot different than facing him in practice as he had been all those years?
SG:It had to be strange for Koppen after all those years to come back and go to the visitors locker room but I'm sure it was fun for him to come back here and play against Wilfork, a guy he's been seeing in practice for a lot of years. But it's probably not the best guy to start your Denver career against, he's playing against one of the better defensive tackles in the league in Wilfork. He did a credible job for a guy that's just been there a few weeks and is just learning the offense. He's still a good player, and hopefully he can continue his career in Denver for a long time.
RRM: This week the Patriots will make that long cross country flight out to Seattle to take on old friend Pete Carroll's Seahawks. Carroll's really done a good job with that team and it features a tenacious front seven that plays very hard at home. With Brady suffering four sacks this week and some more offensive injuries along the offensive line, you kind of wonder what kind of challenge they're going to provide for the Patriots on Sunday?
SG:Well, it will be a challenge because their front seven is good and they can pressure the quarterback and it is a little bit concerning that Brady's been sacked more than we're used to seeing him get sacked. At the same time with the running game going as well as it is right now for the Patriots, I would think that's what the Patriots are going to focus on to take the pressure off of that pass rushing front seven and make them stop the run because when you can run it, you can't just pin your ears back and come after the quarterback.
RRM: On offense the Seahawks present somewhat of a challenge with a pretty good runningback in Marshawn Lynch and a mobile quarterback in Russell Wilson, but they also have their highly touted first round selection Matt Flynn waiting in the wings -- a standard drop back quarterback - I imagine that makes them a little tough to prepare for this week?
SG:I'd be surprised. I mean they're winning right now with the guy they've got, I'd be surprised to see a change at quarterback but they do have the kid sitting on the bench if something were to happen. Seattle's a team that you just don't see much of around here so even as a player you go home, you watch the games after your game, and you don't see Seattle on TV so you don't hear much about them. They're playing well, and it's a battle every week. They need to go out there and get their job done. It's always hard to travel across the country and get used to the time difference and the travel and all that. But I think the Patriots are definitely a better team than Seattle and they should come out of there with a victory.
RRM: Well fans that want to take in the game in style this Sunday can journey down to Gillette Stadium and watch the game with 25 or so members of the Patriots alumni. Can you tell us how they can go about that?
SG:It's called, "Game with the Greats". This is our 6th year of doing that. The fans can come down and get autographs and pictures and watch the game in the stadium club up there or even, if it's a nice day, go out into the club seats and watch it on the big screen at the stadium along with the former players. I know Gino Cappelletti's going to be there for the first time, a couple of the younger guys that were on the Super Bowl teams are going to be there along with some of the old standards like myself and Pete Brock and guys like that. It's just a fun way for the fans to spend the afternoon. I think the doors open at 2:00pm for the regular tickets, which is $40. But if you want to buy a VIP ticket you can come in an hour early and have better access to the alumni as far as pictures and autographs and sitting around and chatting with people, and I believe those tickets are $150. [Here is a link for more information]
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the 31-21 decisive defeat of the Denver Broncos at Foxboro?
SG:I gave them an A- overall. I think the offense I would give an A and the defense a B+.
RRM: I thought the team record 35 first downs would merit an A+ on offense, but I guess being only the 5th game of the season?
SG:You don't want to go A+ this early in the season. Four sacks, you've got to be a little bit concerned about that but I thought that putting 30 points up against the Broncos is good. And defensively they would have had an A if they had been a little more consistent in the fourth quarter. That knocked them down a peg.
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