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November 02, 2012
Grogan's Grade: Week 8 - New England at St.Louis
BY: Steve Grogan

R.R.Marshall: The Patriots must have flown into a time warp when they flew across the Atlantic because the team that faced the Rams on Sunday resembled the old 2007 Patriots. So my question to you is, has Bill Belichick learned how to use time travel now?

Steve Grogan: [Laughs] I don't think Bill's anxious to make another trip back to England but they did play a really good football game the other day. After the opening drive with a long pass for a touchdown, I think all of us sitting at home were thinking, "Uh oh, here we go again." But the defense buckled down and the offense played the way they've been capable of playing all season, and just hadn't been over the last few games. They spread the ball around, ran the ball, did everything pretty much right that they could've done Sunday against the Rams.

RRM: It was a strange game in the sense that Sam Bradford looked really comfortable. At one point he was 12-for-14 in that first half against the Patriots with a ton of yardage, and yet before you knew it, the Patriots were up by three scores and in total control of the game?

SG: Yeah, when you go in at halftime and you've scored touchdowns on all your possessions in the first half, it's pretty demoralizing for your opponent even if their offense is playing well and not getting the ball in the end zone. You kind of get a feeling like, "it's not your day". So I thought they pretty much buried them in the first half and in the second half they were trying not to make any mistakes to let the game get away from them - and they didn't.

RRM: For the second straight week we saw an opponent try to match up Wes Welker with someone who's quick and agile, in this case it was the Rams' Cortland Finnegan. Wes didn't have a big came against them, but he still had six catches and kept the chains moving?

SG: Welker's still a big part of this offense and I don't know if there's anybody in football that may keep him from getting many yards after the catch or getting down the field and making long catches, but he's just so quick in space and Brady's got such a comfort feel with where he's going to be that I don't think anybody can shut him down.

RRM: That old expression, "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him?"

SG: Contain him [laughs], yes.

RRM: It was good to see the big tight end Rob Gronkowski have another monster game with eight catches and two touchdowns. For a guy who's supposed to be on the injured list, as of late he looks like he's playing at a real high level again? I imagine the Rams felt that way?

SG: I'd like to know what the Rams were thinking because they seemed to be pretty much ignoring him. Several times he was running so wide open down the field that it made you wonder whether they'd blown a coverage, or they just didn't figure that he was going to be a big part of the offense or what exactly they were doing. But he had a monster day, had a great, great catch that wasn't a touchdown, landed on the half yard line. But the way he turned backward to make that catch is just incredible for a man in his size and then of course it's always fun to watch what he's decided to do for his touchdown dances when he finishes in the end zone. He's an interesting guy.

RRM: You know, it was interesting because they did put some tight coverage on him down near the goal line and Tom Brady had to really fire some laser beams to get them in there. I thought this was if not Tom Brady's finest game of the season, it was right up there?

SG: He just looked really comfortable, Brady did, with everything he was doing. Some of the balls that were caught, the one that I just talked about with Gronkowski reaching back, the one he scored on in the end zone, it was a fastball from not very far away and a lot of guys wouldn't have been able to hang on to that, but Gronkowski did. Brandon Lloyd had two big catches for touchdowns. Brady just looked really, really comfortable with not only what they were doing offensively, but knowing what the Rams were going to do defensively and he took big advantage of it.

RRM: I imagine part of what made Brady so comfortable was the fact he could've played the whole game in a tuxedo. This is the first game where they didn't have a sack and the Rams normally bring some pretty good pressure, I mean they've beaten two of the teams the Patriots have lost to this year. They kept good protection on Brady for the entire game.

SG: He had a lot of time to throw the ball. When you looked at the injury report and realized that Logan Mankins was going to be out, you had to be a little bit concerned. But those guys up front have just been doing a pretty darn good job all year. Sunday was their best effort. They not only protected Brady, but they had some big holes in the running game. When you can hammer it down the defense's throat, it just takes the wind out of their sails and they did that on Sunday.


"The one he scored on in the end zone, it was a fastball from not very far away and a lot of guys wouldn't have been able to hang on to that, but Gronkowski did. - Steve Grogan (FILE:USPresswire)
RRM: You know, a former Patriots tight end, Russ Francis, was sort of the Gronkowski of his era in the 1970's and one of your favorite targets. I was just wondering is there a danger in becoming too reliant on any one receiver with skills like he has?

SG: There's a danger if you don't have other people out there that can make plays for you. If he's the only guy that's getting open and catching the ball, you can become too reliant on him but I don't think Tom Brady has that problem with this offense. He's got Welker, he's got Hernandez when he comes back and is healthy, he's got Lloyd now, he's very comfortable with Deion Branch, so I think Tom Brady's the kind of quarterback that's got so many weapons he's going to figure out on any given Sunday which guy they're going to let him have for the day. Sunday was Gronkwski and he took advantage of it.

RRM: We all know the quarterback goes through his progressions on any one passing play and only has so much time to do so, but I imagine like in your case with Russ, if he wasn't the primary receiver on the play he at least would be the second option on any given play?

SG: Most usually, you know where he was going to be and he was a great outlet. I think his hands might have been a little bit better than Gronkowski's, but Gronkowski's a lot bigger than Russ was, and Russ was a big man. Russ ran really well, Gronkowski does the same, they are very comparable. Two really good tight ends that can do a lot of things block, catch, just about anything you ask them to do.

RRM: I thought it was interesting the way the two head coaches approached this game. You've got a veteran coach like Jeff Fisher who took his team to London on Tuesday, while Bill Belichick waited until Friday to bring the Patriots to London. What did you think of the strategy behind each of the decisions the two coaches made?

SG: Well, I think Fisher probably wanted to get his guys over there, get used to the time zone, get their practices in, get their preparation in without having to disrupt it in the middle of the week. Bill Belichick took the opposite approach, maybe because he's got a little more of a veteran team that can travel better. You go to a place like that, I would assume you try to, even though you're 6 hours difference, you try to keep things as close to the same time as it is back home. It's kind of like when you go to the West Coast. You try not to change your routine too much and apparently Bill's got the right way to do it with his team. Fisher didn't this year. He may change next time he goes over.

RRM: It was great to see some blitzing done on the part of the Patriots' defense. You could clearly see that the Rams were totally unprepared for it. So did the stubborn Belichick finally relent or do you think he opted for the strategy strictly based on this particular opponent?

SG: Well, if you listen to his press conference they didn't blitz any more than they normally do, which if he was Pinocchio - his nose would be flying out to the end of the street. But I think it was just the opponent they were up against - young quarterback with an offensive line that is not great yet. They've got a real good running back, I think a lot of these blitzes were run blitzes that were put in the game plan to stop the rush and if they did decide to throw on that down, they had people going. I think it also shows you that against this team in particular, and Bill's the only one that can tell you why, but even after the big play in the first series he felt comfortable with his guys covering their receivers and he didn't mind putting them in man-to-man one-on-one situations and allowing a couple guys to blitz.

RRM: Well it's funny, we've reached the midway point of the season and usually by now you can more or less separate the contenders from the pretenders and have a good idea on who all the possible Super Bowl candidates for the season are. But I think this season may be the exception to the rule. I mean do you yourself have any better sense of who the best teams and the contenders are?

SG: I think in the AFC, it's still a big question mark. I would say in the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons are playing the best football of anyone in the NFL right now. They've got to be the odds-on favorite to make it from the NFC if they can keep Matt Ryan healthy and keep doing what they're doing. But the AFC, they've got several teams there now that are pretty good and have a good chance of going.

RRM: You really put the Atlanta Falcons head and shoulders ahead of teams like the Giants and 49ers?

SG: I think I do right now, yeah.

RRM: Wow, I didn't think you had any Matt Ryan BC in you.

SG: It's not because of where he came from, it's because of what they're doing right now. They're winning football games every week and that's hard to ignore.

RRM: The Patriots have reached the bye week and they come off of that with home games against Buffalo and Indianapolis. So just in looking at the calendar it would appear that everything is perfectly set up for them for a good month of November?

SG: It would look that way. I heard on the radio this morning they were at the same place last year at this point in the season -- 5-3. They have a couple opponents coming up after the bye that they should be better than, and then December is always the month that Belichick points to to get hot. They've got a couple of tough opponents in December, so November will be interesting but I think December is the month that's going to tell the tale.

RRM: Not to look down the road too far but Indianapolis, after Sunday's game, Andrew Luck is now 4-3. Maybe they won't be the pushover everybody thought?

SG: He's playing well for a young guy. A lot of the young quarterbacks are playing well this year. I still take Bill Belichick and his defensive philosophy against any young quarterback on any given Sunday.

RRM: Like you said before, Buffalo might be struggling and giving up a ton of points but when the Patriots and Bills get together, you throw the records out the window. You've been in too many those games to take them for granted?

SG: I have been, and I've watched a lot of them too. It's a conference, division game and you just never know what Buffalo's going to show up with.

RRM: So what are Grogan's grades for the 45-7 slaughter of St. Louis in London?

SG: I've got to go with A's across the board.

RRM: Is this their best 60 minute effort in your opinion?

SG: I think as an overall effort, it was their best. Offense, defense, special teams, they put together, without a doubt their best effort of the year.

Grogan's Grade: Week 8

OFFENSE: A
DEFENSE: A
SPECIAL TEAMS: A

OVERALL: A


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