December 04, 2012
Grogan's Grade: Week 12 - Patriots at Dolphins
BY: Steve Grogan
R.R.Marshall -- Steve the points and the yards came grudgingly in Miami, but the Patriots prevailed 23-16 to win their 10th Eastern Division Title in the Belichick era. Perhaps the best thing to take away from this win was the Patriots offense was finally able to close the game out at the end?
Steve Grogan:There were several things good about this game. One was the fact that they controlled the ball with the running game late and ran time off the clock and made it a two score game before they had to give the ball back to Miami, that was impressive. I think that will help them as they move forward. And I thought the defense did a pretty good job of shutting down Miami, only allowing them16 points. I thought they played pretty well.
RRM: Steve, can we talk about the 7-minute drive in the fourth quarter that helped the Patriots clinch the game? It was a real brilliant mixture of play calling and it really seemed to wear down that Dolphins defense that had played well all game long?
SG:When you go to Miami you worry about the heat affecting the team from the North coming down there, but I think Sunday that last drive, the way the Patriots just totally dominated on the ground, mixed in a few play action passes, kept getting first downs, ran a whole bunch of time off the clock, I think really the heat got to the Miami Dolphins defense instead of the Patriots offense.
RRM: Tom Brady's decision to essentially take a knee on 3rd and goal instead of going for the game clinching touchdown - interesting strategy there and to tell you the truth that was something I don't think I've ever seen before in a game, have you?
SG:No, I don't think so. Two things could have been going on. One, they just didn't want to risk a handoff and a fumble that would have kept it a one score game and I think two, Gostkowski's been struggling and I think they wanted to give him a kick that was fairly simple that could win the game and maybe boost his confidence just a little bit. They need him to get back to being his regular self.
RRM: I didn't hear that question come up in the postgame at all and I was wondering if Brady made that decision on his own. Could you tell from the way the play unfolded?
SG:I could not tell. Initially it looked like he fumbled the ball over there, but when you saw it from the [rear camera angle] he intentionally took the ball and fell in the middle of the field. So I don't know whether he made that decision or the coaches did.
RRM: The young Miami defense had Brady and the offense seemingly out of sync for most of the game. Was it the pressure on Brady that they were able to generate, or were they doing other things that kind of disrupted the timing of the offense?
SG:I think they were doing some things coverage-wise that were disrupting the passing game. The Patriots were throwing the ball all over the field in the first half and it just wasn't working. There were a lot of errant throws by Brady, there were some dropped balls by Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, which are uncharacteristic. So I think Miami was giving them some looks they probably weren't ready for and they didn't move the ball that well in the first half, but they moved it well enough to get a couple scores and then they had the big drive at the end of the game and that's all that mattered.
RRM: Well, the Patriots defense certainly gave Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill a hard-earned lesson on Sunday. For once the Patriots defense didn't allow an experienced quarterback to throw the ball all over the field against them. Granted the Miami wide receivers aren't the best, but you really have to look at this as a step forward for the Patriots defensive secondary?
SG:I think you do. Tannehill is going to be a very good quarterback in the NFL. He's not there yet so you've got to temper what the defensive secondary did Sunday just a little bit because he's young, they don't have any great receivers that really challenge you. But on the whole I thought the coverage was good, the pressure on him was good, the defense played the kind of game they needed to play and held them to 16 points. That was very important when it came down to the end because the Patriots offense wasn't able to score their normal 30-35 points.
SG:Yeah, if they can't get a couple of these guys back, particularly on the offensive line, it could be a couple of weeks of long nights. The guys that are filling in I think are doing an admirable job but they're just not the same quality of players as what they're losing to injuries. So it's going to be interesting, even at the wide receiver spot, to see who they can find to fill the hole for Edelman. They're banged up and I think now that they've got the Division, I think they need to worry more about getting healthy than they do trying to win football games.
RRM: The last few weeks there's been a lot of discussion on the talk shows about the use of amphetamines in the NFL and I was just curious, we've talked about performance enhancing drugs and steroids, but how prevalent was the use of amphetamines in the NFL when you played in the 70's and 80's.
SG:I know of a few guys that used them, but it wasn't rampant.
RRM: Most people say it just helps you focus better for a game, but they're really not performance enhancers?
SG:Not having taken them I really can't tell you what they do for you. But to me, that kind of thing, the guys that I played with that I saw use them, it didn't help their performance, it just made them feel like they were playing better.
RRM: Next up is a Monday night football game against a Houston team that has only lost one game all season long. To many in the media and the fans, a win against this team will kind of legitimize the Patriots' record, seeing as how people point out the weak opposition within the Division itself. Do you think they need a win against a top team like this to kind of, -- I hate to use the word, but - ‘legitimize' themselves?
SG:I know what you're saying. I think if they beat the Texans it would go a long way to legitimize who they are and how good they are. But at the same time, if they don't beat them, it doesn't mean that they're not still a good football team. Again, we've talked about the injuries and the inconsistency of Gostkowski and some of those things that have hampered them a little bit. So if they lose it's not the end of the world. They still have the Division but you would like to see them come out of there with a complete football game. Even if they lose, play a solid game. No turnovers, no penalties, just so you come out feeling good about the way you're playing.
RRM: Houston quarterback Matt Schaub is someone we haven't seen a whole lot because the Texans aren't on TV that much around here. But from all reports, he's a solid NFL quarterback but do you think he's ready to take the next step up to that of a Super Bowl Champion quarterback?
SG:I haven't seen a enough of him to really say that he's ready to go to that Super Bowl level. He reminds me a little bit of Matt Ryan with Atlanta. A couple of years ago he had a great year and then people kind of figured him out for a couple years, and again now he's having another great year. So I'd like to see Schaub do it for a little longer period of time before I say he's a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. But they have a solid football team. They throw it well, they run it well, they play defense. He can definitely be a guy that can take them there. I'm not saying he's not capable of doing that, I just haven't seen enough of him to be sold on it.
RRM: The Houston defense has suffered their fair share of injuries. They had been giving up a ton of points the last few weeks until they came across a woebegone Tennessee team on Sunday. But given that fact, are the Patriots seemingly catching them at the right time?
SG:You would think so. If they're banged up on defense you would think that, but the Patriots offense is a little bit banged up too. So if you've got a banged up offense going against a banged up defense. They balance each other out.
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the 23-16 victory in Sunny Miami?
SG:I went with a B+ this week. I gave the defense an A, the offense a B. Special teams was right there in the B area, so we'll go with a B+.
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