PatsFans.com is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for another 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 insights on the progress of the Patriots during the 2001 football season. In addition each week Steve will field one question selected from among those submitted on the sites’ message board. Maybe it will be yours!
R.R. Marshall: Steve, starting with the surprise appearance of Mark Henderson and ending with the lap around Foxboro Stadium by the players and coaches, I don’t think anyone could have scripted the 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins any better. You were there, what were your thoughts on the day’s events?
Steve Grogan: The return of Mark Henderson may have the been the most incredible thing that happened all day. Finding a supposed dead man for the last regular season game ever at Foxboro Stadium was just amazing. Some 8-10 years ago there was a report that he had died and everyone kind of dropped it, and to all of a sudden have him turn up from nowhere after all this time was really something. That really capped the entire day.
RRM: There are a lot of people who aren’t familiar with that whole story. Henderson was the guy that drove the John Deere tractor out on the field in a December 1982 game against the Dolphins played in a snowstorm at Foxboro and cleared a path for kicker John Smith’s game-winning field goal. I heard you had a role in that famous event as well?
SG: I went to (Patriot head coach) Ron Meyer during a timeout and asked him if we should send the snowplow guy out there. The next thing I know he was running down the sideline (with me right behind him) waving the guy out there, but nobody told the driver to swerve off the yardline-marker and plow a spot near where the ball would be spotted for the kick. That was his own doing, so he deserves a place in Patriots’ history.
RRM: As for the actual game itself the Patriots ground out 196 yards against the Dolphins in what was almost a complete reversal from the first game the two teams played back in early October. They just pounded Miami in the trenches in this game?
SG: You could tell right from the start that their plan was to run the ball with Antowain Smith and see what they could get out of it. They came out in two and even three-tight end sets, which I hadn’t seen them use too often this year. That showed me that they felt they needed to run, and could run the football against Miami. As it turned out they did it all afternoon long and (along with the Patriots defense) that’s what separated the two teams in this game.
RRM: I thought Bill Belichick took a huge chance going for it on fourth-and-one deep in Miami territory early in the first quarter. Were you surprised he didn’t take the sure three points in a scoreless game?
SG: Bill Belichick took a big gamble going for it on fourth-and-one on that particular drive. You could argue that he was trying to show his confidence in his team’s ability to make the first down, but my response is 99% of the coaches in the NFL would have kicked the field goal and been happy with it. I’m not sure if he did it because he was trying to send his team a positive message or not, but that decision could really have backfired on him. But he probably had so much confidence in his defense that he knew they could hold the Dolphins that deep in Miami territory, so that’s why he did it.
RRM: I have to ask you about the throw to the quarterback out of the backfield play. I assume you have some expertise on that play, having run it a few times in your career?
SG: I thought Tom Brady’s comment was great,”I turned a touchdown in to a 23-yard gain!” In his defense the ball Kevin Faulk threw had a little air under it, but when Brady ran out of bounds all my former teammates I was watching the game with told me that I would have run over that guy instead of going out of bounds! I went out for a few passes in my time but to be fair one of those was on a ball batted up in the air that I caught for a completion to myself, which really doesn’t count! All you have to do on that play is catch the corner and safety on the backside cheating the other way just a little bit and that play is there for you. You can’t run it all the time because you can’t risk your quarterback getting hurt, and let’s face it not a lot of them can run really well, but it is a great play to run on occasion.
RRM: It seems Charlie Weis’ bag of tricks never seems to be empty. What is your opinion of all the gadget plays he likes to run?
SG: Charlie Weis runs more gimmick plays of any offensive coordinator that I’ve seen, and the amazing thing is they work! That keeps it fun for the players, too. Besides the throw back to the quarterback they ran a reverse to Troy Brown on their first possession and he cut it back to the opposite side of the field and made a nice gain out of the play. Most NFL coaches are afraid to run those kinds of plays because if they backfire they usually put you in a hole. But the Patriots run them consistently and as a result they keep the opposing defense on their toes.
RRM: How did you feel Tom Brady performed in this game? He completed 11 of 19 for 108 yards and one score so he didn’t exactly set the place on fire?
SG: Brady didn’t do anything spectacular in this game, but he didn’t do anything that was bad, either. He’s filling the role the team has asked him to fill. I got to see the entire field from my vantage point in the box behind the endzone and I can tell you when he was throwing incompletions there weren’t other guys he should have been throwing to because they just weren’t getting receivers open. Brady wasn’t taking any chances, but he didn’t need to take any.
I know he took some criticism for not throwing the ball downfield, but I saw some of the San Francisco game last Saturday and their quarterback Jeff Garcia had at one point 12 completions with all but one going for more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. That’s just the way the game is being played nowadays, and that’s what Brady is doing and it’s working.
RRM: There was some concern that after scoring all of their 20 points in the second quarter the Patriots offense kind of disappeared for the rest of the game. But doesn’t your offensive mindset change when you have a double-digit lead?
SG: In a game like this one that means so much once you get a lead like the Patriots did you naturally tend to reel things back in and not take a lot of chances. The defense is playing well and you don’t want to put them in a hole by committing a turnover. They were running the ball well enough so that they didn’t have to take any chances on offense, so the game became a matter of whether the Dolphins could find a way to climb back into the game. The Patriots defense made sure that they didn’t.
RRM: Speaking of the Patriots defense, they took this rematch with the Dolphins personally. Miami’s Lamar Smith had run through them at will in their first meeting and it was apparent from the outset that they were determined not to let that happen again?
SG: The defense totally took away the Miami ground game, but the Dolphins threw the ball really well. The Patriots weren’t blitzing as much as they had been doing and they weren’t getting great pressure on Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler with just their front four. But I think that was their plan, they wanted to keep Fiedler from running around and hurting them like he did in the first meeting between the two teams this year.
When you blitz a quarterback that can scramble and run like Fiedler can and miss him, he can run a long ways on you. They didn’t allow him to do that in this game. They wanted him to stay in the pocket and beat them throwing the football. He may have hurt them a bit with his passing, but while the Patriots defense bent it never broke.
RRM: This was a pretty special day for you personally. You represented the 1980 Patriots during the emotional halftime ceremony, was that as exciting a moment as you have had in that stadium?
SG: They had the former players that were on hand in the stadium club which is sealed in, so you couldn’t get a good feel for the crowd. But once we got out on the field at halftime it was just electric. It really left you with a good feeling, and I’m sure for the players participating in this game is was as an emotional contest as they have ever played in.
But it was a pretty special event. We had a dinner Friday evening and a lot of old stories were told. Then to spend the next afternoon watching football with guys you’ve been so close with was a great time. At halftime we all were introduced by Gil Santos, who has been there with the organization as long as anyone, and to hear those great ovations makes you wish you could do it every year.
RRM: There was a lot of speculation on how the crowd would treat Drew Bledsoe when he was announced during the halftime ceremonies. I listened to the ceremony on the radio (it wasn’t shown on television) and was glad to hear him get a very loud and positive ovation?
SG: Drew represented the 1996 Patriots, and the fans showed great class and respect towards him with that gesture. You could see by the expression on his face that it was kind of an awkward situation for him. But I think the fans showed him how much they really appreciated what he’s done for this franchise, and I know it had to make him feel really good.
RRM: I thought the Gatorade shower for Belichick and the impromptu lap around the stadium by the players and coaches was a perfect way to end the day. What was your reaction?
SG: I think the lap around the stadium was a spur of the moment thing, and it was just a great moment to witness. I believe Belichick is the one that prompted it, and then most of the players joined in. I thought the shower the players gave Belichick right at the end of the game with the Gatorade bucket has seen it’s day and past. I think they need to come up with something else, it’s funny that the old ride-on-the-players-shoulders celebration just isn’t good enough any longer!
But you could tell the fans that remained were really appreciative of what the players were doing, that they were part of that game on Saturday and that it meant a lot to the players. It was such a contrast to what had taken place in Cleveland and New Orleans the previous week that it really put this franchise and their fans in a good light.
RRM: We’ll talk about the Patriots game against the Carolina Panthers next week. What are Grogan’s grades for the great win over the Dolphins?
SG: The defense gets an A for holding the Dolphins down, especially in the second half. They allowed only 58 yards rushing and forced Miami to throw the ball. Tebucky Jones gets a game ball for forcing two fumbles, one that set up a touchdown and another that prevented one by the Dolphins. The offense gets an A-; they ran the ball extremely well with Antowain Smith who gets a game ball for his 156 yards.
The special teams get an A this week as well. They covered kicks extremely well and got a turnover on a nicely placed kickoff by Adam Vinatieri. Ken Walter had another good game punting, too. It was just a great overall effort by a team that was playing in their biggest game of the year.
Grogan’s Grades for Week #15