New England at Denver
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, the Patriots were off to a good start in Denver and then everything sort of hit the fan. The wheels came off in the fourth quarter and the result was a 31-20 loss. Did youth finally catch up with Tom Brady?
Steve Grogan: Tom Brady played a wonderful football game for three quarters, and then I think late in the game (not only him but the rest of the team) he kind of got rattled when Denver made a comeback. Denver is a tough place to play when the crowd gets into the game.
The Patriots got a little rattled in the fourth quarter and Brady tried to do too much. He got caught up in everything going on and tried to put the ball in places he shouldn’t have been putting it, and it cost him. You expect that at some point in time to happen to a young quarterback like him, but I think, but from what I read he is handling it well and will come back strong next week.
RRM: Brady set a new NFL record for rookies by not tossing an interception in his first 162 pass attempts. Then in the fourth quarter he couldn’t seem to NOT stop throwing anything but interceptions. What happened?
SG: Well, four interceptions is a lot in one quarter. It is frustrating and embarrassing to do that; trust me, I have been there. I never threw four in a quarter, but four in a game many times. Sometimes you start pressing a little bit and you try to make the big play, and in his case I think he thought he was bulletproof. Everything had been going so well for him and he found out that the bulletproof vest didn’t work yesterday. I’ve been there myself, but not four in a quarter mind you! The club record is six in one game so he’ll have to go some to beat that one!
RRM: In today’s day and age where every team is looking for a quick fix, do you think that Tom Brady is already solidified himself as a starter on maybe some other team next year?
SG: I think Tom Brady has shown that he can play in this league for somebody. I would be surprised if the Patriots were to trade him to another team without getting a whole lot in return. He still has a way to go to develop. There is no question that he has the tools to be a starter in the NFL.
RRM: The Patriots defense continued to yield yardage at an alarming rate against Denver. How did you gauge their performance?
SG: I didn’t think the Patriot defense played very well, particularly in the second half. They gave up a big pass play on the 65-yard catch and run by Rod Smith which really hurt. The play where Matt Stevens didn’t touch down Denver tight end Desmond Clark that ended up in a 35-yard gain by the Broncos was a high school play.
It is the old bend but don’t break mentality that Belichick’s defense has, but this defense was bending way too much again, and I think that is a couple of weeks in a row they have done that now. The offense played well enough for them to win the game, and I think that if they had the lead you wouldn’t have seen the interceptions. Defensively they have to clear up some problems and start shutting people down a little more. To be honest I think we have reason to be concerned about this defense.
RRM: At exactly what point did you feel this game got away from them?
SG: I think there were two plays that really turned this game around. One was that long touchdown pass to Smith that got Denver back in the game, and then the Brady interception in the back of the endzone when he could have thrown it away or at least gotten a field goal and made Denver start over again.
RRM: Was that a bad throw by Brady, or did Denver’s Denard Walker just make a great interception on that play?
SG: Walker made a good play, and you really can’t fault Brady for trying to make something happen. But a veteran quarterback (and this will be a good learning experience for him) had to be thinking at least field goal down there, along with just don’t do anything stupid. Brady put the ball high and away and the guy just made a good play on it. Those two plays I thought were key turning points in the came.
RRM: With the loss the Patriots now fall to 3-4. While the AFC East isn’t exactly wide open, there still is an opportunity for them. Games against Miami and the Jets still remain, so this team still looks to have a shot?
SG: I think there is still a shot for them to win the Eastern Division, and fortunately yesterday was not a division game. It still hurts, but it doesn’t hurt as much as it would had the loss been to a divisional opponent. There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut theme in the AFC East, with no team apparently going to pull away from the pack. They’ll just have to keep plugging and try to keep getting better. Brady will get better next week; there is no question in my mind about that. But I am really concerned right now with the defense and the kind of yards they are giving up to people.
RRM: Bryan Cox went down with what appears to be a broken leg. He was quite vocal about saying he was the victim of a cheap shot delivered by Denver’s Dan Neil. What was your opinion of the play?
SG: What I saw on the replay looked like the offensive lineman kind of hit his ankle from behind, and that sometimes can cause a break in the small bone in the lower leg. If that is what he’s got he is going to be out at least four or five weeks, and that’s something they don’t need to happen right now.
It happened to me one time against Cleveland and I thought I had sprained my ankle badly. Afterwards they x-rayed it and I had finished the game with a broken leg, and I actually practiced two weeks later until it broke even worse from the pressure running around on it. I thought it was a good sign that was able to get off the field himself, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
RRM: Cox has never been shy about voicing his opinions and he said there is a double standard in the NFL. The league goes out of its way to protect quarterbacks from defensive players, but when linemen take shots at defensive players outside the hash marks with those cut blocks and end up tearing up a knee it doesn’t come down on the offenders hard enough. Do you think he has a point?
SG: I think the league tries to protect all the players the best they can. Do they protect quarterbacks more than other players? Absolutely, and that is because of what a quarterback is compared to other players. I don’t think the league is looking at it saying if Bryan Cox breaks his leg, we don’t care; it is just part of the game.
The rules are you can cut block inside the box and you can’t cut block outside of it. It was hard to really see on the replay, but I don’t think the guy was intentionally trying to get him. I think he was just trying to clip the back of his feet to make sure he didn’t get out on the play, and unfortunately it caught him a little higher than he probably planned on.
RRM: This Patriots’ defense has been struggling recently, and now with the loss of Cox things seem even bleaker. Can they survive the loss of their leader?
SG: It will be a tougher struggle. He may not be the kind of football player he used to be, but he is still a great leader out there. He knows what the defense needs to accomplish, and if you lose a guy like that somebody is going to have to step up big time. Ted Johnson is back and playing well and that is good.
The only other bright spot on defense yesterday I thought was Willie McGinest. He had been out for quite some time and he came back yesterday and had an impact on the game. He had two sacks and it’s good to see him back, and that will certainly help. But losing Bryan Cox will definitely hurt them.
RRM: The Terry Glenn saga continues. Both Belichick and he went back and forth at each other last week, and no one seems to know what’s going on with his leg injury. Is Glenn dogging it?
SG: Well, I don’t know if he’s dogging it. He’s got a leg injury, and if they sent him for an MRI then they must feel like he does have a problem. The question now is do you rush him back out on the field until the thing is healed? Hamstrings take a long time. If you wait until it is totally healed he is not going to be able to play for another four to five weeks, so they have some real question marks right now.
I think the wide receivers are playing well without him at this point in time. It would surprise me to see Terry Glenn hear next year after all that has gone on this year. He’s definitely is a good football player, he just has to get himself healthy and get his head straightened out.
RRM: Our fan question of the week is directed at the play-calling of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. The Patriots seemed to get a little more conservative in the second half with their play-calling. Did you find that to be the case?
SG: Maybe a little bit, but not a lot. I think when you have a lead in Denver you don’t want to do anything stupid in your play-calling. David Patten’s interception off the reverse came in the first half, but that play didn’t kill them because it was early in the game (that play worked last week and Weis was a hero, but it backfired this week so now he’s a bum!
But I think after Brady threw the first interception and Denver went back down and scored on the next drive that got them behind and suddenly Brady started to press a little bit. I know what his mentality was: “I want to make a big play; I want to get us back in it”, but by then it was tough. So I think it is a learning experience for him. You can’t do too much yourself sometimes. Sometimes you’ve got to be conservative, particularly in a place like that and take the three points on that one drive and see if your defense can get it back for you.
RRM: The Patriots seem to run the ball well but it kind of came in spurts. Were you surprised they didn’t try to mix the run in a little bit more?
SG: I thought they had gotten back to the routine where they were going to stay with the running game and try to pound on people even if it wasn’t overly productive. I thought that even though they averaged pretty good yards per rush that was inflated by a Troy Brown 31-yard reverse, and Antowain Smith only had 12 carries (12 for 56 yards for a 4.7 yard average). You have to get the ball in your running back’s hands 20 times a game if you are really committed to running the football, and they didn?t do that yesterday.
RRM: This week the Patriots visit the Falcons in Atlanta. What will be the key for them in this game?
SG: I really don’t know much about Atlanta. They are not a great football team, but when you play them in their place in the Georgia Dome (another loud place) you just have to go in there and not make mistakes and play a whole football game. The third quarter has not been killing the Patriots this year. They’ve given up a ton of points and they haven’t scored many in the third quarter, so they have to finger out how to play a four-quarter football game. If they do that they will have a chance to win. They have to shake off that fourth quarter in Denver and focus on this week’s game against the Falcons.
RRM: This will make the third straight road game for the Patriots. For some reason in the NFL if you play on the road for three straight weeks in a row by the third week a team seems to tune out mentally. Did you find that to be the case when you played?
SG: It is tough when you are on the road three weeks in a row. There is no question about that, but this was a tough loss and I think a game they felt like they probably should have won this one. That may be some incentive this week to crank it up a little bit in practice and try to win two of three on the road, which I think would be a pretty good accomplishment for this club.
RRM: Everyone has been wondering how Tom Brady would perform after a loss in which he threw a few interceptions. I guess we will see this week?
SG: Yes, I think it is going to be interesting to see how he responds and how the guys around him respond. In no way, shape, or form do I think he lost that game yesterday, but again I think he had the bulletproof mentality that, “I can do just about anything I want to do”, and he found out yesterday that sometimes it is better to be wise than bold.
RRM: I guess the NFL does have a way of humbling players at times?
SG: It sure does. I can think back to my second year in the league. It was my first year as a fulltime starter and we had won three games in a row after beating the Dolphins, the Steelers, and the Raiders. We then went to Detroit, and the Lions were a terrible football team, and I think I threw four interceptions in that game and we got beat pretty badly. So you have games like that as a young quarterback, and you have them as an old quarterback, too. There are just some days when things just don’t go your way.
RRM: What are Grogan’s grades for the effort against the Broncos?
SG: I thought they played pretty good football for close to three quarters and then it all kind of fell apart. That fourth quarter just killed them. They got rattled by the crowd after Denver got ahead, and I thought that hurt them offensively. They had that stupid motion penalty that was partly caused by the crowd, and they also used all three of their timeouts before the end of the third quarter. The defense gave up some big plays at most inopportune times. They just seemed to get rattled on both sides of the ball in the second half, and that doesn’t go well in Denver. Overall it was a below average effort.
Grogan’s Grades for Week #7