Ron Marshall: Steve the clock struck midnight on the Cinderella Colts on Saturday as the Patriots started fast and finished strong to win going away 43-22. I guess you could say that the Colts simply ran out of Luck?
Steve Grogan: That’s one way of putting it. The Patriots just totally dominated. They got that running game going and that was it for the Colts.
RRM: The Patriots were able to get off to that fast start in this one with Alfonzo Dennard’s INT of Andrew Luck setting up an early touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount for a quick 7-0 lead. For some reason comebacks are harder in playoff competition and it seems the teams that get on the board quickly usually prevails in these games?
SG: Yes, when you’ve got teams of the caliber of playoff teams like we’re seeing this time of year, it’s hard to come from behind and catch somebody like that because they’ve got so much talent. that’s the reason they’re in the playoffs. When Dennard made that interception early in the game, that just kind of set the tone for the rest of the night that the Patriots had the Colts’ number and when you’re playing catch-up in the playoffs, it’s just very difficult to do that.
RRM: Blount battered the Colts’ defense into submission with his team’s postseason record-tying 166 yards on 24 carries and an eye-popping 4 touchdowns. As a former quarterback, I’m sure you’re thinking as you were watching this is that he’s making life so much easier for Tom Brady?
SG: It makes the quarterback’s job easy when you’re just turning around handing the ball to people and they’re running all over the place. That’s not the way the game’s been played the last 10 or 15 years, but it’s fun for us old-timers to watch because it’s just smash-mouth football, line-up, and see who’s the toughest out there. With the three different styles of running backs they have with the Patriots, I think that puts a lot of pressure on the defense and for me anyway, it was fun to watch and I’m sure Tom Brady enjoyed having a quiet night.
RRM: In contrast, Luck had to win this game by himself by throwing the ball. While he’s assuredly a great talent, he made some terrific throws, but four interceptions were just too much for any team to overcome?
SG: Yes, he’s a young quarterback that’s going to be a really good one. He’s got everything it takes to be the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. He’s smart, has a great personality, he’s a leader, he’s a young guy in the playoffs and I think he tried to do to much for his team. He, kind of like Brady, had a lot of people that went down this year and didn’t have much around him by the time they got to Foxboro Saturday night. But he’s going to be a good one.
RRM: It seemed everything went the Patriots way except for that bizarre play at the end of the first half when the long-snapper, Danny Aiken, pitched the ball way over punt Ryan Allen’s head. Not only did it cost the Patriots two points, but also the services of Allen the rest of the way. Wasn’t it amazing that Stephen Gostkowski did as well as he did considering he had never punted in an actual game before on any level?
SG: It was pretty amazing that he could come in there and do that. I’m sure he messes around with it in practice all the time. Kickers do that, kick balls back and forth to each other. But to go out there in a playoff and hit the ball the way he did was very impressive. If I was him, I’d be asking for a bonus of some kind to make up for the fact that I had to do more than my job [Laughs].
RRM: Dan Dierdorf deserves a ton of respect for his great career as an analyst, but perhaps it was a good thing this was his last game. I could not believe he said that Allen should have fallen on the ball at the three yard line and given his team a chance to defend against the touchdown. Even if they kept the Colts out of the end zone, it still would have been three points as opposed to the two they gave up on the safety?
SG: Yeah, I’m not sure what Dan was thinking there, and maybe he wasn’t. He’s been around a long time, seen a lot of things, you would think…and as I was sitting there watching the game I’m trying to understand what his thought process was. But you’re much better off taking the safety there than falling on the ball at the one yard line and given them probably an easy seven points.
RRM: Tom Brady had to take on the role as Gostkowski’s holder with Allen’s injury and was flawless. We’ve talked about this in the past, and I guess that’s not an easy job as one would think it might be?
SG: It’s not an easy job but we all know Tom Brady makes everything look easy. But again, it’s kind of like Gostkowski going out to punt. When you haven’t done it, and it’s an important part of the kicking game, to get the ball down properly for your field goal kicker, you get a little nervous. But Tom Brady’s not the kind of guy that’s going to get nervous, he went out and did what he had to do.
RRM: On a personal level didn’t you get to hold in I think one preseason game and it didn’t go too well?
SG: I actually held my rookie year in a game against San Francisco, I remember it vividly, and I dropped the first snap and John Smith had to pick it up and run with it. The next week, they had another holder. And I had pretty good hands I thought, but it’s not easy an easy job when that ball comes whipping back at you from seven yards.
RRM: We haven’t mentioned Jamie Collins’ name all year long and this game served as his coming out party. His ability to not only defend the run, but also rush the passer, and defend the pass must have been a real eye-opener for everyone in Patriots Nation in this game?
SG: Yes, I thought he had a great game. I heard on the radio Sunday and I didn’t realize this, that he had played linebacker, defensive back and some defensive line, all three in college, so he’s got experience at a lot of different places. I don’t know where he’s been all year, I guess learning the system. But with Brandon Spikes now gone they needed him to step up and boy, he stepped up in a big way.
RRM: Word is the NFL is mulling the possibility of adding an extra playoff team to each conference for next season and expanding the playoffs. Are you pro or con on the idea?
SG: I’m con on that. I think you water things down the more teams you add to the playoffs. I know it keeps more fans interested, but the system they’ve got right now seems to be working pretty well and I just can’t see adding another playoff team. Pretty soon you’re going to have everybody in the playoffs and have a playoff schedule that runs for two, two and a half months before you finally get to the Super Bowl and that’s too much.
RRM: Well, Peyton Manning and the Broncos held on against the Chargers to set up the dream “Brady vs Manning” match-up in the Mile High city on Sunday. Should we all pray for a blizzard in Colorado, or do the Patriots have a legitimate chance of pulling this one out on the road?
SG: I’ll tell you the Broncos, watching their game Sunday they’re very impressive but they’ve got some holes on defense. I think the Patriots have a chance but they’re going to have to play pretty close to a perfect game. I’d personally would rather see a nice day and watch the two quarterbacks, two of the best of their era, maybe ever, go head-to-head and see who’s the best rather than watch a snowstorm. But being Denver, you never know what you’re going to get.
RRM: You may get your wish because the preliminary forecast is sunny in the 50’s in Denver at kickoff on Sunday.
SG: There you go.
RRM: What are Grogan’s Grades for the 43-22 corralling of the Colts?
SG: My grade is an A+ across the board. I thought the defense played much better than I expected them to, offensively they just did what they had to do. Outside of the one bad snap on special teams, they were just close to perfect.
RRM: Well, nothing more you can add to that. How do you think they’ll solve the punting problem if Allen can’t go this week? Do they bring in another punter or do they have Gostkowksi do it again?
SG: I’m sure they’ll bring another punter in. But right now, I think it’s too early to tell what they’re going to do.
RRM: It could be an important thing that comes up in the game though?
SG: Oh, it will be. I mean you watch the game, the wind can get blowing in Denver and you can get a nice day in Denver but the wind can blow like crazy and if you don’t have a veteran punter back there that’s been through those kind of experiences it can cause a lot of problems.
RRM: OK, we’ll reconvene next week and hopefully we’ll have a good result to talk about from out west.
SG: We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
GROGAN’S GRADE: AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS: