FOXBOROUGH – Bill Belichick calls his first timeout of the second half with 18 seconds left in the third quarter. Why? To save time for a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski while he still had the wind at his back.
The field goal, which was good, gave the Patriots their first lead of the game at 20-17. The decision to call timeout was underscored earlier in the period, where a game-changing moment transformed a Miami Dolphins domination of the Patriots into the opposite. Early in the third quarter and against a stiff breeze blowing left to right, Caleb Sturgis tried a 46-yard field goal and doinked it off the right upright. The Dolphins were leading at the time, 17-3, but the Patriots went off on a 24-0 run to defeat the Dolphins, 27-17 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Prior to that doink, the Dolphins had completely dominated a Patriot team that looked lazy and disinterested, almost if they were taking a long siesta in the first half.
To underscore how badly the Patriots looked in the first half, the numbers can tell the story. The Dolphins outgained the Patriots, 175-59. At one point, the Dolphins had more first downs (six) than the Patriots had total yards (four). Tom Brady threw a pick on his first pass, passed for only 25 first half yards, and had a rating of 38.0. The Patriots had one long first half drive, going 43 yards in 13 plays culminating in a 34-yard field goal by Gostkowski. Other than that, the Patriots looked completely listless on both sides of the ball and let Ryan Tannehill (106.7 first half passer rating) and running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas (103 combined first half rushing yards) completely dictate the game.
But after Sturgis's miss, an invisible pendulum swung back towards the home team.
Right off the bat, Stevan Ridley broke off a 23-yard run. Two plays later, Rob Gronkowski hauled in a pass over the middle of the same length. Two plays later, on second down and six at the Miami 14, Brady withstood a withering rush from Philip Wheeler and managed to loft a pretty scoring toss to Aaron Dobson to make it 17-10 Miami. Dobson ran a beautiful stop and go pattern and left Nolan Carroll in his wake wondering what just happened.
The Dolphins got the ball back, and two plays later Tannehill was strip sacked by Logan Ryan. Rob Ninkovich picked up the fumble and scooted in for the touchdown, but Ninkovich was ruled down by contact at the Dolphin 13. Three plays later, Brandon Bolden ran it in from two yards out and the game was tied with two Patriot touchdowns 44 seconds apart.
The teams exchanged punts, and with time running out in the third quarter, the Patriots were able to move into field goal range. Belichick took the unusual step of calling a timeout to stop the clock in the third quarter, but with the wind at their backs, Gostkowski was able to give the Pats the lead at 20-17 with a 47-yard wind-aided field goal as the third quarter ended.
The Patriot defense took over in the fourth quarter. The Patriots managed to sack Tannehill six times, four of them coming in the fourth quarter. Marquice Cole had a nice interception early in the fourth quarter after receiving a nice tipped deep ball from Devin McCourty and just managing to stay in bounds. Cole would later thwart another Dolphin scoring drive when he managed to block a Sturgis field goal attempt from 39 yards out.
The Patriots iced the game with a 12-play, 67-yard drive off the Cole interception, with Ridley running it in from two yards out. The Patriots scored 14 points off the first two Miami turnovers (Tannehill also threw a late pick to Duron Harmon on the last play of the game on a desperation heave downfield), and seized control of the game very suddenly from the Dolphins who had controlled the first 34:42 of the game.
Brady's final numbers were underwhelming, going 13 for 22 passing for 116 yards and a touchdown. He had the first quarter pick and finished with only a 69.5 rating. But his numbers were still better than Tannehill's, as the Miami quarterback finished with 22 of 42 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns. His two picks lowered his rating to 60.8.
Despite better passing yardage than Brady, Tannehill's leading receiver was former Steeler Mike Wallace with only 41 yards, and three other receivers had 30 or more yards. Dobson led the Patriots with 60 yards receiving.
Both offenses were paced by the running backs. Miller and Thomas were better contained in the second half and finished with 136 combined rushing yards. Ridley and LeGarrette Blount combined for 125 yards rushing, and all four backs averaged over four yards per carry (Thomas and Ridley were over five yards per carry).
Brady himself was sacked three times, as both defenses were able to tee off on the other quarterback. Jared Odrick had two of the three Dolphin sacks of Brady. Logan Ryan led the Patriots with two sacks of Tannehill.
If the Dolphins had any complaints about the tide turning in this game, they could maybe look at two penalties called which happened in key moments of the game.
In the second quarter, as the Patriots were driving towards their first field goal, the drive was extended by a pass interference call on Jimmy Wilson while he was covering Gronkowski on an intermediate middle pattern. Replays showed that Wilson never really impeded Gronkowski. Then in the fourth quarter, as the Patriots were driving towards the clinching touchdown, Wilson moved in and strip-sacked Brady at the Dolphin 31. The ball was batted backwards by Ollivier Vernon and covered by Nate Solder back at the Miami 45. Instead of a 15-yard loss on a sack, Vernon was penalized for illegally batting the ball and the Patriots had the ball on a ten-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage. This rule smacks of the famous 1978 "Holy Roller" play by Dave Casper of the Oakland Raiders (which prohibits batting fumbled balls forward, not backward), and replays did not clearly show that Vernon intentionally batted the ball.
The Patriots will have none of this, of course. A 30-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski late in the third quarter was wiped out on a holding call on Solder. Solder really did commit a legit holding penalty, literally tackling Vernon as he converged on Brady.
The Patriots did avoid their second straight division loss, something that hadn't happened since 2006. The win somewhat freshens the air after the stench of last week's controversial loss. Once the Patriots realized they were in a game, they woke up and blew the Dolphins out of Gillette Stadium.
The waking up part is nice, but those who insist on sixty full minutes of football know what they're talking about.
What just happened?
A question a lot of Patriots fans around the country asked themselves several times on Sunday. The New England Patriots lost in overtime to the New York Jets 30-27 in the week seven matchup.
The Pats had the game under control at the half, but the Jets battled back to start the third quarter and it quickly turned into a dogfight. New England's offense was sloppy and their defense, a unit that had played exceptional through the first six weeks of the season, looked lost. The recent injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib certainly looked like a huge factor.
To New York's credit, they played a solid game. The Jets had some success early, grabbed momentum in the second half and made more plays to win the game. It seemed as if the Jets offense was on the field the entire contest.
After a game like that, there's a lot to digest and discuss. Here are five thoughts on Sunday's contest, in this week's Monday Hangover. --
1.) The penalty on rookie Chris Jones was the right call, but egregious timing: The Patriots did not deserve to win the game on Sunday, but they did not deserve to lose the way they did either. The penalty, which was just put in place this off-season and had not been called by an official to that point, was correct by the letter of the rule.
"Rule 913: Team B (defense) players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into offensive formation."
My biggest gripe with the call was the situation. To me, it was similar to calling a pass interference on a hailmary. What Jones did happens very frequently around the NFL. It's understood the league wants to implement the rule for player safety, but to call a penalty on a player that had no impact on the play and ultimately decide the game was a disgrace. Overall, it left a very bad taste in your mouth if you were a Patriots fan.
2.) The Patriots deserved to lose: As I previously mentioned, the Patriots did not deserve to win Sunday. The offense was stagnant, the offensive line gave up four sacks, the turnover battle was even and the Jets had the ball for a whopping 46 minutes (46:13) in time of possession. Fans can point to questionable play calling or bad calls by the referees, but lack of overall execution was the reason New England left MetLife Stadium with their second loss on the year.
3.) Tom Brady has to play better: There's blame to go around in a loss like this one. That being said, it starts with the most important player on the team, quarterback. For the second time in three weeks, Brady did not throw a touchdown pass. His accuracy was off for the majority of the contest and he threw a costly interception near the beginning of the third quarter that Jets safety Antonio Allen returned for a touchdown.
Even if you're a Brady apologist and have pointed to the poor offensive line play or lack of weapons for him to work with this season, he still needs to play better than he has through seven games. Completing only 48 percent of his passes is just unacceptable.
After the game Brady said, "We just haven't been good on third down all year. Obviously, that's a big problem. We certainly need to be better on third downs and in the red area... You're not going to win many football games going 1 of 12... No excuses. We just didn't play well. I (have) to do a better job out there. That's what I need to do." Quote courtesy of ESPNBoston.com.
4.) Gronkowski's return a bright spot: Tight end Rob Gronkowski made his 2013 debut and finished with eight catches for 114 yards on the afternoon. The 24-year-old wore a huge black sleeve on his left arm and took a few big hits to the area during the game, undoubtedly leaving some spectators -- including myself -- holding their breath. It was great to see him back on the field for New England.
Some say the Patriots forced the ball to Gronkowski throughout the contest. While he was targeted 17 times, 10 more than the next receivers (7) Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson, it's hard to make that argument. Gronkowski is the Pats best offensive weapon and he brings an incredibly tough matchup for opposing defenses. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. But in his first game back, his performance was a silver lining. The production was immediate and the efficiency will come as he settles back into the offense.
5.) Health is key moving forward, but keep loss in perspective: Health is the biggest factor right now for the Patriots. The aforementioned losses of Wilfork (achilles) and Mayo (pectoral) will be tough to overcome, but Talib (hip) and Tommy Kelly (knee) are expected return in the coming weeks. Running back Shane Vereen (wrist) is eligible to return following the bye in week 11. Danny Amendola (concussion) and Gronkowski have yet to be on the field together this season. Presuming Amendola returns and Gronkowski stays healthy, the offense will get a big boost in play making ability. It's just about putting the pieces together and continuing the development of young players in the meantime.
After almost any loss, it's easy to lose perspective and over-react to any deficiencies by the team. There's no question the Patriots have to improve and get better. That being said, it's just one game. New England is still atop the division and hold a 5-2 record on the season. The loss narrows the gap, but the season is not over by any stretch.
For now, the Patriots must correct their mistakes and work to improve moving forward. New England returns home next week to host the division rival Miami Dolphins.
Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!
So the New England Patriots lost to the New York Jets 30-27 on Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands as the Jets got a do-over after Nick Folk missed a 56 yard field goal in overtime and the Patriots were penalized for "pushing" on the kick.
Instead of taking over at the their own 46, the Jets got the ball with a fresh set of downs at the 23 where they set themselves up for a much easier Folk field goal for the win. While a horrible time to unleash a new rule on the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass in overtime, it wasn't the reason the Patriots lost the game... far from it. More about that later, but the numbers bear out the Patriots had no business winning this one.
Number 1: The Patriots lost first because of the number 1, or the amount of third downs they converted on the day. One of 12 third downs isn't going to beat many teams and the Jets made them pay for having transparent play calling and once again shoddy play across the board at many times by the offense.
Too many opportunities to convert first downs were allowed to slip by the boards and the third quarter was an absolute disaster for New England. Credit the Jets defense for playing well and having a good game plan, but this team has been shooting itself in the foot all season and today (as in Cincinnati) they were made to pay. No monsoon rains to blame it on, they didn't execute.
Number 4: The amount of passes Tom Brady completed down the field where the ball traveled more than 10 yards. Brady was only four of 20 when throwing down the field on throws of more than 10 yards. Last season he was throwing around 50 percent. This season he's at 34 percent and it is not going to get it done.
Again credit the Jets defense, but on Sunday a lion's share of the offensive woes belongs at #12's feet. His accuracy has left a lot to be desired in that category all season.
Number 8: Another reason they lost on Sunday, was the Patriots only completed eight passes to Rob Gronkowski which normally wouldn't be a bad thing except that they threw to him 17 times.
Gronkowski was dealing with some rust issues but looked to be in very good physical condition; he played 51 of 79 offensive snaps and didn't look winded on the field which is a good sign. While some of the passes to Gronkowski were defensed, there are two he'd love to have back.
A third down pass at the pylon where he couldn't see the ball in the sun on a pass from Tom Brady nearly hit him in the head that would have resulted in a touchdown. And another on the Patriots final drive in regulation, Gronkowski was wide open inside the ten yard line and in perfect position to go in for a winning touchdown. But he opted for a one-handed grab that eluded him as he was bringing it in and the team again had to settle for three points.
Number 11: The amount of carries that Stevan Ridley got on Sunday against the Jets, while he did manage 50 yards on those carries, it was far too few for this "balanced offense" to click.
The Patriots entered the season intent on being balanced and with a renewed commitment to running the ball. So why does your best running back only carry the ball 11 times in an OT game? It defies description....
Other observations from Sunday include:
Play calling far too predictable: The Patriots offense and particularly the play-calling of Josh McDaniel has fallen into a very predictable pattern and it was never so transparent as at the end of the first half and into the third quarter.
Passes on first down and runs on second down were gone to once too many times and the Jets stuffed the Patriots at the end of the half and the entire third quarter. The result was going from a 21-10 lead to a 27-21 deficit.
Once the Patriots opted to hit a few first down runs when backed inside their own 10 yard line in the fourth quarter, they gained good yardage and were able to put together a nice drive. The question begs itself, and it's far from a new one, 'Why did they wait so long to adjust?'
After having Gronkowski wide open down the seams early, McDaniels opted to use him on the perimeter with passes in the flat or down the sideline. Once the coaches All-22 tape is available, it will bear a second look but they went back to the seams on the final drive in regulation and they were successful. So the question once is again, why go away from it.
Gronkowski Is Important To This Offense: No doubt about it, this is a different offense when big #87 is on the field and as stated earlier, he looked in good shape wearing a big Barry Bonds type arm protector. His timing may have been off and we already mentioned the two passes he'd like to have back, but he didn't seem to be suffering from any ill-effects on the many surgeries and was a big, physical presence, in other words....like Gronk.
His eight catches for 114 yards, while good numbers for sure aren't what they should have been today. And once the rust is gone, will most certainly go up. He made a great block on Brandon Bolden's touchdown run after hauling in a big catch down inside the five yard line in the first quarter. Overall it was a good first performance from a guy who hadn't played in nine months.
Defense Showing Cracks: While the defense stepped up when it had to and made some critical stops to give the offense a chance to win, helped in part by some horrible play calling by the Jets as well, the fact of the matter is the Jets offense pushed them around for much of the day.
Geno Smith picked them apart early and converted the first six third downs of the game, the Patriots really missed Jerod Mayo in covering tight end Jeff Cumberland who tortured Dont'a Hightower for much of the game.
The Patriots were missing a lot of people but the Jets offense is hardly a potent unit. One thing was that the Jets were expected to test the middle of the defense and they did, but overall the unit played well. Chris Ivory gained 104 yards but on 34 carries which only averages out to a 3.1 yard per carry.
Jones Penalty, Costly: As was stated prior, the penalty on Chris Jones is a new rule and was called for the first time in the league on Sunday's game against the Patriots which gave the Jets a new set of downs in which they ultimately won the game.
The rule, Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 that states: "Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation." Jones in fact did push Will Svitek but was initially lined up on the line of scrimmage.
Bill Belichick who was livid on the field, was adamant but more stoic after the game. "You can't push on the second level," he said. "I didn't think we did that."
It was a heck of a time for the league to enforce a rule that is broken on every kick, in overtime on a Hail Mary 56 yard field goal attempt but in the words of Belichick, it is what it is.... Somewhere Ray Hamilton feels Chris Jones' pain.
Ultimately however it wasn't the reason the Patriots lost but just the final number of many that put the nail in the coffin on Sunday.
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at email@example.com
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.
R.R. Marshall Steve after another inconsistent performance from Tom Brady, he seemed to turn back into his former Hall of Fame self and led the Patriots to a heart-stopping last second touchdown drive to pull out a pulsating 30-27 victory over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints. Even Bill Belichick said that this game took five years off of his life. How about you?
Steve Grogan: It didn't take any years off my life, but it sure was exciting to watch. Just when you think you've seen Tom Brady do everything, he just does something, pulls a rabbit out of his hat. I think this has to be one of the most satisfying come-from behind victories in his career having done it with the guys he has to throw the ball to right now. He's got to be feeling real good about what happened Sunday.
RRM: Well, the Patriots certainly did a lot of things right in this game but it appeared, as is the case with many teams with a lot of young players, they just wouldn't be able to close it out. Does a win like this bring the team up another notch on the maturity level?
SG: I think it absolutely gives them a level of confidence that hasn't been there. To go out and make plays like that at the end of the game to help win it, that boosts everybody's confidence. Offense, defense, special teams, it's good for everybody and this is going to make this team better.
RRM: As exciting as this game was, can you tell me in the space of just three minutes how the Saints receiver Stills got open in the end zone on a 3rd-and-20 situation, and then Kenbrell Thompkins gets one-on-coverage on the last play of the game. Didn't it look like Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was going to just break down and cry at the end?
SG: Yeah, Ryan wasn't too happy, which makes a lot of Patriots fans happy, that's for sure. Football's a funny game, the one that the Saints got there toward the end, double coverage, [Alfonzo] Dennard was inches from breaking that pass up, [Steve] Gregory got there right at the last second and the kid held onto the ball to go ahead and take the lead in the game. It was good coverage, just a better throw and catch. And then the same thing at the other end with the Patriots. You leave one-on-one coverage, I'm sure the Saints probably felt like they were going to go to [Julian] Edelman, that's kind of been who he was targeting the whole drive, Edelman or [Austin] Collie, who came off the bench and made a couple big catches. They figured the rookie receivers on the outside would be the last guys Brady would be thinking about throwing the ball to and he surprised everybody, and it worked.
RRM: Well, anyone who says the running game has no place in modern Pro Football can't use this game as their argument. The Patriots seemingly ran the ball at will with Stevan Ridley in the first half and ended up controlling the game, and then things switched 180-degrees in the second half when the Saints grounded it out against the Patriots and got back into the game. Did you see that as a really big factor in this game?
SG: I think it was a big factor. It was good to see Ridley back and running the ball well and when you're running it well, I think the protection was better for Brady in the first half, the second half when they weren't running it that well, the protection wasn't that great. And then the Saints on the other side of the ball, they kind of got the control of the game back with their running game and gave [Drew] Brees an opportunity to hit some plays down the field in the passing game. So there's no question the running game is important in every football game.
RRM: Going into the game it was a given that the Patriots had to account for who just might be the best tight end in football in Jimmy Graham, but to hold him to zero catches...?
SG: Great effort by Aqib Talib. Great coaching decision by Belichick and his staff to do that with Talib who was all over Graham all day. And the when Talib left the game, you figured that was going to be a major setback and they had a couple of other guys that came in and shut Graham down. I thought it was a great defensive scheme that Belichick and his staff came up with to stop Graham.
RRM: Taking Graham out of the game seem to just muzzle Drew Brees, who just didn't play anywhere near the level he had been through his team's first five games. Were you suprised he wasn't able to adjust better to what Bill Belichick and the Patriots were doing?
SG: A little bit surprised, yes. He's got some other weapons...Marques Colston, they actually took him out of the game too, I think he only had one catch. So the secondary was really playing well Sunday and Brees didn't make the adjustments that he needed to make and it wound up costing them.
RRM: Of course the trade off in the big win were injuries to Jerod Mayo, Aqib Talib, and Danny Amendola who all left before the end of the game and I guess Mayo was spotted with his arm in a sling after the game. You just have to wonder how many more hits this team can take and continue to be able to overcome?
SG: That is a big question mark. They're losing players fairly regularly on a weekly basis, and that puts a lot of pressure on everybody. I guess time will tell how it's going to affect them, but you can't lose too many of your big name guys and continue to play at the level they've been playing at. It's going to be tough for the next few weeks until they can maybe start getting some of these guys back.
RRM: Well, the Rob Gronkowski saga continues. Several sources report that the Patriots players are tired of watching Gronk go all out in practice during the week and then not showing up on Sunday. No matter how you spell it out, this is not a good situation and very "un-Patriot-Like". Where do you see this all heading?
SG: I think the reports that the players are upset are probably exaggerated. Most players understand that guys that are on the team want to play and they want to be a part of things. If Gronkowski's not out there, it means he doesn't feel like he's ready to go. There may be some squabbling between Gronkowski's people and the Patriots' front office. That's happened in the past where players get opinions from their doctor and it doesn't agree with what the Patriots' doctors are saying. But I think we all know that Rob Gronkowski enjoys playing football. He's a great football player and if he could be out there, I think he'd be out there. So I think we're going to just have to hold tight to his schedule and when he feels like it and gets back out there, that's when it will be.
RRM: Did you ever run across this type of situation when you were a player and if so, as a team leader, how would you have handled it?
SG: Actually back in our day, they didn't allow you to see other doctors so it was pretty much what the team doctor told you to do. When he told you you could get back out there, you went back out and played. It would have been nice maybe sometimes to have that second opinion, but we didn't. I think as a team leader, you just have to realize as I said earlier, Gronkowski wants to play football. That's what he's there to do, and he'll get back out there when he feels like he's best suited to get back out there.
RRM: Well, Peyton Manning took it easy on the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend, only putting up 35 points against them. Can I please send a personal message to everyone out there who took Denver and the points and say, "HA, HA, HA!"
SG: [Laughs] I don't pay a whole lot of attention to what point spreads are. That's not part of what I think football's about. But I did hear about that this week and nobody wins by those kinds of scores in the NFL, particularly when everybody thinks you're going to win by that kind of score. I'm glad Jacksonville hung in there with them.
RRM: Next up is a trip to scenic New Jersey for the rematch with Rex Ryan's Jets, who got beaten up by the previously unbeaten Steelers on Sunday. After a game that took a toll on the Patriots both physically and emotionally, I'm thinking maybe this isn't the best opponent for them to face the week after a game like this?
SG: Actually, it's probably good that they're playing somebody they've already played this year. They've got an idea what the personnel are like and the kind of things that they like to do on offense and defense as opposed to a team you only see every couple of years. So it's always tough to go to New York and win. It's always tough to play the Jets, it's a great rivalry. I think this will be a good football game assuming not too many guys are out for the game. I think it's going to be a good one.
RRM: The Jets defense gave the Patriots fits the first time around. Do you expect more of the same, or do you think things might be a little crisper on offense this time around?
SG: I think things might be a little crisper on offense but the Jets defense always comes up with a new wrinkle every time they play the Patriots. So it's not going to be a cake walk. They're going to have to stay ready, be ready to adjust during the game, and if they do that they're still a better team than the Jets.
RRM: And before we get to the grades, just a reminder the Patriots Alumni's "Game With The Greats on Sunday," check it out at PatriotsAlumni.com. A great time will be had by all and I know it's one of your favorite events of the year?
SG: It's a great event and we talked about it last week. They can go to PatriotsAlumni.com and get all the information, come to the stadium, watch the game with 25 or 30 former Patriots, get autographs, take pictures, and then watch the game on big screen televisions or out in the stadium on big screens. It's a great take.
RRM: And what's even better is people who read this column can come up to you and say, "I disagree with your grades going back to week two".
SG: [Laughs] That's why I try to find a corner so nobody can do that to me.
RRM: What are Grogan's Grades for the scintillating 30-27 over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints.
SG: Boy, this was a tough one to grade. I thought both offense and defense played really well at times and they played really poorly at times. The offensive line did a great job for a while, but Brady got sacked five times. The defense was shutting down the Saints and then they gave up some easy scores. So it's a really tough one to grade but I think those things happen when two good teams play so I'm going to give an A- all the way around Sunday. I thought it was a great effort. Nobody gave up, you're playing a very, very good football team, to come out with a victory that deserves an A, A-.
RRM: I know you don't like to do this but considering he had his career long and his three field goals ended up being the difference, the game ball to Stephen Gostkowski?
SG: Absolutely. That was a big kick in the game. I thought special teams was a big factor Sunday all the way around. They had great coverage on kickoffs and punts. They just played really well on special teams Sunday.
Grogan's Grades: Week 6:
Special Teams A
An unbelievably stunning finish capped the New England Patriots thrilling 30-27 win over the previously unbeaten New Orleans Saints as Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins for the winning touchdown with five seconds left.
The Patriots got three chances in the final minutes as their defense kept getting them the ball back, and with 1:13 left on the clock with no timeouts the stage was set for Brady. He struggled in the second half but was able to connect on 5 of 8 throws on the final drive to gain the win. It was Brady's 38th career fourth quarter comeback win.
The win puts the Patriots at 5-1 and in good position in the AFC East with a game and half lead on the Miami Dolphins and a 2 game lead on the New York Jets, whom they play next Sunday in the Meadowlands.
Here are some observations from Sunday's win:
Another Costly Victory: The Patriots got even more banged up on Sunday with injuries occurring on both sides of the ball. Guard Dan Connolly left with a head injury and didn't return..
Danny Amendola left the game with a concussion after a vicious but clean hit while running the ball out of bounds. Amendola lay motionless for several moments while being tended to by Patriots doctor Thomas Gill and the training staff.
Aqib Talib left the game in the second half with an apparent hip injury, initially called a hamstring. He tried to return but left for good a few plays later.
Jerod Mayo left the game with a right shoulder injury and was seen leaving Gillette Stadium after the game with his arm in a sling. Already missing two vital cogs in the middle of the defense, Mayo's loss could be devastating down the road.
Talib Shines In Shutting Down Graham: In our "Razor's Edge" matchups on Thursday we said the Patriots may opt to cover Saints tight end Jimmy Graham with Talib and that was exactly what they did.
And the results were even better than the coaching staff could have hoped for, the Patriots held Graham without a catch for the first time since the 2010 season and the lion's share of the credit goes to Talib who was fantastic yet again.
Graham had four games in a row with over 100 yards receiving coming in and as he usually does, Bill Belichick had a plan to take him away. Talib followed him wherever he went and was able to shut him down.
2013 Defense Is For Real: The Patriots defense has played very well this season, allowing an average of only 14 points per game prior to yesterday's game with the Saints. But a common refrain has been, "they haven't played anyone", "they've faced two rookie QBs" etc. Well no more. The Saints have a very explosive offense, one with a myriad of weapons and although they did score 27 points, overall the Patriots defense deserves high marks.
Drew Brees came in completing nearly 70 percent of his throws and he and Graham had been shredding defenses weekly. But on Sunday, Brees completed less than 50 percent of his throws (17 for 36) and passed for only 230 yards, his lowest output of the season and far below his average of 326.8 yards per game coming in.
Graham was shut out (see above) and even after Talib went down, the defense was able to rally and move the pieces around to give their offense a chance to win the game. This Patriots secondary is far advanced of where they were a year ago at this time. Considering Belichick's teams usually get better as the season wears on, this is a great positive. The only sticking point right now is the myriad of injuries hitting the unit.
Ridley is Back: It's safe to say that the Patriots missed Stevan Ridley last week in Cincinnati. Both LaGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden filled in well in his absence but neither has the vision nor the quickness of hitting the holes with the consistency that Ridley does.
Ridley had a very good game on Sunday, and helped take the onus off of the passing offense to the tune of 96 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. Ridley ran hard and protected the ball whenever he got in traffic against a ball-hawking Saints defense. His running in the red zone was a welcome sight, as the team has struggled there this season.
Brady Hangs In, Delivers: After what was a brilliant first half, despite having great pressure on him constantly Brady struggled in the second half (4 of 13, 33 yards) until that final drive. But he got the job done on an eight play, 70 yard drive culminating with a beauty of a pass to Thompkins in the left corner of the end zone just over the outstretched arm of Jabari Greer.
It wasn't pretty, there were still plenty of wrong routes, still too many dropped passes especially during a sequence with three minutes left and misses by Brady. He had Amendola streaking down the middle of the field all alone in what would have been an 83 yard touchdown but rifled the ball too high.
But on the final drive he put it together and got the job done, starting with a 23 yard laser to Julian Edelman down the middle, it got the Patriots from their 30 yard line to the Saints side of the field in one play and set the stage for the final heroics by both he and Thompkins.
The Slot Receiver Position is in Fine Hands Thank You Very Much: With the struggles of the Patriots passing game, the familiar refrain and hand-wringing has centered around the departure of a certain receiver now in Denver. It can stop now....please.
The Patriots struggles throwing the ball have nothing, zero, zilch, nada to do with that receiver being gone. The wide receivers outside the numbers are new, and they've struggled to pick up the intricate Patriots offense. That and losing both of your tight ends from 2012 has severely cramped this Patriots passing attack.
Julian Edelman is having a career year with 41 receptions for 411 yards and 2 touchdowns during the first six games of the season, career highs in catches and yardage. Also coincidentally, Edelman has more receptions and yardage than said receiver in Denver, but not in touchdowns.
He's taken a beating out there and absorbed some big shots but has remained Brady's most reliable target thus far on the season while still doing a very good job at returning punt on special teams. No issue there.
The Return of the No-huddle Pays Off: The Patriots ran their no-huddle attack on about 50 percent of their 87 offensive plays (including penalties) on Sunday. While it wasn't quite the up-tempo frantic pace we've seen in the past, it was effective.
The Saints like to substitute personnel on Rob Ryan's defense and it keeps fresh legs out there and allows him to mix and match depending upon the down and distance. But with the no-huddle, it kept the Saints off-balance for much of the game.
It wasn't always pretty but it worked and confused the defense at times and most importantly allowed the Patriots to dictate the pace and personnel. And ultimately paid the dividends they were looking for.
Play Calling/Protection Issues Questions: Coming in the Patriots knew that the Saints under Ryan liked to attack and wouldn't be shy about the blitz, coming from all points of the compass. And they did...
To say that the Saints were bringing pressure on Tom Brady would be a gross understatement. Brady was sacked five times, hurried repeatedly and hit at least a dozen times. So while that is what Ryan's defense is known for and you must tip your hat to them, from a Patriots perspective, for the second week in a row, this is unacceptable.
The offensive line and backs in for pass protection have to do a better job, that type of performance can't be repeated week after week and expect to win.
The play calling especially in the fourth quarter was suspect by Josh McDaniels. With the Patriots deep in the red zone McDaniels called five straight running plays with none involving Ridley who was the team's most effective runner was a head scratcher at best. Trying to be too cute or a lack of faith in the passing game is a question that can be asked of that sequence. In a three point game, makes it more curious.
Jets on Deck: The Patriots are even more beat-up heading to the Meadowlands next Sunday but now have a chance to bury the Jets 3+ games behind them in the divisional standings. A win will sweep the division series and put them firmly in the driver's seat in the division. And as always that is what Belichick preaches first. Stay tuned to PatsFans.com this week as we'll bring plenty of pre-game coverage.
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.
R.R.Marshall: Steve it was a lot of rain, not enough gain, and too much pain for the Patriots as they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 13-6 on Sunday to fall from the ranks of the undefeated. After looking so good on the road against the Falcons last Sunday, were you surprised to see the offense take what appeared to be such a giant step backwards?
Steve Grogan: I was a little surprised at the way the offense played on Sunday. I know Cincinnati has a very good defensive football team, but it looked like early on the Patriots offensive line was having some real problems with some of the blitzes that were being shown by the Bengals. They made some adjustments, but it looked to me like Cincinnati didn’t really feel threatened by the Patriots receiving core and decided to bring pressure most of the day, and it worked for them.
RRM: Even in a low scoring game like this, there was room for some second-guessing. Did you think Bill Belichick made the right decision to go for the field goal on 4th-and-goal with under 3-minutes to play to make the score 13-6 rather than going for the touchdown, because in hindsight if they had and pushed across the touchdown, they would have only been 3 points down with the ball inside the 40-yard line at the end of the game?
SG: Hindsight is always good [Laughs]. But, with that little time left in the game I think I probably would have thought about going for the touchdown there. The chances of getting the ball back and going down and scoring when you haven’t really been moving the ball much all day is probably slimmer than most times with them. It’s easy to say in hindsight. I know what he was thinking, he had to get two scores and he got the three points, but if there had been another half a quarter or a quarter left in the game, I’d understand what he was doing. But with so little time left, they probably should have gone for it.
RRM: What did you think of the play-calling in that sequence, particularly the play-action fake and the pass to the tackle eligible?
SG: That was a little suspect. You hate to criticize them because they’ve had so much success doing things over the years but I just got to feel like you’ve got a better play than to throw to a left tackle who’s playing tight end in that situation.
RRM: Well, old friend BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 67 yards and got some revenge against his former club by scoring the game winning touchdown and the Bengals nearly doubled their rushing output after their upset loss to the Browns, gashing the Patriots for 162 yards, most of it between the tackles. Are we starting to feel the loss of Vince Wilfork already?
SG: Well, I think the loss of Vince Wilfork as well as losing Tommy Kelly later in the game in the second half and playing with two rookies up front in those positions, it’s going to be a struggle for them. Hopefully Kelly’s not hurt that badly, but I think Vince being out, it looks like it’s going to be a problem for them.
RRM: Simply stated, Tom Brady did not look like Tom Brady in this game, with many of his throws off target. Was it the pressure of the Bengals’ front four, the weather conditions, or the rookie receivers that accounted for what we saw on Sunday?
SG: I didn’t think that the weather conditions were that bad until right there at the end of the fourth quarter and it couldn’t have rained any harder at the worst time as the Patriots were trying to go down and score to tie the game. But early in the game the weather conditions weren’t that bad, I think it was more the pressure that Cincinnati was bringing that was giving Brady the problems. Trying to throw the ball before he got hit, trying to throw the ball with people in his face, you just can’t do that. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are, if they’re all around you and sticking their hands in your face, you’re not going to be very accurate and I think that’s what happened to him Sunday.
RRM: For the first five weeks, and granted the Patriots are 4-1, we’ve seen Brady fumble snaps, throw endzone interceptions, miss wide open receivers, throw balls in the dirt, is there anything that you’ve seen so far that would suggest that “he’s showing his age” or nursing some kind of injury we’re not aware of?
SG: I don’t think so. I think it’s more a factor of playing with some guys that he hasn’t been around for two or three years. He just doesn’t feel comfortable right now with what his receivers are doing, he doesn’t have a tight end that’s any kind of threat at all until Gronkowski gets back, and I think that’s just had to change the way he’s played. There’s no question he’s still got the ability. You don’t lose it from one year to the next that quickly.
RRM: You can contrast that Patriots game with the game that followed it on the Sunday double-header…
SG: You mean the arena football game that was on? [Laughs]
RRM: Peyton Manning put up 51 points against the Cowboys and you can kind of sense New England fans’ frustration when you just see a well-oiled Denver offense piling up points like a video game. What can you possibly say to console fans when they see this contrast, especially when they the whole Brady and Manning dynamic is involved?
SG: Well I think Manning is into his second year with those receivers out there, outside of Welker being the new guy. And I still see flashes from the young receivers here, doing some good things, but this may be a year where it’s kind of a transition year where Tom’s trying to get comfortable with those guys outside and possibly next year is when it will all start to happen. But I think Manning’s more comfortable in his offense right now than Tom Brady is in his.
RRM: We’ve heard everybody say it. Once Rob Gronkowski comes back, everything will be back to normal. He’ll be able to chip the defensive end or the linebacker, he’ll give Brady a target over the middle, he’ll open things up for the other receivers. Is it that simple or is there a good nugget of truth in that philosophy?
SG: I think that’s partially true. I don’t think it’s totally true. He will be a factor, he will make a difference, but will he make 100% difference? I don’t think so. I think these other guys still have to step up and make plays and get more comfortable with Brady and when you throw Gronkowski in there with them doing that, then you’re going to be better on offense. But I don’t think they’re going to be an offensive team that’s going to score the 30 points a game like we’re used to seeing them score. They’ve got to be more conservative and because their defense was playing well, they were able to do that the first four weeks and it’s going to be more difficult to do that, be conservative offensively, with Wilfork out and possibly Kelly out. You’re going to have to win games 23-20 or 24-17 or something like that this year, and hopefully that will be enough.
RRM: Someone pointed it out to me and I paid attention this game that through these first five games, there’s been very few Tom Brady throws downfield between the hashmarks down the middle. I don’t know exactly why that is, if it’s the lack of a tight end. But can you account for, I mean that’s a much easier throw than having to throw it further outside the hash marks, so what’s exactly going on there?
SG: I think right now he probably just doesn’t have anybody that he’s comfortable with to go down that seam. I want to say Amendola had one catch going down the seam Sunday and dropped another one, but they don’t have a tight end going down the other side that’s any kind of threat and so there’s just nobody open to throw the ball in those situations and that’s been a big part of the offense. When you had [Aaron] Hernandez going down one seam and Gronkowski down the other, you felt pretty comfortable with it, but you don’t have those two players right now and so that’s not really open.
RRM: Is that a tough thing for a rookie receiver to pick up? Is that why we don’t see it from the outside?
SG: I think that’s part of it. It’s reading the coverage, it depends on coverage whether you continue down the seam or hook it up and it’s just going to take time for them to get comfortable. Plus the fact the two young guys are playing on the outside, so it’s more who’s playing tight end and who’s playing the slot receiver, those are the two guys that have to get comfortable going down the middle.
RRM: Well Brady also had his consecutive game streak with at least one touchdown pass end at 52 games, just two shy of Drew Brees’ record. I purposely avoided discussing this with you this year as to not jinx his chances and you can see how that worked out. As a former quarterback, what do you think of Brady’s nearly historic accomplishment?
SG: It’s pretty impressive when anybody can go that many straight games with touchdown passes. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of luck and some very good offenses to go 52 games throwing a touchdown in every game. A lot of it’s got to do with the way the NFL’s playing nowadays where they’re throwing the ball all over the field. But still, it’s a pretty impressive accomplishment and it’s too bad that he couldn’t have gone another two or three games and at least tied Brees or gone by him. But he can start all over again next week and see how far he can get again.
RRM: Well, if there’s anything good to take out of this loss is the fact the Patriots defense once again came up with another strong effort. I think anyone would have taken giving up 13 points going into the game. If there’s any fly in the ointment, it’s their inability to put consistent pressure on the quarterback and I’m not sure that there’s a solution for that yet?
SG: Not yet. I thought they got some pressure Sunday on Dalton, more pressure than they got the week before on Matt Ryan, if I remember correctly. I don’t think Bill Belichick’s defenses are too worried about pressure. They’re more worried about keeping the quarterback in the pocket and I think they feel a lot more comfortable with their defensive secondary in coverage this year. So they may not be bringing the pressure as much with the linebackers, but they’re getting pressure occasionally and it’s going to probably dip off again with the two young guys in there. They may start using linebackers as defensive linemen to rush the passer on 3rd down. With the two big guys out of the middle, you’re not going to see consistent pressure.
RRM: Well, Steve after Sunday there are only three undefeated teams left in the NFL, and one of them comes to Foxboro on Sunday in the form of the New Orleans, which means that the Patriots will have a major obstacle to overcome if they’re to get back on the winning track?
SG: This is going to be a big test. Fortunately they’re playing them at home.
RRM: They’re going to have to score a lot of points to beat this team?
SG: I would think New Orleans is going to put up some points. They have a lot of offensive weapons. They have a great tight end, which in the Atlanta game the same type of player gave them fits. So they’ve got their work cut out for them. They’ve got to find a way offensively to get the ball in the end zone more than they’ve been getting it in there and then hope that their defense can continue to play as well as they’ve been playing. But New Orleans is a very solid football team on both sides of the football, and this will be a real test.
RRM: You mentioned the Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham, who grabbed 10 balls on Sunday and you mentioned the Patriots troubles covering Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, I would think Bill would have to address at least trying to at least keep him honest?
SG: I would hope he’d address it [Laughs]. Because if he doesn’t, they’re in major trouble. This kid’s younger than Gonzalez, maybe not quite as good catching the ball but he still makes a lot of catches. He’s a very talented tight end. You would think having seen one really good one, they’d figure out a way to slow them down a little bit. I guess you keep your fingers crossed they can do that.
RRM: If there’s one thing in the Patriots’ favor is the Saints are not a dynamic team away from the Dome. They’re not a great road team, they will give up some points. So I would think the important thing to do is to try and grab a lead early and try to keep them at arms length for the rest of the game?
SG: Grabbing a lead early would be good. Being able to control the clock, keeping their offense off the field by running the ball I think will be really important. I do think it hurt them Sunday not having Stevan Ridley in the game to run the football. Hopefully he’ll be back, I haven’t really heard an injury report on him. But if you can control the clock against a team like New Orleans, you’ve got a better chance to win and that should be something they’re stressing this week.
RRM: Steve two Sundays from now the Patriots Alumni will hold their annual “Game with the Greats” at Gillette Stadium. For those that are not familiar with it, it’s a chance to spend some time prior to the game that afternoon with many former Patriots players. Fans can meet and get autographs and talk with these former players. What’s been your experience with it, and how has the event grown over the years?
SG: This has been a big fundraiser for our Alumni group. We’ve done this for five years now and the money that we raise goes to promote youth football in New England. So it’s a great cause. Fans can come to the stadium club, there will be 25-30 former Patriot players. They can get pictures and autographs, and sit and watch the game on the big screen, or what I like to do, is they put the game on the big scoreboards outside and if it’s a nice afternoon, they can go sit in the club level seats and watch the game right there in the stadium. So they can go to PatriotsAlumni.com for more information. But it’s been a great time. We’ve had some really nice crowds and we’ve been able to help a lot of youth football programs around New England with the money we’ve raised. So I would encourage anybody that’s interested to go to the website and join us to watch the Jets game!
RRM: I know you go to a lot of the more formal things, speak at dinners and things like that. But this is kind of a more informal setting where you get to meet fans from your generation and the younger generation. It’s just a really great atmosphere to be in.
SG: It is. Everybody there is a football fan. Everybody’s pulling for the Patriots. It’s very casual, the former guys sit down at a table and if you want to sit down and watch the game with them, you just sit at the table and watch the game with them and get their perspective on what’s going on. I think everybody that’s ever been there has really enjoyed the experience.
RRM: So what are Grogan’s Grades for the 13-6 loss to the up and coming Cincinnati Bengals?
SG: This is a tough one to grade. I would say ‘D’ for the offense, and probably an ‘A-’ for the defense. Special teams was...actually the punter, Ryan Allen, did a good job Sunday of pinning Cincinnati back so I’d give them probably an ‘A’. So for an overall grade, maybe a C, C+. Offense keeps dragging the grade down and that’s totally different than in years past. It’s always seemed to be the defense that seemed to drag the whole grade down and this year it’s just the opposite, it’s the offense that’s struggling.
Grogan’s Grades for Week 5:
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
R.R. Marshall: Steve, after listening all week to the detractors saying the 3-0 record was hollow due to the lack of quality opponents, the Patriots came away with a big 30-23 win on the road in Atlanta on Sunday night to remain undefeated. Have they finally silenced their critics?
Steve Grogan: I would think they’ve silenced their critics. Although, I know some people will say that Atlanta had some of their key players out of the line-up, not playing last night. But you have look at the Patriots, who had the same situation with some of their players out of the line-up and then they lost Vince Wilfork fairly early in the game and still went on to win. So I would hope it would quiet the critics. It was a really nice effort by everybody Sunday night I thought.
RRM: One thing that they can’t complain about is that they didn’t face a quality quarterback as they did the first three weeks because Matt Ryan is among the elite class of NFL quarterbacks right now.
SG: Yeah Matt Ryan, he’s right in his prime and has been playing pretty good football. They shut him down Sunday night. They didn’t let him really dictate what he wanted to do, outside of throwing the ball to Tony Gonzalez. I thought the defensive secondary maybe played as good a game as they’ve played in several years.
RRM: Overall, what was more impressive to you, the fact that the Patriots’ “no name offense” scored a season high 30 points, or that the defense pulled out a game, as you mentioned, without Vince Wilfork and made several key clutch stops in the red zone along the way?
SG: I think to me, the most impressive thing was the way they shut down Atlanta, particularly their passing game. They’ve got a couple of really good wide receivers, granted one was hurt a little bit. They didn’t get much pressure on Ryan Sunday night, but the coverage was excellent down the field. I just haven’t seen that from a Patriots secondary in quite a while.
RRM: Speaking of that Patriots secondary, Aqib Taib really stood out in this game, shutting down the dangerous Julio Jones every time he was on him in one-on-one coverage. Was that as impressive a performance as you’ve seen by an individual Patriots defensive back in some time?
"He really was what they were calling him before, a lock-down corner Sunday night. He made some great plays, was just all over the wide receivers and played I think as good a game as he’s played as a Patriot." - Steve Grogan on Aqib Talib
(USA TODAY Images)
SG: Yeah, he really was what they were calling him before, a lock-down corner Sunday night. He made some great plays, was just all over the wide receivers and played I think as good a game as he’s played as a Patriot. I know Chris Collinsworth kept talking about him getting a big contract next time around, well, I think he’s going to be worth it. Hopefully for the Patriots, but somebody, because this kid can play cornerback like nobody I’ve seen in a while.
RRM: As you mentioned the Patriots didn’t have a lot of success against future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez who torched them, I lost count after a dozen catches and two touchdowns. Granted, they had to give something up to cover those dangerous wideouts, so do you just tip your helmet to a great start tight end, or do you have to rethink your tight end coverage down the line if you should run into a player of his quality again?
SG: I think you just tip your hat and say, ‘we weren’t going to let them beat us deep, we weren’t going to let them make the big plays, we’re going to let them throw the ball to Gonzalez all night,’ and that’s what they did and they got away with it. So I think that was a game plan and it worked out pretty well.
RRM: I’d just like to point out that on a number of those catches, he wasn’t exactly wide open, but the little crevices they found over linebackers’ shoulders and defensive backs’ hands, the guy just came up with the ball time after time.
SG: He’s a phenomenal pass catcher as a tight end and even when he’s got people draped on him, he’s making catches. So I think they have to feel, even though he had double-digit catches, I think they have to be happy about the way they played against him, even last night.
RRM: Well, as you mentioned the news about Vince Wilfork was not good, lost for the season with a torn Achilles Tendon and the defensive line was thin to begin this year. Is this one injury that the Patriots are going to have a whole lot of difficulty overcoming if they want to get back to the Super Bowl this year?
SG: It’s going to be interesting to see. When you lose a guy of his caliber, it’s usually devastating to most defenses. But Bill Belichick and his staff seem to have a way of putting someone else in there and figuring out how to get the most out of them when you lose somebody like that. So I’m not giving up on that position yet. I know he’s a great player and a huge part of their defensive scheme, but I think they’ve got some guys they can plug in there who can get the job done.
RRM: I’m sure you noticed the Patriots made a concerted effort to run the ball in that first half and not only were they successful at it, but I believe what it did was really slow down that Falcons’ pass rush and Brady was essentially able to do whatever he wanted to in the air for the last three quarters of that game?
SG: For old school guys like me, it’s kind of fun to watch an offensive line come off the ball and just jam it down the other team’s throats. It’s the way the game is supposed to be played, it takes the pressure off the passing game, I just wish they could do that every week.
RRM: For the second time in four games, Brady had a key fumble on a snap in a big situation, this time on a 4th and one that could have wrapped the game up. As they say, ‘once is a mistake, but two is starting a trend.’ What exactly is going on with the center exchange?
SG: Not real sure what the problem is there. It looks to me like he’s trying to get out from under the center a little quicker than he needs to, but you’d have to ask Bill Belichick and he’s probably not talking about that right now. But it’s definitely a concern that has to be taken care of.
RRM: We have to give Atlanta coach Mike Smith a couple of pats on the back. He came up with a couple of strange decisions, declining to kick the field goal early in the game and going for it on a fourth down that wasn’t even close, turning down three points that could have been valuable. And then to try a second consecutive onside kick with well over two minutes left in the game I thought was also another curious choice. Do these moves come from being 1-2 and playing under the pressure of a Sunday night situation? It seemed like more of a move of desperation to me than anything else?
SG: I would say it was probably desperation. He knows how good the Patriots are, he knows how good Bill Belichick is, and I just feel like he probably panicked a little bit and tried some things he didn’t need to try at that particular time in the game. He’s a good football coach and he’s got a good football team and he just, for some reason, didn’t trust them in those situations.
RRM: It’s starting to look like wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins might be a keeper in this league, six catches for over a hundred yards and a touchdown. Have you seen a gradual progression from him over the four weeks?
SG: I’ve seen him playing with more confidence. I think he had a couple of drops Sunday night that he wishes he could have back. But he’s starting to make some big plays for them and I think that’s a good sign. So his confidence level is getting better every week, and I think Brady’s confidence in him is getting better every week.
RRM: There was a news report and apparently confirmed by Peter King on Monday morning that the Patriots had cleared Rob Gronkowski to play in this game on Sunday night, but he felt he was not ready and it almost seems like there’s a possible flap going on between the team medical people and his own medical people. You don’t hear about stuff like this with the Patriots so I was wondering what your take on this was?
SG: That really is something you don’t hear about with the Patriots and of course, something you didn’t hear about years ago. You just, if the team cleared you to play, you played. Nowadays everybody’s got their own doctors and people they talk to. So hopefully they’ll get this worked out, but it can be a divisive thing when the team doctors have cleared you to play and you decide not to play because your guy has told you not to. That’s not a good thing.
RRM: We know that this information didn’t come from the Patriots’ side, so it’s clear that somebody in Gronkowski’s camp leaked this, and that alone is against Bill Belichick’s, “keep everything from the press” attitude and flies right in his face. The last time something like this happened, he suspended Wes Welker for making fun of Rex Ryan. Wes ended up in Denver, and you just have to kind of wonder if this is a bad sign for the Patriots’ future relationship with Gronkowski?
SG: I think it’s too early to tell that, but it’s a possibility. I think Bill understands Gronkowski’s kind of a different kind of kid anyway, he’s already had some brushes with trouble in his first few years here, but hopefully they’ll get it worked out. It may be a misunderstanding, it may be...who knows? Until we get more facts there’s not to a lot you can really say about it.
RRM: I was talking to somebody a while back. Football players in your day were just chomping at the bit to get back out on the field and I just can’t imagine, “you’re cleared to play,” “No, I think I’m going to take another couple of weeks coach.”
SG: That wouldn’t have gone over too well back in my day.
RRM: Well, next week the Patriots are on the road for the second straight week to take on the Cincinnati Bengals that are favored to win the division this year but are having some trouble and are coming off, just what can only be classified as, a horrendous loss to the Browns. Old Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer did the Pats a big favor bumping them off, but you would think playing at home against these Bengals, probably not the best thing facing them coming off a double digit defeat?
SG: Probably not. Cincinnati, I know, has some good offensive weapons. They’ve got the Law Firm [BenJarvus Green-Ellis] running the ball for them out there, so you would think they can put points on the board. This will be another challenge for the defensive secondary. It’s never easy to go into a place like Cincinnati and try to win, particularly after they’ve had a loss the week before. But they did it in Atlanta, there’s no reason they can’t do it in Cincinnati too.
RRM: Do you expect to see the same game plan? Run, run, run the ball?
SG: I think you’ll see more of the running game this year because of the fact you’ve got wide receivers that are young, you’ve got no tight end, I think you’ll see them stay on the ground a lot more than we have in the past.
RRM: So what are Grogan’s Grades for the fantastic 30-23 win over the Falcons Sunday night?
SG: I’d have to go with A’s all around this week. I thought everybody played really well, above average, excellent performance. It was fun to watch them play that kind of football. Hopefully they can keep it up.
Grogan’s Grades For Week 4:
2013-12 | 2013-11 | 2013-10 | 2013-09 | 2013-08