<
>

Patriots shouldn't get comfortable

Instead of the traditional five observations in Bruschi On Tap, we've switched things up to a weekly Q and A, with fans reflecting on the Patriots' win over the Eagles. Join my weekly chat every Monday at 11 a.m. ET to have your question considered. Here we go …

Q. The Patriots are currently sitting in first place and on paper the schedule looks rather easy. What should the players be doing over the next five weeks so they don't lose any competitive edge trying to make the playoffs and going into the playoffs? -- Rich (New Jersey)

A. Rich, I think the one thing they need to remember is that they haven't even won the division yet. They can't be thinking of playoff seeding when the No. 1 goal as you start training camp is to win the division. The free hats and T-shirts are close, but nothing has been accomplished yet. That message must be sent home within the locker room.

Also, I have a question for you. I think it's possible the Patriots could stumble over the next five weeks. What game do you think it might be?

Q. Do you think the AFC Championship game will be in Gillette Stadium? --
Chris Fiegler (Latham, N.Y.)

A.
Chris, I think you're getting way ahead of yourself. Let's remember the playoff struggles of the last two years. I said this pre-draft of this year -- this team will be judged on playoff performance. Once they get there, how will they perform?

Q.
Tedy, any idea what is going on with Taylor Price? A lot of us fans have been anxious to see him in action given his draft position and the fact he's shown promise in the preseason. This week with Chad Ochocinco sidelined it seemed like a prime opportunity for him to play a good number of snaps and contribute offensively. Instead, Tiquan Underwood, a player signed just a week ago, got the nod over him. It can't all be injury related, can it? I hope it isn't the case, but is this young man going the way of Chad Jackson? What's your assessment? -- Jon (Raynham)

A.
Jon, you won't get an answer to that question publicly from coaches or players. You have to interpret the actions of the team. When Tiquan Underwood gets signed a few days before the game, and he plays over a supposedly healthy Taylor Price, that's not a good sign people.

Q.
From the first game of the season to now, who is the most improved player on defense for the Patriots? Who on offense? -- David (North Attleboro, Mass.)

A.
David, I don't think anyone expected this type of production from veteran DE Andre Carter. I don't know if he's the most improved, but he's definitely the most surprising. Staying along the defensive front, I think the quality of play from Kyle Love was a reason why it was seamless in releasing Albert Haynesworth. He deserves some props also.

On the second part of the question, let's go with Julian Edelman. I say Edelman looking at more than just offense. Special teams and defense, too. That's a Bill Belichick type of player. Also, Brian Waters has been a steadying force along the offensive line.

Q.
Hi Tedy! If you are on this Pats team right now, what are you doing to ensure this coming game against the Colts isn't a "trap" game? How do you mentally keep from letting down your guard? -- yowutupfoo (Weymouth)

A.
This is still the Indianapolis Colts. I'll give you a case of what it was like when I was in that locker room and was getting ready for a Colts game. It didn't matter who the quarterback was. This is a rivalry between these two teams. For me, this rivalry was right up there with the Jets. That's saying something.

Q.
The only possible stumbling block I see for the Pats, and I see them winning that game anyway, is the game against Miami -- division rival Miami just plays them tough. -- Eric (Mass.)

Q.
I think the Pats'
work ethic and schedule work in their favor for not stumbling. One thing that concerns me is that all the other teams that relative to the Pats in W-L right now have easy schedules too. Among the Texans, Steelers, Ravens and Jets (for AFC East purposes), who do you see taking a step back over the next couple of weeks? -- Ian B (Ottawa, Ontario)


A.

The Houston Texans. Their quarterback situation is a mess. They play the Falcons this week at home. The drop-off will start this week for the Texans.

Q. Can Peyton Manning be MVP this year? They cannot win a game without him. -- DC (Illinois)

A.
It's not a fact of Peyton Manning being valuable, it's a reflection of how the Colts' organization didn't prepare for him not being there.

Q. Do you think the Jets are a threat to the Patriots? Will they make the playoffs? I don't think they are as good as people say they are. -- Ben (Connecticut)

A.
The Jets still have a chance. I wouldn't count them out right now. If it comes to the Patriots and Jets in the playoffs, I definitely think they could be a threat.

Q.
Why do you think young/rookie receivers are performing so well for other teams, but we have yet to develop a decent WR since, well, I can't even remember? Is it the drafting, the coaches or Brady not willing to be patient with them? -- Joe (California)

A.
To play WR in this offense is highly demanding. To learn a complex system, and have the ability to make adjustments as you're running your route at top speed, is something even veteran WRs can't pick up sometimes.

Q. Tedy, I feel like the defense has begun blitzing more and more. I love this. Am I seeing things or has it become an agressive trend? -- Charles (Rhode Island)


A.
When you watch a game, sometimes it looks like there is a five-man pressure but there really isn't. If there is a running back in the backfield, many defenses do this -- if a LB has that RB in man coverage, he hugs the back. "Hug" means you have him in man coverage, but if he stays in the backfield to block, you turn it into a late rush. Sometimes announcers call this a blitz, but it's really a four-man rush with man coverage behind it, with "hugs" by LBs. Imagine if there were a TE and a RB in the backfield and they stayed in to block. This can turn into a late six-man pressure, with "hugs" by LBs.

Q. Eveyone keeps saying we are playing against bums at QB -- we can only play who is out there -- but isnt there some noticeable improvement with us? -- Pats' defense (Foxborough)

A.
I think so, and yes, they haven't been elite QBs the last two weeks in Vince Young and Tyler Palko. This is actually to the Patriots' advantage because you're giving those parts of your defense that don't have a lot of experience reps that aren't "full speed." You can't control what QB you play, but as those better QBs will eventually come around, going up against these lesser QBs helps the improvement of those parts.

Q. Tedy, love your insights! I look forward to them every week. Could you comment on the expanded role that Julian Edelman has taken on? I can't imagine the difficulty involved in playing so many positions. Although Edelman makes it look easy, just how hard is it to do what he is doing? -- Sharon (Fairfax, Va.)


A.
Sharon, you need more than athletic ability to do what Julian Edelman is doing. You have to have football instincts. Or as I call it sometimes, football common sense. This will take more than the time we have to explain, so I'll give you that, and we're moving on.

Q.
Tedy, it looked like it was going to be a long day for the secondary as Vince Young was having a lot of success through the air in the first quarter. What adjustments did the Pats make to solidify the pass defense? -- Ryan (St. Pete, Fla.)

A.
I didn't recognize many adjustments. Of course there were subtle ones. All they had to do was weather the early storm, because Vince Young is not the type of QB that can maintain the great start he had for an entire game.

Q. Love the "hug" verbage... hilarious! -- Eric (Massachusetts)


A.
"Hug" is one term. "Green dog" is another. "Pressure rush" is another term. There is some more food for thought.

Q.
If I had to pick one game left on the schedule that the Pats are most likely to stumble in, it would be against Miami. -- Karen (East Lansing, Mich.)

A.
I can see where the Miami thought comes from, but I'd say watch out for the Redskins in two weeks. What do you think of that?

Q.
Tedy, I see us struggling with the Broncos. Amidst all of this Tim Tebow craze, the real hero in their 5-1 record isn't getting any credit -- the DEFENSE! Champ Bailey also just seems to have Brady's number more-so than any other corner in the NFL. Oh, and did I mention this game is on the road in Mile High? -- Richard (San Diego)

A.
My only impressions of that game is this: The Patriots' offense will put up around 24 points against the Broncos' defense. Can the Tebow-led Broncos' offense score more than 24 to win the game? Still wrapping my brain around that.

Q.
I see Miami as a major stumbling block. -- Jason (Montpelier)

Q. Where's the love for AJ Green as NFL rookie of the year? -- Ryan (Melrose, Mass.)


A.

I agree. He's been awesome for me on my fantasy team.

Q. Tedy, the Skins pressure the quarterback and get off the field on third down. The O Line dealing with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan could be trouble -- not to mention the most underated lineback in the game London Fletcher. Also they have some tough matchups at tight end and really will put the Pats' LBs to work in pass coverage with a back like Roy Helu. -- Charles (Rhode Island)


A.

Also, go back and research Bill Belichick/Mike Shanahan coaching matchups.

Q. Tedy, Redskins were my other choice! -- Karen (East Lansing, Mich.)

Q.
Hi Tedy! Thanks for indulging us all Pat fans! What has happened to the defense? What clicked? They started out so horrific, and seemingly with practice-squad players have played well -- and not just against KC and Philly, but the D did great against Dallas and the Giants. I trust this D to bend not break. I couldn't say that earlier this year. What have you seen that's different now in the past six games? -- Tony (Los Angeles)

A.
The more reps they get, the more time they have together, the more time Bill Belichick has to coach -- not only his players, but his coaches on how to coach. This ties in to how the Patriots usually get better toward the end of the season.

Q.
Was the Eagles game a good example of the difference between a "team" and a "collection of talent," Tedy? -- George (Warwick, R,I.)

A.
You pretty much hit it on the head, George. Having Tom Brady as your quarterback instead of Vince Young helps.

Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th-anniversary team. Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.