- Tedy Bruschi, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Welcome to my weekly chat. I'll try to answer your questions after a disappointing Patriots loss to the Broncos on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game:
Q. Hey Tedy, I don't want to make any excuses about injuries, but they all finally caught up to us. Just too many game changers out and you need them in the playoffs. Even with all the injuries and getting outplayed in every part of the game, the Pats were a two-point conversion away from making it a one-score game, which to me says a lot about this team. I just need someone to explain to me the offensive pass interference rules. Please! Because I thought a WR can't block a DB until the ball is caught. So, I am watching the game and see them call it on Hooman, but it looked like the Broncos did it on almost every single play. I understand the pick play when a receiver is selling it like they are running their route, but the Broncos WRs were straight up blocking with hands/forearms. Great season though, and can't wait for the offseason! Thanks for all the hard work! -- Travis (Austin, Texas)
A. I agree, Travis. Sunday, the New England Patriots were a totally different team than how they started out the year. Would a healthy Patriots team have won that game? Possibly. But injuries are a part of the game in the NFL. I do feel like missing the two-point conversion was huge. That changes your philosophy on whether you onside kick or kick it deep and use your timeouts. The offensive pass interference rules, I'm sure, are more emphasized during the regular season. I've said this before -- players are making the transition from regular season to postseason officiating. Officials will let things go. It goes for offensive PI, pick plays, defensive holding. I want you all to understand, these pick routes/run routes are used on a regular basis throughout the NFL. The Denver Broncos run them all the time. The New England Patriots run them all the time.
Q. The stars aligned perfectly for Peyton Manning. He couldn't have asked for better weather for this time of year, and Aqib Talib going out was a bonus. The Broncos are going to have problems with the NYC weather, and Seattle's physical CBs will shut down the Broncos' passing game. -- David (Atlanta)
A. I don't know what the forecast will be like in New York. I'm sure the Patriots were hoping for bad weather in Denver, but it ended up being 60 degrees. I think we know, being on the East Coast, it could be anything that day. Yes, the Seahawks have physical CBs. But Demaryius Thomas is a very physical WR himself. That will be a great matchup to watch -- Thomas versus Richard Sherman, if that's the way the Seahawks decide to match up.
Q. Tedy, this loss might be a blessing in disguise. Maybe Bill will wake up now and see that depth isn't better than talent. They tried Aaron Dobson, but he just can't get open. Re-sign Edelman and for all that is good in the world sign Hakeem Nicks and give Brady a Top 10 receiver. -- Joey (East Windsor, N.J.)
A. Well, you want just about everything. It's not going to happen. Re-signing Julian Edelman might not even be possible. This is a guy who has been paid peanuts his entire career and this is his only chance to go out there and, for once in his career, think of himself and his financial future. Edelman will probably want to test the free-agent market and see what his value is. But I do agree with you in this: When it comes to this level of playoff games -- AFC Championships, Super Bowls -- there is only so much that scheme can do. Once you're in the hole and it's linebacker versus running back, or the ball is in the air and it's WR versus DB and it's one-on-one at the line of scrimmage -- center versus defensive tackle -- players have to win. Sunday, the Broncos' players beat the Patriots' players.
Q. Tedy, who took LeGarrette Blount off the field, the Broncos D? Or did the Pats go away from the run too soon? -- Steve (Southbury, Conn.)
A. Blount had only five carries. Do I think five carries is enough for Blount to get his rhythm? No. But it looked like Stevan Ridley was more productive. I thought the Broncos were prepared for Blount, and maybe Ridley's explosion and burst was the proper adjustment. But either way, the Broncos dominated the interior part of the line of scrimmage. Terrance Knighton was a problem. Both center Ryan Wendell and left guard Logan Mankins couldn't block him at times.
Q. Tedy, no doubt Denver was the better team yesterday. What position or positions do you think the Pats need to target in free agency and the draft. -- RC (Walpole)
A. Let's push the reset button and say the Patriots come back 100 percent healthy ... Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork are back, Rob Gronkowski is healthy. I think the first thing they need to address is their own players becoming free agents. No. 1 is Aqib Talib. I know his recent injury, in this year's AFC title game, might make people think he is not durable. Let's put that aside. Talib needs to be re-signed. If they can get him at the price that is right for them, that can open up options. But if Talib has it in his head that it's time to cash in, he'll get his money somewhere else and that will change the whole scope of free agency for the Patriots. Second, I think the chances are slim that they re-sign Julian Edelman. How can you give a guy big money at a position where you paid Danny Amendola big money last year? Edelman is an interesting dilemma for the Patriots in free agency.
Q. We all know that Seattle has a great defense. Will Seattle have enough offensive power to stay with Denver even though they may be slowed by Seattle's defense? -- Scott B. (Burlington, Ky.)
A. The Seahawks' best chance to beat the Broncos will come from their running game. They are going to have to establish Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson is a great game manager who can create spectacular plays down the field with his athletic ability.
Q. Hey tough loss yesterday. I just am curious if you have noticed that while Dont'a Hightower was getting hammered by people, and rightfully so he struggled in the middle of the year, he has been the best player on the defense for the past six weeks while Chandler Jones has been MIA since the last Denver game (one sack in the past seven games). I know stats can be misleading, but I thought he really struggled down the stretch, and the Patriots defensively need to get a better pass rush, ASAP. Your thoughts? -- John (Pennsylvania)
A. If you pick the Patriots' pass rush as the No. 1 factor they need to address this offseason, you're missing the big picture. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich is a pass rush you can win with. There are much more important places to address in the offseason.
Q. Why do you think the Pats did not put any pressure on Peyton? He had all day to throw the ball! Seeing as you were a D man and pass-rusher, what do you think? -- Tony (Revere)
A. The best way to get to Peyton Manning is up the middle of the pocket. You asked so much this year of young players like Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano. I think that could have been a much different story if there was a healthy Vince Wilfork or Tommy Kelly in the middle. The Patriots tried to send linebackers up the middle to get pressure on Manning, but Peyton is also good at getting rid of the ball so quickly.
Q. Hey Tedy, last year you answered my question about Richard Sherman and the postgame meeting with Tom Brady. You answered that Tom deserved it because he lost the game. After last night, do you feel the same way? I find it so classless to talk trash and get in someone's face after a game. The game is over, there is no need to humiliate the opposing player. -- Tomy (Puerto Rico)
A. I feel that Richard Sherman took it too far Sunday. You and your team just won the NFC Championship. There is no need to go up to Michael Crabtree as soon as the play is over and taunt him, and then go on a nationally televised interview and call him a sorry player. I don't know how deep this rivalry goes between the two players. Maybe there is something deeper we don't know about.
Q. The Pats need a better defense. Where do they start? Personally, I think they need to hire a defensive coordinator. -- Jacob (Mexico)
A. Jacob, you couldn't be more wrong. Matt Patricia is a terrific defensive coordinator. For everything that happened this year to the Patriots' defense, what they were able to accomplish was tremendous. I'm not only talking about the defense. I'm talking about the offense. I'm talking about the team. I'm talking about dealing with your most highly skilled offensive player being arrested for murder before the season starts. I'm talking about losing multiple team captains and multiple Pro Bowl players due to injury. This team and this coaching staff should be commended for what they accomplished this year.
Thanks to everyone for chatting, and for your contributions all season. Have a great day.
After a valiant run, the Patriots can pick up the pieces and move on.