Commentary

Don't underestimate Denver

On Tebow's magic, the Brady spat and why the Patriots' defense better improve

Updated: December 13, 2011, 12:06 PM ET
By Tedy Bruschi | ESPNBoston.com

Welcome to our weekly Q and A, with fans reflecting on the Patriots' win over the Redskins on Sunday. Join my weekly chat every Monday at 11 a.m. ET to have your question considered. Here we go ...

Q. With the Patriots giving up 27 points to the 4-8 Redskins and having to face Tim Tebow and the Broncos next week, what should the defensive coaching staff be looking at most about the Broncos' offense? -- Rich (New Jersey)

A. First of all, it doesn't matter how many points they gave up to a four-win Redskins team. They gave up 24 points to a winless Colts team. The record doesn't matter, this defense is going to give up points. Looking forward to the Broncos, this is a totally different offense and it means a shift in your defensive mindset. This is an old-school, old-fashioned, buckle-up-your-chinstrap game because you're going to have to stop the run. It's not about stopping Tebow, and that's where defenses get confused. You have to focus on the entire offense. If you get caught up looking at Tebow all day, you're going to have problems.

Q. Can Tebow magic work against an elite team? -- Frank (New Orleans)

A. Yes it can, if a defense plays sloppy, undisciplined and arrogant. I say arrogant because the first problem comes with underestimating this type of offense. This is traditional football. Running the ball. Play-action passes. Testing defensive fundamentals.

Q. Hey Tedy, I'm wondering what you thought of Devin McCourty's second half yesterday. I feel like the first half was more of the same from earlier this season, but the second half seemed to be a noticeable turnaround. Thoughts? -- Ned (Dominica)

A. I wouldn't call it a turnaround, but I saw the same thing you did. The plays he started to make in the second half, it's a start. Let's hope that propels him to more consistent play. He's the best they've got. They need him.

Q. Tedy, I want to touch on two personal fouls for this game -- one that worked for the Pats and one against: the hit from London Fletcher (whom I don't know but have never heard a bad word about and is nothing but a class act from what his peers say) hit Tom -- albeit hard -- but hit him in the chest/abdomen with his shoulder when Brady had BARELY begun his slide. I thought that was a clean hit and shouldn't have been called. THEN the flag on Vince Wilfork when he "flopped" on top of the running back in the flat. I know player safety is front and center, but aren't these guys getting a little out of hand? It's not like this was the [James] Harrison on [Colt] McCoy hit. Do you think they are going slightly overboard? -- Charles (Rhode Island)

A. Let's start with Wilfork. You have to approach a player on the ground with that type of velocity. I only saw Vince lead with his forearm to the body. You have to make sure these offensive players don't get up and run. A prime example of what an offensive player can do, if you don't have that sense of urgency when he's on the ground, is the Rob Gronkowski catch earlier in the game. The problem with Vince's hit is that he's so big and strong, it looked like he crushed the guy. Now to Brady, terrible call. Tom has to learn from that -- get your butt down quicker.

Q. I believe Tom Brady was out of line [in the sideline clash with Bill O'Brien]. I totally understand "THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT!" but he overstepped his boundaries! Thoughts? -- Chuck P. (Boston)

A. What boundaries? This is professional football. Players and coaches will get into it, and will have heated disagreements. It's inevitable. The number of coaches I used to have confrontations with is endless. Romeo Crennel once told us "Whatever happens on the sideline, don't take it personally, because what happens on the sideline during a game STAYS on the sideline."

Reminds me of a saying from the movie "The Green Mile": "What happens on the Mile, stays on the Mile." Great movie, by the way. Anybody remember it?

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesTim Tebow has proven doubters wrong. Tedy Bruschi's a believer.

Q. Tedy, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Denver game? Despite all of our struggles on defense, I would say that the strength of our D is our run D. I believe the Tebow train finally comes to a stop this week, because the Patriots are a disciplined run defense who will keep containment and stay in their gaps. As a defense, do you approach this offense as similar to playing Miami or another team that runs wildcat? Thanks and keep up the great work. -- Kyle (Massachusetts)

A. Don't get too enamored with the option. That is what makes this Denver run game so difficult to prepare for. If all you have is option on the mind, you will sit on your heels and try to react, and then they hit you with their power running game. Coach Belichick has always been good at coaching discipline and fundamentals. Those are two aspects that are also very valuable in your pass defense. You understand what I'm trying to say?

Q. The defense is still full of holes. When you were there, the defense carried the offense in some games. Does this have to do with the players themselves, or my thoughts are that Romeo Crennal was a very good coach for the defense. Thoughts? -- Sam (Gloucester)

A. Romeo was a great coach, but we've had this discussion and this question has been answered many times. They do need better players, especially in the secondary. Two wide receivers are back there. Enough said.

Q. The way the Pats secondary has played this season -- giving up big plays and lots of points -- how do you think we'll fare in the playoffs against better competition? -- Brad W. (Brunswick, Maine)

A. I'm not looking at the competition, I'm looking at quarterbacks. The past two games the Patriots lost were against Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. They've reeled off five consecutive victories against quarterbacks by the name of Sanchez, Palko, Young, Orlovsky and Grossman. The defense has to get better.

Q. Do you think Tom Brady will break Dan Marino's record first or will Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers do it? -- Mark (West Virginia)

A. I wouldn't be surprised if two players do it.

Q. Tedy, is it of any concern that maybe Gronkowski will take too many hits with the amount of times he is targeted? -- Mike (Hampton, Mass.)

A. Have you seen the size of that guy? I'd be more worried about the defenders.

Q. What is your personal take on Tim Tebow the player? -- Mike (Denver)

A. I said it this summer -- Tim Tebow could redefine the way the quarterback position is played in the NFL. He's done that. I love the way this kid plays the game.

Brady
CBSWhat happens on the sideline stays on the sideline?

Q. Hey Tedy, could the sideline blowup between Brady and O'Brien be read as something showing the disconnect between Brady and young receivers? It seems from watching the video that Brady was blaming Tiquan Underwood for the interception until O'Brien stepped in and blamed Brady. Do you think Brady may use new/inexperienced players as scapegoats when he messes up? His competitiveness is often heralded, but from personal experience ubercompetitive people can also be self-righteous blamers. In my opinion, this exchange made clear to me why the team has trouble developing young receivers and its starts with No. 12. -- Tron (Waltham)

A. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. To play in New England, you learn from Bill Belichick. Bill Belichick runs that team like it's "Football Academy." If you don't have thick skin, you won't survive. Coaches coach hard. And players hold other players accountable. I think this is just what the Patriots needed.

One of the problems may be that Brady is the only one doing it. I can't count the number of times that numerous players on defense had arguments with coaches and other players -- in meeting rooms, on the practice field and on the sideline. It's another way of pushing each other. If you want the best out of somebody, challenge them.

Q. It appeared that the Redskins receivers were able to just sit down in big holes in the zone defense. Can you explain what the problems are here? Is it the safeties not jumping on the routes/receivers? Linebackers not dropping deep enough? Something else? At times, it just seemed too easy for Donte' Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney and Santana Moss to get open. -- Steve (Virginia)

A. When you have an inexperienced secondary, the first thing you have to do is teach them where to be. There have been many new players in this secondary, learning where to be in various defensive schemes. Once you know your responsibility, then you apply it to the offense you're playing. I know this sounds complicated, but these players are still learning what responsibilities they have. They can't take it to the next step because they don't have the experience yet.

Q. Tedy, I know there are still three games left, and injured players will be back, but with what you have seen so far all year from the defense, if the Pats offense doesn't put up over 30 points in the playoffs, can the defense get it done? -- Nick (Montreal)

A. There are three weeks left in the season, and improvement has to be made over those three weeks. You started to see a little from McCourty in the second half. But if this defense plays the way it played Sunday -- allowing more than 450 yards and 27 points -- it will be a short postseason.

Q. That's one of the best things I've heard someone say -- if you want the best out of somebody, challenge them. Great quote... very true and applicable to all facets of life. Thanks. -- Tim (Durham, N.H.)

A. Thanks man. You can play linebacker next to me any day.

Q. Can you end these weekly conversations with an "AWWWWWWWWWWW YEAHHHHHHH"? -- Andy (New York)

A. Andy, you'll have to listen to our podcast for that.

Q. If anybody can beat Tebow, it's Tom Brady. The Patriots are winning this game and the defense is going to come to play. Watch. Thoughts? -- Brad (Memphis)

A. The main problem that teams have had going up against the Broncos is underestimating Tim Tebow, especially opposing defenses. In today's day and age, defense is all about sacks and interceptions. This Denver Broncos team goes old school on you. They make you play fundamental football. They make you tackle. They make you read your keys. And they test those principles of every player on the field. Bill Belichick loves coaching this type of football.

Thanks for joining the chat. If you have some free time this week, check out the movie "The Green Mile." And by the way, what happens on the chat, stays on the chat.

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.

Tedy Bruschi

Columnist, ESPN.com
Tedy Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career with the New England Patriots after being drafted in the third round out of Arizona. He played in five Super Bowls, winning three. He retired prior to the 2009 season.

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