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Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Updated: November 20, 6:51 AM ET
Pats can't dwell on loss

By Tedy Bruschi
ESPNBoston.com

Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.

Q. How can you seriously justify picking up a flag like that at the end of the game? The foul was flagrant in my eyes (rose-colored glasses), but how can the statement of uncatchable be made when the ball is thrown in the vicinity with clear and blatant contact impeding a receiver's path to the ball? A foul has to be called on that play because, as you know, calls like these set an example of future plays. -- Eric (Massachusetts)

A. Let's get the record straight here: I picked against the Patriots. I picked the Panthers to win and I used to play linebacker. But that was a foul. Luke Kuechly prevented Rob Gronkowski from making an attempt to catch the ball. The foul was clear, even the official agreed upon that. He threw the flag. I think everyone agrees about that, so the question is this: Do you think the ball is catchable? The official talked to his fellow officials and said, "I focused on the contact, I did not see where the ball ended up, so was the ball catchable?" When they huddled, they determined it wasn't catchable. I disagreed with that. I think if Gronkowski was not interfered with, he could have made an attempt on the ball. His attempt was thwarted by the foul.

Q. Tedy, although the picking up of the flag was terrible, I think the two key plays that cost the Pats the game were the Stevan Ridley fumble and the terrible play call on third-and-1 when they had to settle for a field goal. Would you have preferred they try to punch it in with a run there? -- Donny B (H-Town)

Stevan Ridley
Stevan Ridley had reason to celebrate early in the second half against Carolina, but his fumble later was one of the most costly plays of the game for New England.

A. Donny, I understand what you are saying, but the Patriots have made a living converting on third down with the passing game. You have Tom Brady with the ball in his hands. What more can someone really want? If the play selection is Brady throwing the ball, tough for me to argue with that.

Q. Tedy, with all the ups and downs of this unusual season, doesn't it seem like the Pats are right back where they've been the last few years: with an explosive offense and a defense that struggles to make the Big Stop at crucial times? -- Jay (DC)

A. It seems like that's where they are now. But at the start of the season it was the opposite. The defense was pulling its weight early. Now with all of the injuries on the defensive side, you expect more struggles, and the offense needs to produce more because of it.

Q. Another fumble for Ridley last night. Do you see the Pats increasing the role of Shane Vereen as the season goes on? Or will they keep Stevan Ridley/Legarrette Blount as the heavy lifters and let Vereen handle the passing snaps? -- Tim (New England)

A. Tim, Vereen has to get more work. There will be some game plans, especially this week versus the Broncos, where this team will have to score points in bunches. The passing game is where it's going to come from. If the defense continues to struggle, the offense will have to carry the weight. They do it passing the ball and Vereen is a big weapon in that area.

Q. Hey Tedy. Amid all the end-of-game kerfuffle, I think it's important to remember that if Ridley doesn't fumble, the Pats probably have at least an easy field goal on that drive, and would have been able to kick the field goal to win the game at the end instead of being forced to go for the TD. In that vein, how much more patience does BB have for Ridley? Do you think his talent makes up for his fumbling issues or do the Pats need to start leaning heavier on Blount and Vereen for the rest of the season? -- Ryan (NYC)

A. As of right now, the book is written on Ridley. He can show you flashes of brilliance. He runs hard. He can fill up the stat sheet in rushing yards. He fights to get in the end zone, but will give up the ball in critical situations. It's a double-edged sword with a player like that. You want him in the game, but you're always wondering if a fumble is going to happen again.

Now that Danny Amendola is healthy, and they are starting to get pieces back with Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen, it's time for Tom Brady's arm to take over.

Q. Tedy, is the Pats' D just too depleted to beat good teams? Also, what do you think Big Vince said to Aqib Talib after his personal foul flag? -- Bob (Boston)

A. Talib obviously lost control and that was discouraging to see. I know Steve Smith is one of the best trash-talkers in the league but you have to keep your composure. With the Talib hip injury, and Alfonzo Dennard missing the game, and other injuries, this defense just has to hang on.

Q. Last night's defense won't beat the Broncos on Sunday night. Hard not to appreciate their effort, sans Talib. Pats will need a couple of breaks to beat Denver's team, don't you think? I have to say that all in all, I am really enjoying the play of this Patriot's TEAM. A tough season with the injuries but great effort and coaching. -- Munchkin

A. I agree with some of your points, Munchkin. I think it's important to mention the effort of players like Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Spikes and how they stopped the run versus Carolina. That's a formidable running attack. These guys in the front seven are playing their butts off.

Q. Hi Tedy. Last night we saw the Patriots lose the turnover battle, commit foolish penalties, and make critical mental mistakes. More than injuries or the picked-up flag at the end of the game, Coach B can't be happy about his team's effort last night. We know that BB is a great situational football coach, but can you give us some insight into how he'll try to address some of the mental inconsistency that we saw last night? -- Jeremy (Boston)

A. Jeremy, he'll stress mental discipline and composure. When you have a team that is depleted, your margin for error is greatly lessened. Penalties and turnovers must be eliminated. Head athletic trainer Jim Whalen has a full house in there with injured players. Taking care of the football and limiting penalties is a must. There is nothing he can do schematically to prevent some of those penalties. He can, however, appeal to a player's intelligence and he does a good job of that.

Q. Did it ever frustrate you that Belichick never shows emotion with a bad call? -- Benjamin (Pembroke)

A. Don't be under the assumption that he's the same in front of the camera as he is in front of his team. Believe me, there is plenty being said in the team meeting.

Q. Is the locker room as angry as the fans are after a game comes down to a controversial call? Or are you guys more level-headed? -- Jun-Soo (Columbia, Md.)

A. Anger subsides quickly in successful locker rooms. If you let your emotions get the best of you, you'll end up being a team like the Lions. I anticipate this team moving on quickly and letting it go.

Q. It seems like the national media is ready to crown Cam Newton as the next big thing. Was I watching a different game? There were too many bad decisions (that the Patriots didn't capitalize on), and short of a couple lucky scrambles (or really poor tackling from the Patriots defense) Cam Newton showed up as a game manager and nothing more. Any thoughts on this? -- Jeff (Boston)

A. I would not call Cam Newton an elite quarterback. Here's the big four: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Newton isn't in that discussion. I think the biggest positive is that he's understanding what this team needs him to do -- play smart football, let the running game dictate the tempo and when a play is needed on third down you make it. He is exceptional at fulfilling that role this year.

Tom Brady
Frustration after a loss like Monday's may carry over to the locker room, but good teams learn to move on quickly, says Tedy Bruschi.

Q. Tedy, on Newton's key third-down scrambles the Pats' defensive unit took terrible angles to keep him in the pocket. Wouldn't this have been a point of emphasis from a Belichick-coached team? Just bad execution? -- Gary (Portland)

A. Let's give a little respect to the Carolina player wearing the jersey No. 1. He's a unique, athletic player. On that one spectacular run, you just have to tip your hat on that one.

Q. Hi Tedy, what happened yesterday with the coaching? NE always takes out our opponents' major strength, but they were unable to contain Newton's rushes. He scrambled successfully on third down not one, not two, but four times!!! What happened with the adjustments? -- Nissim (Bogota, Colombia)

A. With Newton's rushes, a good amount of them came against man coverage. If you're playing man coverage on the back end, your rush needs to get there. If there is no pressure, Cam can pick and choose how long it takes for him to throw the ball or run it.

Q. Tedy -- the Chiefs, contenders or pretenders in your opinion? Thanks in advance. -- KC Wolf (BBQ Capital of the World)

A. That's a difficult question for me. I don't know how much faith I have in Alex Smith. I thought that defense would rise to the occasion against the Broncos. To not knock Peyton Manning down once was shocking. I'm going to reserve judgment on that answer until I see them for a couple of more weeks.

Q. Tedy, how do you see next week's game with Denver? -- D (Portland)

 A. From a Patriots standpoint, I'm nervous. I think it's going to be difficult for them to get up-the-middle pressure on Peyton Manning. Kudos to Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and Isaac Sopoaga for stopping the run, but pressuring the passer is not their forte. With a depleted secondary, Tom Brady and the offense will need to score a lot of points.

Q. Tedy, can you see any weakness in Brady's game as he gets older? -- Stimpy (Tennessee)

A. I can answer this objectively and say I don't. Is he a different QB when you get pressure on him? Yes, but everyone is. He's one of the best of all time, but still needs help from his offense to be successful. If his receivers can't get open, and his offensive line can't protect, he'll look average like all the others.

Q. Doesn't Logan Mankins, as a well-established veteran, as a unit leader, as a team leader, have to channel his temper into blocking his opponent rather than hitting him in the face? It seems every other game, Mankins gets a personal foul, and yesterday, at the 26 yard line, he once again hurt his team in a year when he also hasn't played well. -- Tman (Belmont, Mass.)

A. Mankins plays best when he's irritated. It's just a fine line between playing with a chip on your shoulder and losing control. I think Mankins knows the difference. Did he hurt his team Monday night? Yes. He knows that can't happen again.

Q. I realize Ed Reed is a shadow of his former self, but last night I think we saw a young defense get rattled. Do you think the Patriots should have tried harder to court Reed for the veteran presence this defense seems to be sorely lacking right now? -- Carney L. (Mustache, Mass.)

A. Now that half the secondary is injured, you could say Reed would be a welcome addition. But some things you can't predict. This coaching staff is very confident in their ability to get everyone on the roster ready to play. We'll see if they can do that Sunday night.

Q. Tedy, as the season has progressed, have the Pats' receivers stepped up and played to their potential? -- Steve (California)

A. The Patriots' WRs not named Amendola, I see them in a complementary role for the rest of the year. The big three for the Patriots in the passing game are Vereen, Amendola and Gronkowski. Any production with other players is icing on the cake.

Q. Tedy, I really think this defense needs Brandon Spikes ... Mayo or no Mayo. Do you see any improvement in his coverage skills, such that he can become an every-down LB, and maybe re-sign with the Patriots? I look to the fantastic career you had as a standout, every-down LB, and recall that you came in as a DL. I'm not comparing Spikes to you, but he is definitely "full tilt, full time" and I would hate to see him leave the Pats.

A. Brandon Spikes is their No. 1 run-stopping player right now. I think he's a big reason Joe Vellano and Chris Jones have done so well. However, if there is a healthy Mayo and a healthy Dont'a Hightower (who I think should be 10 pounds lighter), then you have a Spikes who is a situational player. He's one of the best in the league at what he does. But I see others on the roster whose coverage skills are better than his.