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Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: December 7, 1:21 PM ET
Patriots got their wakeup call

By Tedy Bruschi
ESPNBoston.com

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

Q. Tedy, what's the mindset when you have a big lead in the fourth quarter with seven minutes left, to stay no huddle and don't take any time off the clock with incomplete passes to give the other team a chance to catch up? If Branch doesn't get the onside kick at the end, they may have scored again and that would have been the biggest embarrassment in the history of the Pats. Why didn't they try and run out the time? -- Sam (Gloucester, Mass.)

A. Sam, has this team ever shown in its recent history that it takes its foot off the pedal? Their way to run the ball in this offense is the passing game (short passes). They were just being true to who they are.

Q. Tedy, some core special-teamers such as Tracy White and Matthew Slater are playing more on defense this season, and I am worried they are worn out by January. You have spent some years playing both special teams and defense. How did you manage yourself in terms of physical and mental aspects? -- Mark J. (Japan)

Matthew Slater
With the Patriots' injury problems, Matthew Slater may continue to see more time on defense,

A. The heavier the workload the more likely the chance you get worn down. With all the injuries on defense, other players are going to have to step up. Depth is one thing on this team that is being tested. You'd rather leave your core special-teams players to play on special teams, but the Pats have no choice. It took me a decade to get off the punt team, but that added responsibility was something I was proud of.

Q. Fans trust Bill Belichick. We know that this team will make the playoffs with most likely home-field advantage. But there have been a number of questionable moves this year and the latest is the Patriots cutting Taylor Price. I feel that the team owes (not true, of course) the fans an explanation on Price's cut because of the talent and potential we saw in the preseason combined with the team history of drafting WR busts (Randy Moss and Wes Welker were established WRs before they arrived). I just want a clear explanation of why the team cut a talented player before giving him a chance on the field, because a personnel move that drastic (not even two years in the league!) needs to be justified in the minds of fans. -- Eric (Massachusetts)

A. When Tiquan Underwood is signed last week and they promote him ahead of Taylor Price, that's your answer. This organization won't publicly admit at times that they've made a mistake, but when a third-round pick is cut in his second year, they are acknowledging it being a mistake without saying it.

And remember this, it is only his second year. If the Patriots have come to a conclusion that they want to move on from him, why publicly demean a player when he has a chance to get signed by another team? Let other teams come to their conclusions on their own.

Q. What happend in the fourth quarter? Did the defense just decide to shut it down? -- Charles (Rhode Island)

A. It looked like it to me, that they shut it down. They played well up to that point. I saw a defense playing with an attitude of "we got this."

Q. Tedy, are the Jets back? The wins are coming and the weather is getting cold! Is this a playoff streak we're about to witness or are they pretenders? -- LeAnne (Washington)

A. As Lloyd Christmas once said, "so you're saying there's a chance." Yes, what I'm saying is that they have life. They are a team when given life, they turn it on. Over the course of a season, the Jets are inconsistent but in a one-game playoff matchup, they can be dangerous.

My question to you chatters out there: What's the problem with the Detroit Lions? Obviously it's just not Ndamukong Suh; that entire team loses its composure.

Also, what do you think about what Cowboys coach Jason Garrett did with his timeout? Food for thought.

Another question: Do you think the Packers will pull a "Colts" and shut it down with two games to go?

Q. Do you think that the Denver Broncos will be successful in the playoffs? --Ryan (California)

A. Successful in the playoffs, to me, means making it to the conference championship game. I like what the Broncos are doing but I don't see them going that far.

Q. Will the 9-3 Steelers overcome the two losses to the Ravens and still win their division and do you see Pittsburgh going back to the Super Bowl? -- Jayson S. (Pittsburgh)

A. I've got to stay with the Ravens. They were my preseason AFC Super Bowl pick. I don't know what Flacco you will get on a game-to-game basis. This team has played down to its competition, but the Ravens are dangerous, especially at home.

Q. If the Pats' secondary continues to allow huge gains it seems as though the Pats could easily lose in the first round of the playoffs. The remaining serious challenge of the regular season looks to be Miami. I'd prefer to see Miami crush the Pats so they develop a chip on their shoulder that enables them to avoid an early playoff loss. Would be a tough pill to swallow, seeing as I hate to see the Pats lose (especially on Christmas Eve), but in the end it could be the best thing for them. -- Mike (Westford, Mass.)

A. I see where you are coming from. This team has needed a wake-up call at times over the last two seasons, but I think they might have gotten one against the Colts without losing. You let Dan Orlovsky put his team in position to tie the score late. They were one onside kick recovery from seriously being threatened. Bill Belichick has plenty of motivational material for this week.

Q. Hi Tedy, my question is about the pass defense. Forgetting about the yards and the late TDs and the spotty play and the personnel shuffling, for me it boils down to completions. Why can't this defense seem to force ANY incompletions?? It seems like every completion is an easy one with tons of separation by the WRs. When the Colts were putting together two 15+-play drives, I couldn't help but notice those and think that Belichick expects the opposing offense to eventually make a mistake, but it hasn't happened enough! I'd love your input. -- Jim (Illinois)

A. It is one thing to be well coached and in position to make plays. Coach Belichick and that defensive staff can tell them how to adjust, where to line up, and where to be in the framework of the defense called, but once the ball is thrown and it's in the air, good coaching can only do so much. It then comes down to 'Does the player have the ability to make the play?' The one player I want to see that from more is Devin McCourty.

Q. Tedy, are you concerned about Devin McCourty? I cringe when I see him play. The defense performed better the past four weeks he's been out. I'm tired hearing people defend him by saying he plays against the No. 1 WRs from each team. Revis gets the same assignments. I would rather see McCourty out than in at this point. Horrible looking all year and really bad yesterday. -- Ray (Georgia)

A. I don't cringe when I see him play. I'm just still waiting. Waiting for him to make the plays he has the ability to make.

Q. Tedy, the problem with the Lions is Jim Schwartz. I'm not calling for his firing by any means, but in terms of composure and discipline, this team is feeding off the actions of their coach. The Lions have had bad execution. -- Shane (Robins AFB, Georgia)

A. Shane, I'm with you. You can be a part of this chat any day. Schwartz has to gain control of his team.

Q. Hi Tedy, I'll answer two of your questions: 1) From what I've seen, it looks like the Lions take after their coach. Jim Schwartz is very emotional and it seems like when he loses his composure, the whole team follows suit. 2) I do not see the Packers letting up like the Colts did. For starters, they know how valuable momentum is going into the postseason and maintaining it will be paramount. Second, with Rodgers chasing many single-season QB records, I think they'll keep their foot on the pedal. -- Jim (Illinois)

A. Jim, I love your response. I don't know if you know what this means, but I'm giving you an "Awwwwww yeah!' If you don't know what that is, listen to the end of our podcast on ESPNBoston.com

Q. Jason Garrett made a mistake. We've seen other notable coaches do the same in that situation. -- Jason (Montpelier)

A. Mistake is the key word. As a player, moving on all I want to hear from my head coach is 'I made a mistake.' Take accountability the same way you want players to take accountability and you will gain more respect. It didn't kill their season. With everyone losing in the NFC East, they still have life.

Q. Everyone loves to talk about how mentally tough the Patriots are when referring to bouncing back from tough situations to pull out a win. However, would you say that the Patriots are equally good at making other teams feel mentally tough by allowing third- and fourth-string quarterbacks to have career games and giving opposing teams ample opportunities to come back? Doesn't this negate the battle of mental toughness? -- Jane (New York City)

A. You sure do make other teams feel good about themselves in the end. But some can say mental toughness is all about getting the victory. At least the Patriots did that. Don't get me wrong, I don't like how they finished.

Devin McCourty
The Patriots need to get more big plays from cornerback Devin McCourty, here taking down Colts RB Donald Brown on Sunday.

Q. Tedy, please explain to me how starting Matthew Slater gives the Pats a better chance to win, as Bill Belichick would like us to believe? -- Nick (Montreal)

A. I've said this before, this Colts game and possibly other games down the line can be developmental games. If Coach Belichick sees he may be needing Slater down the road, you better get him reps sooner or later.

Q. Hey Tedy, you've always been a big Jerod Mayo supporter. Yesterday he seemed much more active with some nice tackles and the great interception, but before that he's had a pretty quiet year. Would you attribute that strictly to injury? The rotation of players at the other linebacker spot? Are you still as high on him as you've been in the past? -- Mike (Stoneham, Mass.)

A. It always seems like when Jerod gets going, he gets that MCL injury. That happened again this year. Getting your first career interception can be a starting point. To be in the conversation of Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, he must continue to make those type of big plays.

Q. Tedy, could you comment on the issue of re-establishing defensive cohesion -- especially among linebackers -- when injured players return? The Patriots will probably get Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher back soon. If yesterday were the playoffs, they might already have played. Both players are potential upgrades, at least situationally. But how hard will it be for the LB corps to re-establish the timing and mutual awareness it relies on? How long will it take to get that back? Thanks. -- litprof (Northern Virginia)

Tedy (11:32 AM)

A. There is no doubt in my mind that to have a championship defense you need continuity, especially in Coach Belichick's system, because of the high degree of adjustments. The more the group of Spikes, Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Fletcher and Gary Guyton can play together, and know each other from the inside out, the better this team will be. Guys, there is a reason why the pass defense has struggled. No continuity in the secondary. Also, it's why the pass rush has been great at times -- Andre Carter, Vince Wilfork, Kye Love, Mark Anderson have been working together 13 weeks.

Q. Hey, Tedy, thanks for the great moments in Patriots' history. People are never happy, huh? The Patriots win by 30, and they are accused of being classless and running up the score. Then they relax in the fourth and an otherwise easy game is close, and fans still moan and groan. Can't people just be happy? -- networkdood (California)

A. Welcome to New England. I live it every day.

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.