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Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: October 22, 2:33 PM ET
Secondary not Pats' only problem

By Tedy Bruschi
ESPNBoston.com

Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q-and-A. After the Patriots' 24-23 loss Sunday in Seattle, there's a lot say. Here we go:

Q. What do you think was the biggest disappointment in the game? Personally I found that the biggest disappointment was the secondary and that if they don't get more depth or skill it probably will be the Patriots' downfall. -- Alec T. (Lehigh, Pa.)

A. Alec, I would say the chunk plays by Seattle were the biggest disappointment -- multiple explosive plays over 20 yards and Patriots defensive backs losing sight of the ball once again. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, people. The offense's inability to convert in the red area (one TD in six trips), Tom Brady getting called for intentional grounding that took points off the board, Jerod Mayo's missed tackle on third-and-4 on a Russell Wilson scramble that later resulted in a touchdown. I could go on and on. Offensively and defensively, the Patriots had problems Sunday.

Q. What's your view on the Patriots' secondary and was this performance by them the tipping point for Bill Belichick or will we continue to see this kind of performance? -- Steve (Boston)

A. I don't think there is a tipping point yet. There is still a season to be played. If I know Bill, he'll just try to improve with the players that he has. If there was somebody great out there on the street, he would go out and get him. But the biggest concern is this: Steve Gregory is out with a hip injury and now Patrick Chung hurt his shoulder. Now you're down to Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner and Sterling Moore at safety. That's not what you're looking for -- unless you're Russell Wilson. It's tough for a secondary to hold together when you have both of your starting safeties out.

Q. Tedy, what can be done to fix the secondary? -- Joe (Acton, Mass.)

A. First of all, better technique has to be played. On the fourth-down touchdown to Braylon Edwards, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was in good position until the ball was in the air. He looked over his right shoulder and spotted the ball. But as the ball was in the air, he has to feel Edwards going back shoulder. That's when you have to turn back in to the receiver. To continue to rotate to your right is the wrong thing to do. He is a rookie and that technique can be learned. You have to chalk that one up to being a rookie and not having experience.

Q. Hey Bru, the secondary looked awful yesterday. If you were Bill Belichick, where do you start and how do you fix it? -- Jesse (Cape Cod, Mass.)

A. First of all, I'm going to Jim Whalen and the training staff and asking them when Gregory and Chung will be back. This secondary is starting to get a reputation. In Russell Wilson's postgame news conference, he talked about a meeting he had with Pete Carroll early in the week in which they discussed attacking the Patriots' secondary deep down the field after Wilson extended a play. You only plan that against secondaries that you feel are undisciplined and can be taken advantage of. Their plan worked.

Q. Tedy, what is going on with this team? Is coaching an issue? Right now the entire league sees with the Patriots secondary all you need to go is chuck it down the field since you will either get a pass interference or the secondary cannot cover you. Play calling, as well, is ridiculous -- from play selection to clock management. We all love this team, but accountability at some point needs to come into play on watching players regress and make the same mistakes over and over again. -- LTC Tom H. (Fort Sam Houston, Texas)

A. It's hard to blame coaching when you're down to your third or fourth safety on a moment's notice. The Chung injury was big. But Moore still should know enough to stay deep, that he is the last line of defense, on Golden Tate's big gain (51 yards). That, coupled with Brandon Spikes' blow to the helmet, causes an entire field-position shift in one play. Although the Spikes hit didn't look that bad, it still got called. That's the way it goes.

Q. Hello Tedy, Frustrating! Tom Brady looked awful in the second half. Was it their defense or our play calling that rattled him? -- Jay (New Hampshire)

A. What was unique was seeing how short Brady was on a lot of his throws. His accuracy wasn't what we're used to seeing. He threw two interceptions, and it easily could have been four.

Also, that's the first blow to the head I've seen Brady take in a long time.

Q. It seems like Brady seems to have a real case of the "Ducks" lately. He seems to duck whenever there is no real pressure around him. What do you think is going through his mind when he does this? In particular I saw a play in the red area where the closest guys to him were his own linemen and he ended up taking a sack when no one touched him. What do you think? -- Alex (Rhode Island)

A. Tom is feeling pressure when he does that. Sometimes it's there; sometimes it's not. A quarterback does that because he has the mentality to live to fight another day. He's trying to not only protect the ball but also protect his body. If you would like him to just stand in there like a statue and take hits like some of these other quarterbacks do, that's the alternative. He has to last 16 games. He knows that, and if it means he has to duck a few times when the pressure is not there, so be it. I think you'd rather see Brady than Ryan Mallett.

Q. Tedy, commit to what had been working. Run the ball more! Agree or disagree? -- Patrick (Phoenix)

A. I agree, Patrick. When you drop back and throw it close to 60 times, you're telling a defense you're going to be one-dimensional. Defenses can play to that. What it also does is make it tough on the offensive line. You're asking them to pass protect close to 60 times in a place where there is a lot of crowd noise and you're going up against a good pass rush. Chris Clemons was able to force two intentional grounding calls on Brady by beating Nate Solder. But I'm not sure you can blame Solder. That's asking a lot of your left tackle.

Q. Hi Tedy. Do you think Richard Sherman's twitter comments were classless? And do you think he has the guts to say it to Vince Wilfork instead of going after a franchise quarterback? -- Tommy P. (Puerto Rico)

A. Tommy, Wilfork doesn't play offense, and Brady was talking trash out there too. The Seahawks' secondary had a huge day. There was trash-talking going on during the game, and when you win a game like that, you earn the right to talk some trash. If you're Seattle, you just shut down the highest-scoring offense in the league and a quarterback who was challenging you during the game. It's a little trash-talking; I have no problem with it.

Q. When are we seeing a change in offensive approach in the fourth quarter when leading the game? Specifically, I would NOT try to run out the clock but keep it in full attacking/hurry-up mode. That way, we either score again to put games away, or save time to get a comeback score as this defense is so unreliable that it usually melts down late in games. See this trend in five out of the last eight games (Baltimore playoff, Giants SB, Baltimore, Denver, Seattle). -- Nissim (Caracas, Venezuela)

A. The Patriots' attack mode lately has been to run the ball. They attempted to do that; it was just unsuccessful. But they did have the ball with 7:21 remaining with a lead and again with a lead and 3:09 remaining. That last one is when they had a three-and-out. Those are huge moments when the game can be won, and the offense didn't come through.

Q. This team is lacking that killer instinct that was so prevalent circa 2003. What do they need to do to develop that ability to go for the dagger and finish off the opponent? -- Dan (Denver)

A. Did you not see the Buffalo game? The team scored 45 points in the second half. That's killer instinct if I ever saw one, and I picked the Buffalo Bills in that game! Let's be real here. They went up against the No. 1 defense in the NFL. I think we all saw why they're the No. 1 defense. Did any of you think this was going to be easy? I actually felt the Patriots might pull away from this one in the end. The Seahawks' defense, I was sure about. I knew they were good. But I wasn't sure about Russell Wilson. I am now. That kid played a great game.

Q. Before the half, six seconds on the play clock on third and goal was a situation that I would think the coaches would want to avoid. Isn't it more important to have time to run a full red-zone series than have 0 vs. 10 vs. 20 seconds left on play clock when/if they do score? -- James P. (New York)

A. It all comes down to the third-down play with 6 seconds left. Brady dropped back to pass. He looked to his left, where Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker were his options. In that situation, a defensive player knows a receiver can only make one move, because if he tries to make a double move, the clock will run out. A quarterback knows the same thing; he must make one quick read and throw the ball. Brady looked to his left, started his motion and pulled it back. There was quick pressure from Clemons coming from Brady's left, but Brady still had to be smarter about throwing the ball away.

If you want to bring up killer instinct, that's killer instinct. They're trying to score points. They were looking to put the dagger in the Seahawks right there. There was time for a quick read and a quick throw, but it wasn't done properly.

Q. Hi Tedy. Man, that is three tough ones so far this year. How does this affect players in this locker room? Do you see any veteran on the team who will step up and make a difference? How would you handle it if you were still playing? -- Corky (Destin)

A. The only way to handle it is to beat the Jets.

Q. Hi Tedy. We've lost a few close games. Do you see it as being simply that the team didn't finish the game well (a problem, but a correctable one), or is it a symptom of a bigger issue? -- Sharon (Washington, D.C.)

A. I don't think it's a bigger issue. It's an issue of making mistakes in key moments. Brady's two intentional grounding calls. Aaron Hernandez's drop on third down that could have set up a more makeable fourth-down conversion. Tavon Wilson overplaying the corner route when Rice went back to the post. When multiple mistakes like that happen, you can't recover from them.

Q. Tedy, you've spoken in years past about how a defense and a team develop an identity over the course of a season. What signs do you see of the identity this defense and this team are developing? -- Bo (Oakland)

A. This defense was starting to develop an identity of getting after the passer, with Wilfork bringing up-the-middle pressure, Chandler Jones on the edge and Rob Ninkovich making plays. But even that identity lost itself at times in Seattle. On Baldwin's first-quarter touchdown, he was jammed to the ground, got up and ran to the end zone for his TD reception. The rush should have been there by then.

OK, after all the negatives from the game, here are some positives for you: Hernandez was healthy again. The more he plays, the tougher it's going to be for defenses to match up with the Patriots. If he can stay healthy the rest of the season, this offense will continue to have great production.

Lloyd continues to impress me. He is like a ballerina out there sometimes. The body control he has and the way he makes his en pointe -- I think that's the ballet term -- is amazing.

The defense is still causing turnovers. It had two forced fumbles, one from Mayo and a strip sack from Jones.

And every time Danny Woodhead touches the ball, something good happens. He may be the best all-around football player on the team. That kid is all-Bruschi.