ESPNBoston chats Patriots-Dolphins
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPNBoston.com will host a chat to take your questions on the New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins game this weekend.
Former Patriot Tedy Bruschi (noon-12:30 p.m. ET) and ESPNBoston.com blogger Mike Reiss (12:30-1:00 p.m. ET) will be on hand to take your queries.
Send your questions now and join the chat Thursday at noon ET!
Tedy Bruschi (12:01 PM)
That was a tough loss last week. I think the Pats will bounce back. Let's talk.
Any idea how often the Saints double-teamed both Welker and Moss? Shouldn't that leave the tight ends open more? Would be nice to see them back into the gameplan.
Tedy Bruschi (12:03 PM)
A lot of attention was on Moss and Welker from the Saints defense. I would have liked to have seen more of the tight ends also. And a little more of Kevin Faulk. But at times Tom couldn't get to his third reads because of the pressure.
Hi Ted, I'm tired of everyone putting Wilhite to blame on everything, where's Meriweather and Mcgowan? both virtually disappeared on monday. They are supposed to be the backbone of the secondary? (Spineless)
Tedy Bruschi (12:04 PM)
You're right. It's not all Wilhite. When he got beat for the long TD, he was in position. It's just that throw was so perfect. It's the safeties job to keep everyone on the same page. Monday night, they could have been a lot better, I agree.
Looking at the Pats scedule it seems that they could go 5-0 to end the season (or at least 4-1). If they can win out do you think they will move into the list of elite teams, or have the earlier games shown that they are outside of that group.
Tedy Bruschi (12:04 PM)
They can't be mentioned with the elite teams for the rest of the regular season. The only way they'll earn that back is by making a lot of noise in the playoffs.
Tedy, did you ever play straight after knowing you had been concussed?
Tedy Bruschi (12:05 PM)
I was always able to recognize how serious one of my concussions were. The doctors always made sure I was OK before I went out there.
Mike S (CT)
Is Laurence Maroney's revival this season an indication that he can be a solid contributor for the next few years, or is it just as likely that he gets buried again in 2010?
Tedy Bruschi (12:06 PM)
I think the Pats will stick with him because he is so young. They value young talent within that organization. I didn't like Maroney fumbling on Monday night. But I liked what he did after, he went and got the ball back. That's the sign of a fighter!
Freddie D (Maine)
Hello Tedy, Are you tired? I know I am tired of watching Meriweather being too concerned with making a big hit instead of making a play on the field.
Tedy Bruschi (12:07 PM)
This is what you have to go through when watching a young safety, Freddie. I think Meriweather can learn from that butt kicking they experienced in New Orleans.
Do you think the Pats offence is too predictable this year? It's like Ernie Zampizi is back. Brady throws 75% of his passes from shotgun. Maroney runs the ball 70% of the time when he is in the game. Too predictable!! They started the Saints game with some passes to the running backs and I was excited, but they stopped. If they are going to double cover Moss and Welker, dump it off the the backs! Did you see that double fake screen, pass to the TE over the vacated middle the Saints did? We used to do stuff like that! Spread the ball around. Do some misdirection fakes. Bring back Weis!!!!!
Tedy Bruschi (12:09 PM)
I agree with you Darin. When watching the New Orleans Saints and teams like the Broncos, one thing you see is playcalling creativity. I'd like to see a little more of that with the Patriots. It definitely wasn't there on Monday night. You make it easier for defenses to defend you when you're predictable.
Andy (Burlington, Vermony)
Tedy, am I crazy for feeling good about this team? I think we will fare well with our backs against the wall and needing something to prove. I feel like the pats do well when they are overlooked. Thoughts or predictions?
Tedy Bruschi (12:10 PM)
I still think the Pats win the AFC East. That gives you a home playoff game. This team plays very well at home. You've got to anticipate them being in the divisional round of the playoffs. From there, it's just about how they play on that given day.
HI Tedy- With two excellent offensive teams (the Colts and Saints) having their way with the Pat's D, does the defense have enough talent to challenge the elite teams?
Tedy Bruschi (12:11 PM)
I think they've got plenty of talent. They just need a little more experience. It's a very young unit. The strength of that unit was the defensive line. Trading Seymour before the season started is starting to look like a bad move.
Can I get a dolphins update Without Ronnie Brown do the dolphins still run as much wildcat? Are they still starting 3 rookies in their backfield? Do you think we can run the ball with their nt out?
Tedy Bruschi (12:12 PM)
Tony Sparano said at his press conference yesterday, that he still feels strongly about the wildcat. That's still an area of the offense the Patriots need to worry about. OC Dan Henning has always schemed against the Patriots well. Against the rookie DBs, they're doing better now, but the Pats still need to exploit them.
Joey (Rhode Island)
Hey Tedy,Was wondering if you think Coach will give a wakeup call to Meriweather and Mcgowan and let Sanders and Chung start this week.
Tedy Bruschi (12:13 PM)
That's a strong possibility. When you have as many big busts as they did Monday night, coach Belichick isn't shy about stirring the pot.
Has the fact lack of dominant offensive line play revealed that Tom Brady isn't as amazing as we once thought?
Tedy Bruschi (12:15 PM)
Tom Brady is still one of the best QBs in the league, but this isn't 2007 any more. Teams are starting to find ways to defend against this offense and once that blueprint is put out there, this is a copycat league and you will see it over and over again until you beat it.
What do you think the Pats will do with Vollmer and Light?
Tedy Bruschi (12:16 PM)
I think they feel Vollmer is their tackle of the future. Light's future depends on where they want Vollmer to play, LT or RT. They also value depth. Vollmer, Light and Kaczur are three great tackles to have on your team.
Tedy, What are the chances we see Weis back with the Pats? I think we could use some help scheming offensively!
Tedy Bruschi (12:17 PM)
I'd like to see Charlie back with the Pats. The more good coaches on your staff, the better. They could also use another strong personality.
Do you think Wilfork will line up opposite Jake Long at DE once again?
Tedy Bruschi (12:17 PM)
Not exclusively. What they've been doing is moving Vince from nose to end throughout the game. I see the same thing happening.
Tedy, in the NFL it is always hard to win on the road but looking ahead at Sunday night's game against the Dolphins why does playing in Miami seem to be a tougher place to play for the Pats?
Tedy Bruschi (12:19 PM)
First of all, whenever you play within the division, it's a tough game. When you get a northeastern team playing in south Florida, the climate change can effect you some times. The same thing with Miami. When they went up to Buffalo last week, Buffalo handed it to them.
Johnny (Rutland, VT)
I haven't heard Jerod Mayod name mentioned much since he returned from his knee injury. Is he playing as well as last year, or is he still recovering, or might he be permanently slowed?
Tedy Bruschi (12:19 PM)
There's no way he's permanently slowed. Mayo's had a lot of added responsibility this year, in terms of leadership, in terms of making the calls on defense. The more experience he gets, the better he will get.
Cape Mike (Sandwich)
Hey Teddy, appreciate the time you spend with fans like us to answer questions. Is it just me or are the pats really having a hard time playing when they are behind and for some reason can't get any momentum swing back their way?
Tedy Bruschi (12:21 PM)
I enjoy chatting with you guys too, Mike. The Pats have had two glaring problems this year: they can't win on the road and they're not a second half team. Championship teams don't have those problems.
What changes (from the Saints game) do you think the Pats will make on Sunday?
Tedy Bruschi (12:22 PM)
Keep an eye out for personnel changes in the secondary. One thing coach Belichick despises is mental errors. There were plenty of mental errors Monday night. He may make some changes.
What does the D need to do differently to get pressure on the qb? do we have the players to do it??
Tedy Bruschi (12:23 PM)
The defensive line has to win their one-on-one battles. Adalius Thomas got a sack last week, but others need to show up.
Tedy, what is the biggest difference in defending the Dolphins without Ronnie Brown, both in straight up run formations and in Wildcat?
Tedy Bruschi (12:24 PM)
I don't see their offense changing much. They'll just utilize Ricky Williams more than they have in the past.
Teddy- why do I never see any of our db's turn back to look for the ball? It's like why do they even bother covering. I would think if a guy is near the back of the endzone or ob that would be a sign its ok to look back,
Tedy Bruschi (12:25 PM)
That's a great observation. When you're dealing with young DBs like Butler and Wilhite, these are techniquest they need to learn.
Hey Teddy, I'm a little confused about the busted coverage on the long TD pass to Henderson. Was the assignment Mayo's or Meriweather's?
Tedy Bruschi (12:26 PM)
It looked like Meriweather bit on the pump fake by Brees. Whoever's man it was, you usually have a safety deep. That play was a disaster from the start.
Nick (Worcester, MA)
Hey Tedy, all I hear is how complicated the Patriots offensive and defensive system...and how players don't get a grasp of it even by the end of their first year here...Well, what's the point in having a system which can't maximize talent in a league where their is so much turnover? Something to pass along to Belichick?
Tedy Bruschi (12:27 PM)
That's a good question. Coach Belichick is not going to change the way he does things, but when you have young players and in experienced players within his system, these are the growing pains you experience, especially when there isn't a veteran presence that has been in the system for a long time. For example, Harrison in the secondary.
Tedy Bruschi (12:27 PM)
These kids have to grow up some time.
Traman T (Louisiana)
Why don't the pats use faulk that much?
Tedy Bruschi (12:28 PM)
They believe they have too many weapons. Moss, Welker, Maroney, Watson, Faulk. At the same time you're still trying to work in a third receiver, there's not enough footballs to go around.
Before the game on Monday, the announcers made a comment that the saints would want to get an interception early, as Tom Brady doesn't have a short memory. Well, they got it and we saw how the game turned out. Would you agree with the point about Tom?
Tedy Bruschi (12:29 PM)
I don't think one interception rattles Brady. But when you've got a player like Mike McKenzie coming off the street to make such a big impact on the game, you've got to give credit to that defensive coaching staff.
Tedy Bruschi (12:30 PM)
These are great questions, guys. I think the Pats get back on track this week against Miami. See you next week!
Mike Reiss (12:31 PM)
Thanks for getting this started Tedy. I'll jump in now. Here at Gillette Stadium for another day of Patriots work. The team is in meetings now and headed out to practice around 1.
Mike Reiss (12:33 PM)
They will be practicing in the Dana-Farber Field House today. TE Benjamin Watson was one player drawing a large media crowd today. Watson joked that his notes said that the first thing to do was avoid talking about the Saints game.
Mike Reiss (12:33 PM)
When a reporter asked Watson a question about the Saints game, Watson stopped and playfully said "What did I tell you about my notes?" It was a reflection of how the Patriots are working to put that game behind them.
Mike, in your mailbag this week you wrote Pats offered $2M to WR Gaffney but could not match $2.5M DEN offered. But, how much have Pats spent to find his replacement? Losing him and FB Evans was a huge deal, wasn't it?
Mike Reiss (12:36 PM)
Hi MarkJ. I didn't mean that the Patriots couldn't match the $2.5m for Gaffney, it's that they didn't want to with the entire roster in mind. They have pretty firm ceilings for certain positions.
Doug Brooks (Boston, MA)
Mike,With the benefit of hindsight, do you think the Patriots made mistakes in getting rid of Vrabel and Seymour, or do you think that the results against great offenses like the Saints and the Colts would have been the same? Along the same lines, how much do you think the defensive shortcomings are tied to a lack of leadership on the field?
Mike Reiss (12:38 PM)
Looking back, I would have kept Vrabel. I can't second-guess the Seymour trade because of what they got in return. I don't think Seymour alone would have made the difference in the Colts or Saints games. As for the leadership, I think there might be something to that. This is a young defense. Striking the balance is always hard. Every team wants to get younger and faster. Based on what we've seen, maybe it's one too many changes in my view.
Mike,do you think the coaching staff shows impatience by constantly rushing into the spread as soon as the other team scores. Maroney came out on first drive and had his way with the defense of the saints. I don't understand why a three point lead by the Saints warrants forcing the ball down field. This reminds me of the superbowl in 07. You ride Maroney's back through the playoffs then completely ditch what was working in the superbowl. This is why we drafted him so utilize his talent and it will pay off for Moss and Welker later in the game. I don't believe it is confidence but a lack of patience.
Mike Reiss (12:40 PM)
That was my biggest criticism from the Saints game. I thought Brady's first INT turned the tide. You obviously don't expect him to throw an INT when you spread it, but in retrospect, I thought that was a bad decision based on the early flow of the game. I think that might be a case where a young playcaller is still getting his feet under him in that role.
Burgess and Adalius Thomas just arent getting to the QB. Banta Cain is doing well but cannot do it by himself - is there any way to improve the pass rush before the playoffs?
Mike Reiss (12:42 PM)
I'd sit Burgess at this point and use Thomas in more of a three-down role. Thomas had a sack against Brees in that game, and then was headed to the sideline in favor of Burgess on the next play. I'd stop that rotation and see what Thomas can do in more of a pure rush role.
Slater was not lauded very much after the loss at NO (3 returns for an average of 26 yards, no muffed/dropped ball)... do you think he finally gets the snag of it and might secure a longterm spot as a standout special teamer (both returner and tackler)?
Mike Reiss (12:44 PM)
Hi _bb. The Patriots rank 27th in the NFL in average drive start (24.4 yard line) and I think they need a spark on kickoff returns. Slater, to me, isn't the answer. He is fast, but I wonder if he has the vision to be Ellis Hobbs-type successful. I'd try Terrence Wheatley in that role.
Mike (Somerville, MA)
Greetings, Mike! Obviously a bit disappointed with Monday's loss, but still getting excited for the stretch run leading up to the playoffs. We still have a good few weeks to tweak things on defense and, more importantly, get healthier! I have one comment...I get the sense that teams now are not "afraid" of the Pats like they were in previous years...do you get the sense that folks around the league feel this way as well? As always, I appreciate your insight, thanks!
Mike Reiss (12:45 PM)
No doubt about it, Mike. I specifically got that sense from visiting the Saints locker room after the game. Asked a few offensive players what they were concerned with defensively from the Patriots and the first thing they said was how sturdy they are against the run, and they stopped there. Nothing about playmaking defenders, or feared pass rushers.
Do you see Shawn Springs being active for this game with the way Wilhite struggled last game? I know it's tough to predict injuries but who do you think plays on the o line this week?
Mike Reiss (12:47 PM)
My personal feeling is that it's time to get Springs back into the mix, and sit Wilhite down. Springs has been inactive for the last three games, and with Steve Smith, Terrell Owens and Andre Johnson remaining on the schedule, I think it's time to make the change at that CB spot and go with Butler and/or Springs. On the offensive line, I think everyone will be available. Not sure what they'll do at left tackle.
After watching a pretty weak defense continue to struggle against New Orleans it seems obvious the Patriots suffer from a lack of playmakers on defense. The one player that seems to consistently play hard and be productive every week on defense is Vince Wolfork. I can not understand why the Patriots continue to delay extending him. If they lose their starting nose tackle and one of their best defensive players....not only will they be vulnerable to the pass but teams will be able to run on them as well without big Vince anchoring the middle.....your thoughts on this??
Mike Reiss (12:49 PM)
Makes sense to me, Stewart. I think Wilfork has earned everything coming to him. Not sure he could do much else at this point. I think the one thing that is tough to gauge is what he is looking for. You can't be undisciplined from a team perspective and just meet every demand, so there needs to be a middle ground. But with each passing week, Wilfork strengthens his case.
Erik G (Los Angeles)
Seems like the Pats biggest issue is putting pressure on the opposing QB. Can we call Burgess a bust yet? I hope that 2011 Pick is a gem because we really could use Richard Seymour right now.
Mike Reiss (12:49 PM)
Seymour = 4 sacks in Oakland.
Aaron (Trumbull, CT)
Hey Mike, tough week this week. But, many of the Patriots championship seasons have featured huge losses where the Patriots simply didn't show up (Opening week against the Bills in 2003, Steelers to end the streak in 2004). Also, look at how the Titans season did a complete 180 after the debacle in snowy Foxoboro. Do you buy into the theory that some teams just simply need that kick in the rear to get shot down to Earth and turn it up a notch to prepare for a stretch run?
Mike Reiss (12:51 PM)
Not so much, Aaron, but I do believe that things can change fast in the NFL and it's dangerous to write a team off at this point (e.g. Arizona in 2008). So while I think there is reason for concern with the Patriots' play, I don't think they're out of it yet.
In your opinion, why was Julian Edelman inactive on Monday night? Do the team view Stanback better WR than Edelman? I know his arm is still an issue but I may not the only one who wants to see him a lot more for the rest of the year.
Mike Reiss (12:51 PM)
It was purely because of the forearm injury Aki. He's one of their best 45. If he's healthy, he plays.
josh (tel aviv)
if this years Pats could play last year's Pats, who would win?
Mike Reiss (12:51 PM)
I'll take this year's Pats.
PatsFansince69 (Basking Ridge New Jersey)
Mike, thanks for your insightful comments.1) Which players have the most game balls this season? What grading criteria are necessary to earn a game ball?2) Can you confirm if Brandon Tate did/did not injure the same knee that he has prior surgery on?Thanks
Mike Reiss (12:52 PM)
I'd have to go through my notes on the game balls. I don't have that off the top of my head. On Tate, I have heard rumors that it was the different knee but have not been able to confirm those.
Does Sparano go back to the option with White (even though the Pats nullified it with adjustments) or do we some something else this week?
Mike Reiss (12:53 PM)
I think that will still be part of the plan, Glenn, but maybe with an added wrinkle (e.g. more throwing?).
Saw multiple mentions regarding frustration being seen (and heard) on the Patriots sideline. The TV broadcast did not show this...did you happen to notice this or have any more information on it? Seems rare to see with the Patriots (minus Brady earlier this season). Thanks!
Mike Reiss (12:54 PM)
I didn't see it myself Glenn.
Many are afraid that the relationship between Brady and Moss is getting worse as they can not connect as well as in '07. Randy looks to be more and more frustrated...sometimes Tom as well. Do you have any inside knowledge or what do you think about it?
Mike Reiss (12:55 PM)
I don't have any inside knowledge _bb, but I think the relationship is fine. I would keep an eye on Moss from an overall perspective, though. He seems frustrated to me as well, but I don't think it's specifically with Brady.
Weiss to NE?
Mike Reiss (12:56 PM)
It's all speculation at this point, Andy, but I can't see any downside to it when/if Weis is ready to return to the NFL. Belichick always says he does what is best for the team and having Weis in some capacity could only be good.
There was a lot of mention of the Patriots defense growing enough to allow them to experiment with leaving their basic defensive schemes they had relied on while the guys were getting a few games under their belts. Did we see some growing pains in the defense Monday because of this?
Mike Reiss (12:57 PM)
The more I've thought about this, Ryan, I think some of the players just got spooked by the moment, making uncharacteristic mistakes under pressure.
Mike,I think they need to bring Wies back to spark this team if they truly want to compete for a championship this year. The problem on defense is not talent but age so that is not going to change. Offensively what are they going to do to get the ball rolling for the playoffs bring in some overpaid over the hill burnouts like Toomer or Harrison. They need something to spark a new sense of renewal and passion. Do the fans some justice and get him back.
Mike Reiss (12:58 PM)
I don't think a coaching tweak alone will make it happen, Will. I think they need to make some personnel changes too, and shake it up.
i know it's scheme but seriously can we acknowledge that for the money Adalius Thomas is a bust ? at 1/3 the cost "it's the system" works as an explanation
Mike Reiss (12:59 PM)
The signing hasn't worked out for either side. I wouldn't judge it on this year, though. Thomas has become a base-defense only player. I'd like to see him play a bit more on third down because I think he can help them there more than Burgess.
Teddy or Mike, I notice we have not heard anything from Joey Porter. Do you think we shut him after last game? Or do you think he will use the scoreboard slight as extra motivation this week?
Mike Reiss (1:00 PM)
Tedy chimes in on this in "Bruschi's Breakdown", which will be posted later today/early evening on ESPNBoston.com. His feeling is that Porter will be extra motivated.
jonathan (san diego)
What is the deal with Junior seau, is gonna play starting in the later weeks and for the playoff run? I think he can give u helpe on the field instead of just being a cheerleader right?
Mike Reiss (1:02 PM)
I think he'll be back on the field this week even though he didn't play the first time against the Dolphins. His leadership behind the scenes has been great, but now I think they need it on the field.
Mike Reiss (1:02 PM)
Let's take a few more before wrapping up here...
How about Maroney? Looks like he really stepped up his game against the saints. Could this because he knows Fred Taylor is almost healthy enough to snatch the starting job from him again?
Mike Reiss (1:03 PM)
I think Maroney has been the offense's bright spot over the last three games. The downside are his three straight games with fumbles. I don't think his performance has anything to do with who is coming back. He's just playing ball with passion.
Mike, with the NFL becoming more of a passing league and with it being imperative to rush the passer to disrupt the timing between him and his receivers, do you think the Parcells 3-4 alignment using big DL to hold the line is becoming antiquated?
Mike Reiss (1:04 PM)
Not at all, Rob. The Dolphins this year are a good example. They are second in the NFL in sacks per pass play. The reason is that they have some good rush linebackers like Joey Porter and Jason Taylor.
Mike (Woburn, MA)
Mike, another shoulda/woulda/coulda- Do you think that if BB knew now what he knew then, he would not have released Greg Lewis. Will NE struggling to find a complimentary piece for Welker and Moss, Lewis could have fit in nicely in that role. I know he did not know that Joey Galloway would age in front of our eyes, but Lewis has to be a WR improvement over Aiken, Stanbach, et al.
Mike Reiss (1:05 PM)
Of course, Mike, although I'm not sure how much of a difference it would make. If they knew Galloway's situation was going to head in that direction, they certainly would have kept Lewis.
Mike, thought you were a bit harsh in criticizing the Patriots because they spread the field on Brady's first interception. Normally, you laud their ability to mix things up. Starting a possession at midfield, they like to take shots. Was your criticism based more on that play or what happened after it?
Mike Reiss (1:06 PM)
Fair point, Seamus, and you always try to balance criticism by asking yourself the question "Would I have said the same thing if the play went for a TD?" In this case, it's a yes. The reason was that the Patriots had multiple TEs on nine of their 14 plays on the opening drive and had established a physical tone. They were driving the ball down the Saints' throats. When they came out in the spread, before the play, my question was "Why?"
Hey Mike, Do you realistically think we'll see more of Shawn Springs or was that just a suggestion? Also how would you compare Wilhite to Ellis Hobbs?
Mike Reiss (1:07 PM)
That was just a suggestion, Tron. I have no idea if Springs will be active. In terms of Wilhite and Hobbs, I think Wilhite moves a bit better.
Mike, any chance Wilhite could get cut as a result of his play the past few weeks
Mike Reiss (1:08 PM)
No, Johnny, that would be too drastic for one bad game. He did give up the long TD in the Jets game, but I don't think it's stuff that you cut a player for. In the Colts game, I think you just tip your cap to Reggie Wayne.
David (North Attleboro,Ma)
Hi Mike. The Patriots are still a good team but the haven't looked like a championship team. I am starting to think what we are really seeing this year from the Patriots is a team that is still winning despite going through a rebuilding year. That is a difficult thing to do and at the end of the year we might view this as one of Belichick's best coaching jobs. Your thoughts?
Mike Reiss (1:09 PM)
Belichick sees the big picture as well as any head coach. I think we'll view this as a transition year in which a lot of youth was infused onto an aging roster and they had some growing pains. But right now, it's too early to write the complete story because they aren't out of it.
Could you talk a little about the play of Thomas. Has he improved since his healthy scratch? Is he performing at a high level but flying under the radar because of the defensive system?
Mike Reiss (1:10 PM)
I sense he is very frustrated at the way it has all unfolded. Some players respond favorably to a healthy scratch. I don't see it in this case. In terms of his performance, I think he's one of the team's best 11 defenders so I'd leave him on the field for all three downs.
Mike, do think that they have the right, young players in place, specifically on D to be successful for the coming yrs? Are guys like Chung
Mike Reiss (1:11 PM)
I do, Rob. I don't think they are far off.
Mike, how's the move to ESPN Boston treating you?
Mike Reiss (1:13 PM)
Let's end on this one, Darin. I'm enjoying it, and part of the reason is for days like today, chatting with readers and following up Tedy. He has helped me a lot in terms of learning and understanding the game.
Mike Reiss (1:13 PM)
Thanks to everyone who joined the chat. We'll plan on doing it again next Thursday at noon.
Mike Reiss (1:15 PM)
I noticed one thing -- for those who had the chat on auto-refresh, sometimes the questions and answers weren't bunched together. If you manually refresh the page, all the info should be paired together and all the questions should be answered.
Mike Reiss (1:15 PM)
Appreciate everyone's participation. Enjoy the rest of the day and the weekend.