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September 27, 10:00 AM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (9:58 AM)

Good morning and welcome to our weekly Patriots chat. Wanted to try something a little different and do it a little earlier than normal. The normal time is 1 p.m. this year, but I wanted to experiment with 10 to see if it can work. Will be open to your feedback on this one.

Mike Reiss
  (9:59 AM)

The first thing I will do this morning is turn the auto update on. It might take a few minutes to activate, but it is now on.

Mike Reiss
  (10:00 AM)

Let's chat until 11. I'm here at the stadium, where media members will have access to the locker room from 11:15-noon. I'm expecting the referees to be a big topic of discussion. This is obviously great news for the game, that the owners and regular officials have come to an agreement. What we saw the first three weeks was disappointing, to say the least.

Raj (Morrisville NC)

Hi Mike, I had a question on the new IR Rule...How many players can be placed on IR and return again during the same season.Also, once the injured player returns from IR can the team place another player on IR (say Week 10) and can he return during the Post season...

Mike Reiss
  (10:01 AM)

Raj, it's just one player. The Patriots used their exemption of TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Adam (Cranston)

Why hasn't Gronk been a bigger factor this year? Better coverage or attempt to have a more balanced approach? You would think he would be Brady's safety net with Hernandez out and Welker not having a big role the first 2 weeks.

Mike Reiss
  (10:04 AM)

Adam, I'll focus solely on what I saw Sunday night in Baltimore. 49 dropbacks from Brady, and Gronkowski was releasing into routes 33 times and staying in to block 16 times. I think the 16 is a little higher than the norm, so that ties to production in the passing game. Second, defenses are paying a lot of attention to him. Watch Edelman's TD catch over again if you can. Two defenders on Gronk opens the throwing lane to get the ball to Edelman. So we talk about "being a bigger factor" and I think we need to look deeper than just pass-catching stats. Gronkowski was very much a big factor in that game Sunday night -- 2 catches, his presence on Edelman TD, drawing a hold, and blocking. He played every snap. I only counted two of the 33 times he released into routes as possibilities that the ball should have gone to him over someone else. The ball was coming out quickly and the Lloyd/Welker matchups were most favorable.

Mike Reiss
  (10:05 AM)

The last point on Gronk -- wouldn't be surprised if he's still feeling the after-affects of the ankle surgery. Doesn't seem as explosive off the line to me on a consistent basis.

Jim ("Work")

Mike, how do you feel about this year's O-line? 7 sacks in 3 games is too much for TB12. He'll never complain but it can paralyze our offense in critical situations too much.

Mike Reiss
  (10:06 AM)

Jim, I'd say it's getting better. I thought that was pretty encouraging on Sunday night for them, up until the final series. And it's extremely topical this week, because the Bills have a very good front-4. Blocking them is the key to the game.

Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, FL)

Mike I think we can all agree if the Patriots lose this week the Season is Over?

Mike Reiss
  (10:07 AM)

Absolutely not, Anthony. Would there panic in New England? For sure. Would it be warranted? No. Look around the AFC and who scares you? The Patriots will still be there in the end, I believe.

Scott (Maryland)

Mike,Any thoughts on McCourty? He seems to be a liability out there. It brings back memories ala Ellis Hobbs. With the Pats front seven being a stronger group I was hoping he would play a bit tighter....unlike Revis Island McCourty Island is a place receivers want to visit.

Mike Reiss
  (10:09 AM)

Scott, specific to Sunday night, I thought McCourty was one of their better defenders through three quarters before having the major breakdown in the fourth quarter with the pass interference penalty and before that, the dropped INT. I thought his overall coverage was competitive, but you have to be able to finish the job and he didn't. That's the difference between a good cornerback and an elite one.

Andrew (LA)

Is this past sunday a sign that Welker is back into the fold as a go to option in the offense?

Mike Reiss
  (10:10 AM)

Andrew, that never changed in my view. Welker might have been seeing less time in the 2-WR packages -- and if you watch Edelman run and see that speed, you start to understand why -- but I never thought the Patriots were thinking of him any differently when it came to "got-to-have-it" situations.

Riley (Fairfax)

Now that the officiating is no longer the main story, what do you think dominates the headlines- one thing that stands out to me is the former MVP QBs have been struggling to win. Are you surprised to see that Rodgers, Brees, and Brady are a combined 2-7 this year?

Mike Reiss
  (10:11 AM)

Riley, that absolutely stands out to me, although can I make it 2-7*. That * is there because of the travesty of Monday night.

Mike Reiss
  (10:13 AM)

One note on that with the QBs: Had a great chat with colleague Field Yates on this topic and one conclusion we drew is that offenses have to keep evolving on a yearly basis. Have people figured the Saints out? The Packers, too? Fair question. That's why the whole debate about how Josh McDaniels is tinkering with the offense, and how it relates to Welker's role, is interesting to me. I like the idea of trying to develop more of a running game, but how do you do it without feeling like you're not tapping your best weapon in Tom Brady? It's hard to strike that balance.

T. (Maine)

Mario Williams will be coming off the right side... is Seabass ready for him (Please, no Cannon this week), or will Gronk be looking at staying in to block a lot again this week?

Mike Reiss
  (10:15 AM)

Had a nice talk with Vollmer on Wednesday and my sense in talking with him is that he's hitting his stride. I thought he played well on Sunday night, outside of one play late in the game, in the critical situation, when it looked like Paul Kruger beat him with a rush to the inside. Vollmer split snaps with Marcus Cannon about 50-50 in the season opener as he worked his way back from that back injury, and then it was about a 75-25 split in Week 2 before Vollmer played all the snaps against the Ravens. Good timing because now he gets Mario Williams. Key matchup in the game.

KTP (Wonderland)

Mike - What has been the most dissappointing area of the team for you this season? To me it is the continued defensive weakness when the opponent is throwing the ball.

Mike Reiss
  (10:15 AM)

I'd say execution in situational football and critical situations. They used to own those areas. Not this year.

Alvin (Amherst, MA)

As bad as it may seem now that the Patriots are 1-2, do you at least find it encouraging that Tom Brady had a decent game in Baltimore throwing for 300+ yards and 0 picks?

Mike Reiss
  (10:16 AM)

Alvin, the Patriots are not far away from being 3-0. A play here or there and the picture could look completely different. I know you can't do that, but the point to me is that if they start rising up when it comes to situational football and critical situations, they will start winning games.

Mike Reiss
  (10:19 AM)

Here is one concrete example: Fourth quarter, Patriots lead 30-21, and have the ball at the Ravens 40. A touchdown ends it, for all intents and purposes. First-and-10. Handoff to Danny Woodhead and a loss of 4 yards, as the linebacker Ellerbe races through and right guard Dan Connolly appears to miss the block. It's a physical mistake that put the Patriots in a second-and-14 and changed the complexion of the drive. Can't have negative plays. Fourth quarter, chance to put them away, you have to put the foot on the throat and drive it home.

Ike (Rochester, NY)

Hey Mike I have a simple question for you. Who will have more yards by the end of the season- Welker or Lloyd?

Mike Reiss
  (10:19 AM)

Ike, I think I'll be retiring from the prediction business. Anyone know how many catches Greg Salas needs to get to 61? LOL.

Mike Reiss
  (10:19 AM)

Seriously, I'll pick Lloyd.

Ian B (Ottawa, ON)

It seemed like on Sunday the announcers were looking for chances to talk up the Pats front seven. They were acknowledging that they are getting better. Then, the Pats went and gave them absolutely nothing to talk about. Was that just a win for the Baltimore front or we over shooting with this new front seven. Side note, Nink seemed particularly out of synch.

Mike Reiss
  (10:23 AM)

Ian, not a good game for the front seven and credit should go to the Ravens first. But there were some uncharacteristic errors there. Jerod Mayo ducking into the wrong gap? We hardly ever see that. So some of the wounds were self-inclicted. As for Ninkovich, I thought the rookie Osemele got the best of him for the most part. The one point I'd make on Ninkovich is that his primary responsibility is to keep that hard edge set, and then he can rush. He had one play where the RB got to the edge and that's on him. He was stonewalled and chipped on a few other rushes. But he also had a few nice rushes, one coming late. Ninkovich is a sound, fundamental player who I think the coaching staff likes because he's consistent and they know what they're going to get. He might now "wow" you, a la Danny Woodhead on offense, but he's a good player.

JC (Boston)

Do you think we'll see much of Dowling this weekend? Or is he another Darius Butler?

Mike Reiss
  (10:24 AM)

JC, it will all depend on how he practices. His drop on the depth chart is notable. I wish I had the answer for you.

Torrell (Philadelphia, PA)

Long time patriots fan, first time commenter. I love how middle ground you try to stay as far as not reading into stats too much week to week. After reading soundbites from Ed Reed, I realized something. The Tom Brady to Wes Welker connection is already a good one. Might people be reading into the lower Welker playing time way too much. I mean, Tom needs to establish the connection he has with Welker to other players, such as Lloyd. Not to say Welker will be gone next season, but to at least get familiar with people that may be here next season. Might he be trying to hard at this point, maybe, but it is worth it. A loss may not be the expected outcome, but I rather them work it out now, and be on the same page by the end of the season/playoff time. I mean no one wants a failed experiment like Chad Ochocinco again? am I right?

Mike Reiss
  (10:26 AM)

Thanks Torrell. I think the Welker story is more of a media-related issue than a pure football one. The main thing I see is that they are using Julian Edelman a bit more as an outside WR in the 2-WR package and it's tied to his speed and blocking. They are committed to getting this ground game going. Welker will play a lot. He is a difference-maker.

Matt (Elon NC)

If Forston clears waivers, do you think he'll go on PS? And whose place would he take?

Mike Reiss
  (10:27 AM)

Yes, Matt, if Forston clears waivers I see him landing on the practice squad. Jeremiah Warren and Cyhl Quarles would be the two players I'd watch as possibly affected by the potential addition of Forston to the practice squad.

CC (Atlanta)

Stop it with the * nonsense. The real outrage is that the replay official (who is not a replacement) did not overturn the call. Simultaneous possession is reviewable if the play is in the end zone. So stop it!

Mike Reiss
  (10:28 AM)

Ridiculous turn of events, CC, and one the league should be embarrassed about. Seahawks steal a victory they should have never had.

Ryan (Maryland)

I think I'm done watching the NFL until the regular officials are back. Any clue when that might be?

Mike Reiss
  (10:29 AM)

This weekend, Ryan. I shared in your frustration. Was borderline angry after the Sunday night/Monday night combo.

Arthur (New York)

The Pats were unprepared for the blitz on the 2nd and 3rd downs of their last drive which may be the biggest reason they lost to the Ravens. Whose fault is that? McDaniel's playcall or Brady's failure to recognize the blitz? What should they have done differently?

Mike Reiss
  (10:31 AM)

Arthur, a lot of that stuff is on Brady at the line of scrimmage. I don't know for sure in this particular case, but he's setting the protection based on what he sees pre-snap. He might have set it correctly and there was a physical breakdown. Or he might have made a mistake. On a few of those got-to-have-it plays late in the game, the Ravens showed blitz and then backed out. Good chess match.

Dan (New Hampshire)

Why isn't Stevan Ridley getting a greater volume of the carries? It barely seemed like he had a chance in the Ravens game, losing impact carries to both Bolden and Woodhead. What gives?

Mike Reiss
  (10:33 AM)

Dan, part of what we saw Sunday was related to the game-plan. In the no-huddle, quick-paced game, the Patriots want their passing back out there more than the power back, and part of that is tied to pass protection. Woodhead is a better pass protector than Ridley. He also catches the ball better (see: Ridley dropped screen pass). As for why Bolden got the carries in close, I'm not sure.

benmark (New York, NY)

While the Buffalo pass-rush hasn't lived up to its potential yet, it still has some daunting rushers, and the D had success rattling Brady last year. Do you think we'll see the near 50/50 split again of Gronk staying on the line to pass protect?

Mike Reiss
  (10:35 AM)

Ben, it actually wasn't 50-50. I estimated that in this week's mailbag, but that was before I had the time to dissect every one of Tom Brady's 49 dropbacks and analyze what Gronkowski did. 33 releasing into routes, 16 staying in to block. As for this week, one figures a lot will depend on how Solder and Vollmer look early in the game. You'd think the hope would be to have Gronkowski more down the field than at the line of scrimmage, which is why Solder/Vollmer are two keys for this game.

Sebastian--Virginia [via mobile]

What's with Ras I Dowling? He was picked 33rd overall and when Arrington goes down Cole steps in. Whats it going to take for Dowling to re-take the starting CB job opposite of McCourty. Also, do you think we"ll return to the run game with Ridley this Sunday. Thank you

Mike Reiss
  (10:36 AM)

Sebastian, I do think we'll see more Ridley this week. Just an educated guess that playing up-tempo, hurry-up will be more of a pick-your-spots thing for the Patriots this week than a consistent thing like we saw in Baltimore. As for Dowling, he's an outside corner. So when Arrington went down late, that vacated the "star" position in the slot and that's a better fit for Cole. ...

Mike Reiss
  (10:37 AM)

The bigger question is why Sterling Moore is viewed as the better option on the outside than Dowling. Surprising to me. The only thing I can think of is that Moore has practiced better.

Karl (Orefield, PA)

Mike:It just feels like something is wrong; lack of confidence, not having fun, no killer instinct. What do you think? Do you think McDaniels is the problem?

Mike Reiss
  (10:39 AM)

I don't think McDaniels is the problem. I think they're caught in a little bit of an identity crisis. They want to be able to develop a hard-nosed running mentality, and I think it's warranted. But at what cost? The more you try to do that, the more you take the ball out of Brady's hands. Striking that balance has been a challenge.

Sam (Buffalo, New York)

Should I start Tom Brady vs Bills or Joe Flacco vs Browns. Its a point per reception league and Brady has been struggling but I think hes gonna put up big numbers. Then again Flacco is playing the Browns!

Mike Reiss
  (10:40 AM)

I'd go Brady. The quick turnaround for the Ravens would concern me.

Neeraj (DC)

Hi Mike,I watched the Seattle-GB game and the Seattle pass rush was ferocious and relentless. Personnel wise I think the pats have the same caliber of players. My question is, at what point should we question the coaching caliber of the pats on defense and offense. The second part of my question is on the so called complicated schemes that the pats employ. They don't seem to work or offer any advantage in games and most of the players that they draft or bring in are not able to grasp them. So why not use schemes that can maximize the potential of the players? Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (10:43 AM)

Interesting topic, Neeraj. I think we'd all agree this game has changed. So much of it is about speed and pressure. I do believe Bill Belichick was a little late to adjust to this, and I say that respectully because he obviously knows a lot more about football than all of us. But no one is perfect. I remember broaching this topic with Scott Pioli a few years ago and I'll see if I can dig up the link now -- he defended the defense. At the end of the day, it comes down to wins and championships and the more years that pass in which one views the D as holding the team back, the more those questions will linger.

Mike Reiss
  (10:45 AM)

Here is that Pioli link: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4693489/scott-pioli-has-an-impressive-memory

Mike Reiss
  (10:46 AM)

Side note: Apologies for those who had trouble withthe whole auto-update stuff. I turned it on, and then it looked like it went off. I have no idea.

Eric (MA)

I believe that running the ball more would make Brady more deadly and here's why: more space to fit the ball. If teams can not count on a pass they a vulnerable to the play action and I think Brady would benefit from this change. He'd also get hit less.

Mike Reiss
  (10:46 AM)

I think that's part of the plan. Just tough to strike that balance.

Rickey (Valdosta, GA)

I saw that Brady has been limited in practice due to his shoulder. Is that a cause for concern at this point?

Mike Reiss
  (10:47 AM)

Rickey, Brady will be out there on Sunday and he'll be slinging it. I have no doubts about that.

charles (ri)

hey mike - if you get a chance - would love to hear your take on the E60 piece on "gronk"

Mike Reiss
  (10:47 AM)

I missed it, Charles. Hoping to catch up to it in the coming days.

Nick (Denver)

Mike, why go empty on the 2nd and 8 at the end of the game? Don't the Pats have to at least show the THREAT of a run there, as well as have a back to protect Brady from an overload blitz? I hated that play call from Josh McD. I didn't hate that they were throwing, just hated that they left Brady exposed. In that situation I have to assume that Brady is coached to take the sack in order to keep the clock moving instead of throwing it away and stopping the clock, so when the Ravens brought the overload blitz, it was a done deal, huge loss of yards. Then 3rd and 16 was near-impossible. I just wish they had run the ball, even if for a yard or two, and given themselves a SHOT at converting the 3rd down and icing the game. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (10:49 AM)

Nick, they tried to run it the play before and got 1 yard. Not good enough. You run it on second-and-9 and get another yard, it's third-and-8. If they don't get that, are we talking today about McDaniels/Brady getting too conservative? Most likely. Bottom line from my view: Just execute. This isn't about play calls as much as physically executing the play-call. Too many mistakes in critical situations.

Greg (Virginia)

Hi Mike, love your reporting and value your opinion on the Patriots right up there with Bruschi. I need your help please. Just tell me that everything is going to be ok and even though the Pats are 1-2they're still going to win the East and be fighting for hopefully the 1 or 2 seed in the AFC. CONVINCE ME!!! Thanks and keep up the great work.

Mike Reiss
  (10:50 AM)

Thanks Greg. I am still very high on this team. I don't think they are that far away. A couple plays go their way, and we're looking at a 3-0 team. I know you can't do that, and "you are what your record says you are", but I see better things ahead for this team.

Zach P (Medford)

Hey Mike - I think it's time to pump the brakes a little. The ravens gave the Pats their best shot at home and barely pulled off the win. Two weeks ago, the pats lost to a cardinals team that blew out the eagles (the team that beat the ravens). If you look back at the Patriot teams that won the super bowl, I think you need these types of losses. I'm excited to see this team play with a chip on their shoulder moving forward. Brady is irritated. Belichick is mad. I'm licking my chops.

Mike Reiss
  (10:53 AM)

Zach, my favorite part of Wednesday at Gillette Stadium was Tom Brady's news conference. Telling quote when asked if he saw the Monday night debacle: "I was sleeping. I woke up Tuesday morning, like everyone else did, and to tell you the truth I was thinking about the Bills. What's going on out there, I could really care less about. I want to win."

Mike Reiss
  (10:54 AM)

The way Brady said the last part -- "I want to win" -- captured what I personally enjoy about watching/covering Brady. He lives it. He's the ultimate competitor. I'll share a quick Brady story...

Mike Reiss
  (10:56 AM)

... Toward the end of last week, had a brief chat with him in the locker room to talk about longtime equipment manager Don Brocher, a great guy who is having some health problems and isn't around the team. He's missed. So Brady ultimately asks me how I'm doing. I tell him great -- doesn't get much better, healthy family, dream job. He responds with something like this, "I know. I feel the same way. It makes life simple, doesn't it?" That sums up Brady in my view. Family and football -- this is how he lives his life. He's all-in. So you should just know, as a Patriots follower, that this guy is giving you every last ounce he has.

Mike Reiss
  (10:57 AM)

Let's go for another 5...

Jay (Beirut, Lebanon)

Mike, How do I get back to the point where when I submit a question you answer it? I used to have an 90% success rate, seems like its dropping this year.

Mike Reiss
  (10:58 AM)

Jay, I'll go find your question now. It's hard to get to them all. More than 250 submitted today. I hope everyone understands that I try to do my best to spread it around. And honestly, sometimes I just don't know the answer so I can't answer them.

Jay (TOPP)

Mike,Did you watch Tom Coughlin football life? Can you believe John Madden is the reason we lost the Superbowl in 2007. If you didn't watch..He left Coughlin an emotional Voicemail following their regular season defeat to the Patriots, and thanked him and his players for the effort they gave in the regular season game- a game in which had no meaning to the Giants. Coughling played that voicemail to his team and inspired the playoff run. And all these year I was mad at Asante Samuel.

Mike Reiss
  (11:01 AM)

Is this the one, Jay? I didn't get to see Coughlin's football life piece, but I heard it was terrific. Coughlin is one of my favorite coaches, and it goes back to his BC days. Actually talked to my father about it this morning and he was explaining to me what he liked about it -- the role Coughlin's wife had in it. They've been married for 45 years and how Coughlin wrote her a letter after the Super Bowl win. That stuff is real. As for the John Madden stuff, LOL.

Thomas (Baltimore (Pats Fan))

Mike, I was wondering with all the secondary struggle why not give Marquis Cole at right corner and move Kyle to the slot. He impressed me in limited action during the preschool.

Mike Reiss
  (11:02 AM)

Thomas, I'd say Cole is more of a slot guy and would probably get exposed on the outside.

John (Baltimore)

You think Ridley is a bigger part of the equation against Buffalo? He is so much better than Woodhead to me.

Mike Reiss
  (11:02 AM)

Yes, John, just because I wouldn't project as much hurry-up this week. Different backs, different roles.

George (Houston)

Mike,Do you think it's time to give Jermaine Cunningham some reps at Rob Ninkovich's end spot to see if he can provide more productivity at that position versus both the run and the pass?

Mike Reiss
  (11:03 AM)

I could see it George. Cunningham has 2 drawn holding penalties already this year, so from a rush perspective, he's getting there at times. The big question is whether he can be as consistent as an edge setter.

big t (NewBedford,MA)

Hey mike, I am just going to come out and say it ...Ron Brace should be starting over kyle love...The little that I have seen of Brace he has been dominant and gets a good push up the middle. Mike, am I the only one that sees this?

Mike Reiss
  (11:03 AM)

I thought Love was really good in Week 2. Didn't show up as much Sunday in Baltimore. Just a bad game all around for the front 7.

Andy (Berkshires)

Is the League going to do anything to Ed Reed for his hits on Edleman and Branch?

Mike Reiss
  (11:04 AM)

Andy, we should find out tomorrow. That's when the fines are usually announced.

Paul M (New Boston)

Without having studied the games extensively, I believe the Pats best kickoff return is somewhere around the 30 yard line with an average of about the 20. This was a problem last year as well. Do you believe that the returners are the problem because they seem to lack explosive burst or is it the blocking?

Mike Reiss
  (11:05 AM)

Paul, I think McCourty has been OK in that area of the game. But overall, I think the special teams have been down. 5 penalties on teams in 3 games. The big blocked punt. It is fair to ask coach Scott O'Brien why his units are under-performing.

britt (Ga)

long time reader first time writer. everyone is pointing fingers at the D after sunday. saying that cant get off the field on third downs. i want to point out they had several drives extended by shall we say questionable calls at best. i still believe in this unit. i would hate to be the bills this week cause the pats are gonna be looking to hit somebody. Go Pats !!!!

Mike Reiss
  (11:06 AM)

Britt, I thought some of the calls were awful. And they did have the fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter. And let us not forget Brandon Spikes' big forced fumble the week before. So it's not all bad. At the same time, given the chance to close it out, they couldn't. So they should be held accountable like everyone else. Some good. Some not so good.

Jerry (Topp)

Mike, with the increased role of Julian Edelman how is this injury going to affect the offense if he us unable to play vs a weak secondary in Buffalo?

Mike Reiss
  (11:08 AM)

Let's end on this one, Jerry. They'd miss Edelman's speed if he can't go. Would make Deion Branch, and someone like Kellen Winslow, that much more important.

Mike Reiss
  (11:08 AM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. Did we like the 10 a.m. kickoff better than 1 p.m.? Feedback appreciated.

Mike Reiss
  (11:08 AM)

Have a good rest of the day, and we'll do it again next Thursday.