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October 11, 10:00 AM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

  (9:59 AM)

Good morning and welcome to this morning's Patriots chat.

  (10:00 AM)

The auto update should be turned on, so hopefully the page refreshes. Exciting week from this perspective -- Patriots vs. Seahawks. Let's talk about it.

  (10:01 AM)

I am just going to make sure the chat answers are coming through before getting started.

  (10:03 AM)

Looks good, so let's roll. What's on your mind? Think this is going to be a very tough game for the Patriots.

Patrick (Phoenix)

Mike,Is it safe to say that the Patriots made a key personnel error by not locking up Wes to a three year deal? Since Edelman broke his hand, Wes has come through with a 10 catch average, with 125 yards and 10.5 per reception. Moreover, he went for a 59 yarder against the Ravens. Let's not pull any punches. He catches pretty much everything Tom throws at him, most of which nearly hit the turf. In my humble opinion, they're gonna have to give him more money now than they would have before. He's going to demand it, and New England will suffer when they don't "pay the man!"

  (10:04 AM)

Patrick, Welker has looked terrific the last two weeks. I do think it's too early to say an error has been made. I'm of the belief that Welker will be here in 2013 regardless. They just might have to pay more than they desired.

Derek Brown (Richmond, Virginia)

Hey Mike, do think Aaron Hernandez will be play playing this week and if so do you believe he'll make a bigger impact than Rob Gronkowski?

  (10:05 AM)

Derek, it's all guesswork with Hernandez. I'll say yes. As for Gronkowski, I think it's clear he's not 100 percent. Have a lot of respect for his toughness.

Nick (Montreal)

Hi Mike, many experts say when you make an offense one dimentional, it greatly favours the defence as they know what is coming. Yet the past two weeks, the Pats made both the Bills and Broncos offence one dimentional in the 4th quarter and still could not stop them? Is it because they are playing soft (prevent defence) OR is the talent simply not there?

  (10:07 AM)

Nick, I'd argue that the Patriots did stop the Broncos (that was a big forced turnover by Ninkovich to close it out), although I get your point. It was getting a little too close for comfort there. I think the talent is there to play better defense. I chalk up the last two weeks to human emotion. Get up 31-7 late in the third quarter and I can understand why there might be a letdown. I think it's fair to say this defense still needs to develop that killer instinct.

Jonny (NH)

Do you think Ridley will see a decrease in workload due to his recent fumbling issues? He is such a weapon, I would hate to see him on the bench because of a couple fumbles, his upside is far too great. Lets remember, Kevin Faulk had ball security issues early in his career and he was able to sort them out.

  (10:08 AM)

I don't, Jonny. It's guesswork, as it often is with the Patriots, but I think this year is different than last year. I also look at how Belichick has stuck with up-and-down CB Devin McCourty as he works his way through mistakes. Ditto with kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Why wouldn't he do the same with Ridley?

Jam Lemon (Dragonskeep, MA)

Hey Mike, I've got a question about Daniel Fells. Do you think he has exceeded expectations or has he fallen short? He had an easy dropped pass last week, but he seems solid in blocking. Are we seeing the same thing?

  (10:09 AM)

Jam, I think Fells is a solid third TE for this team. Looks pretty good as a blocker, although I thought he missed one at the goal-line at the end of the second quarter vs. the Broncos. And yes, he did have the drop, but no one is perfect. I think he's brought a lot to the team, including playing on kickoff return to ease the load off Rob Gronkowski.

Chase (CT)

With Steve Gregory still not practicing, is it safe to assume that he will not go on Sunday which means Tavon Wilson and Patrick Chung will be our starters for the majority of the game? Not sure how I exactly feel about that tandem as they have looked shaky at times this season.

  (10:12 AM)

That's how it is trending, Chase. Can understand why you'd feel a little shaky about it. Chung a little bit of a disappointment at this point. I thought there were two questions with him entering the year: 1) Could he stay healthy?; 2) Could he take the next step as a player? He has done well with No. 1 -- playing more than 90 percent of the snaps. But No. 2, to be kind, remains a work in progress.

Tony (California)

For the last two Patriots Super Bowls, we lost not because of the offense (we were leading and Brady plus the offense did the job), we lost because of some lucky bounces and our defense just couldn't stop it like it used to. As much as our defense has improved, still probably need another pass rusher and a better CB than McCourty in my opinion to get it done. Until that happen, even if they make it back to the Super Bowl, this year, not sure if we can win it all again. We have another 2-3 years window including this year, before Brady will walk away for good, don't you agree?

  (10:14 AM)

Tony, I don't look at Brady right now and think it's a 2 to 3 year window. He is playing as well as he ever has. I think the thing you always have to keep in mind is the injury factor, and how the body doesn't respond the same way at 38, 39, 40 as it did at 28, 29, 30. As for the thought on winning the Super Bowl, I know one thing: This team will get better between now and December. I wouldn't say this team's story has been written at this point. I wouldn't count them out.

Ryan (Charles Town, WV)

Mike,With Faulk's retirement, it's hard to believe that Brady is the only remaining player from that first Super Bowl. Seems just like yesterday, doesn't it?

  (10:15 AM)

Yes, Ryan, the time really does pass. Selfishly, I hope we have another 5-8 years of Brady. On a personal note, I was just thinking about how lucky I've been as a reporter to cover one of the greatest players in the history of the game. This isn't about me, but just wanted to pass that along.

Michael L. (Boston, MA)

Do you think Welker's role on the team will change this week if Julian Edelman starts?

  (10:16 AM)

I don't, Michael. I think the coaches like Edelman, but based on what we've seen the last two weeks, they'd be out of their minds to change a thing. Welker is on fire. That can always change, of course, but based on this recent snapshot, you have to keep riding Welker, right? Seems obvious from here.

Jonathan (England)

Chandler Jones has been impressive so far in all facets of the game but the best part of his game from what i have seen seems to be defending the run getting past the tackle on the inside and making tackles in the backfield but also seems to set the edge well.. thoughts?

  (10:16 AM)

Real nice observation, Jonathan. That's also what Ravens coach John Harbaugh said stood out to him a few weeks ago.

Tim (Georgetown, MA)

Hi Mike,Best news I've heard all week is that this new knee injury didn't keep Sebastian Vollmer out of practice on Wednesday. I think that when healthy, there is no better right tackle in the league, and they are going to need him Sunday. What he does for this line is very underrated, but I don't think there's a better way to explain it than Game #19 last year. Vollmer missed the better portion of the regular season and all of the playoffs, and Nate Solder filled in very capably during that time, but when it was all on the line, Belichick/Scarnecchia plugged him right back in.

  (10:17 AM)

Tim, I thought Vollmer struggled a little last week, but the point is well taken. He is a presence there at right tackle. What he did two weeks ago against Mario Williams was really impressive.

Derrick (Bristol) [via mobile]

How many snaps a game do you see Dowling and Dennard playing

  (10:19 AM)

Derrick, the Patriots have been in sub packages 66 percent of the time this season, which highlights the importance of the fifth and sixth defensive backs. That's where both Dowling and Dennard fit at this point. I wouldn't expect to see them play over McCourty and Arrington. So it all comes down to how much sub they play this week. My sense is this might be more of a base defense type of game, so we might see a little less of them this week. Got to put the top priority on stopping 5-foot-11, 215-pound Marshawn Lynch, who Tedy Bruschi calls the toughest tackle among running backs in the NFL.

Rick G. (Charlotte)

Bill Belichick is the greatest coach ever, in my opinion. With that said, he is getting a little older each year. How many years do you think Bill will want to continue coaching? Second, do you see the Pats promoting from within to replace him, such as McDaniels, or hiring someone from another team? Thanks!

  (10:20 AM)

Rick, I see the same passion and fire from Belichick now. I'd put him in the same category as Brady. Can we ask for another 5-8 years? Bill, if you're reading, it would be much appreciated. LOL.

  (10:21 AM)

As for his successor, count me among those who believe it is set up nicely for Josh McDaniels to take over. A lot can change between now and whenever Belichick decides it's over, but based on what we see right now, that makes a lot of sense.

Han (Salt Lake City, UT)

Hey Mike, Every week, when I look at the injury and participation reports, invariably the Patriots' list is FAR longer than their opponents. Last week before their game against the Broncos, the Patriots' list had 17 players on the injury list, compared to five for the Broncos. So, my question is, are the criteria for listing players on the injury report very rigid? Or is there some wiggle room? Is there some injury report gamesmanship by the coaches before games? Or are Patriots players injured more frequently than other teams.

  (10:21 AM)

Absolutely, there is wiggle room. I wouldn't read too much into the injury reports, other than just to see who didn't participate in a full practice.


Hey mike. I believe Mccourty is going the way of D Butler and E hobbs before him as the new secondary weak link and causing fans everywhere to YELL TURNAROUND! Time to move to safety dont you think? Keep up the great work

Jim ("Work")

Mike, can't wait for the Seattle game. I know a lot has been made about the DB's turning their head, and BB made the point that you don't want to turn too early. What ever happened to waiting until the WR's eyes light up (indicating the balls in the air coming towards him) and then turning? Doesn't seem too difficult to me...

  (10:24 AM)

A double question -- one from Dan and one from Jim (we need to catch up!). I understand the frustration on McCourty. He messed up in the end zone with his technique. He also poorly played the long pass to Demaryius Thomas in the fourth quarter. I'm just not as bullish as others that it means McCourty should move to safety. I still see him running well. I still see him tackling as well as any CB in the NFL (aside from Dennis Pitta TD, which was an obvious hiccup). If he just keeps locking in on his technique, I see him as being a productive CB for them. I understand I'm in the minority here, but I really believe it.

Charles (RI)

Mike - if you dont think they will go back to Edelman, why the heck did they start him there in the first place?

  (10:25 AM)

Charles, two thoughts come to mind here: 1) They saw Edelman having a great offseason and liked his speed/blocking in those 2 WR packages. It's a different skill set than Welker; 2) Maybe they over-thought it a bit. Coaches can do that. They're not perfect either.

Andy (Hartford)

Hi Mike. The one move by BB that's had me baffled all season is continuing to play McCourtey as the lead kick returner. While not terrible, he simply hasn't seem impressive enough in that spot to justify the added injury risks. Would someone like Shane Vereen or Nate Ebner really much worse returning kicks? Or perhaps better? In any event, wouldn't using one of them be better risk management? Appreciate your perspective.

  (10:27 AM)

Andy, I'd get McCourty out of there. The injury scare from last week is enough for me to pull the plug on that one. I'm going to be blunt here: The kickoff return game stinks. It has since the middle of the 2010 season when Brandon Tate fell off a cliff. Huge disappointment. I'm not sure how much Vereen would be better, but why not? Try something.

Eric (MA)

Looking at this game for the Patriots, I see a game that plays into their strengths. A primary running team that is weak passing. A team that has scored over 16 points once, passed over 200 yards once, and for passes over 10 yards 13-32. 40.6%. I don't see the Patriots losing to this team because they've learned from the Arizona game and I don't see how Seattle will be able to move the ball effectively to win the game. Can you really expect a defense to hold the Pats to under 17 points for 60 minutes? I don't either.

  (10:29 AM)

Eric, I see a very competitive game. Here is what would concern me if I was wearing a gray hoodie with cut sleeves: 1) Seattle taking shots down the field and if my DBs can play the proper technique without picking up PI calls; 2) Marshawn Lynch getting going; 3) A ferocious defense that looks different at home than it does on the road; 4) Big plays from Leon Washington on special teams; 5) Unconventional/trick plays. I expect Seattle to lay it all out there. Field-goal game and we'll see if the Patriots can win ugly. Just a hunch.

kenney (maine)

Hi Mike, I really liked what we saw from Dennard against Denver. Any chance he takes over for McCourty at 1 corner and he moves to safety. Seems like Chung is regressing, not improving. Your thoughts?

  (10:30 AM)

Kenney, touched on Chung a little earlier in the chat. As for McCourty, I don't think he's going anywhere. That said, it was hard not to be impressed with Dennard. He could have just played his way into the 5th DB role.

Mainer Mike (Colo Springs)

Mike, any comments on John Fox allegations that the Pats' hurry up offense wasnt coming to a legal set before the snap and should've been flagged? I respect Fox so dont think it's sour grapes but havent heard anyone else point it out.

  (10:31 AM)

Haven't seen it, Mainer Mike. Will have to search it out, but I don't think there was anything illegal about it.

GT (No VA)

Hi Mike, I know Belichick defended McCourty this week on looking for the ball and his technique, but isn't this just a case where BB just needs to forget technique? McCourty just seems like a much better player when he is playing the ball.

  (10:33 AM)

GT, I think it's the type of situation where there are times when you should definitely play the ball. Then there are other times when you're playing the WRs hands/eyes and reacting based on how the play unfolds. Whichever one it is, and we can debate whether McCourty should have turned on that play in the end zone, he just has to play the technique better. I know it's not the easy answer we all hope for -- "JUST TURN FOR THE BALL!" -- but I don't think it's that simple all the time.

Jay (TOPP)

Mike, I know as the road team, the Pats usually travel on Fridays. Other teams, leave immediately and stay out there for the week. What are the benefits/negatives of traveling a couple days before the game.

  (10:36 AM)

Jay, the Patriots usually leave on Saturday, the day before the game. But when they play out West, as they are in this week, they leave Friday. The idea is to get out there and adjust to the time change/long flight as much as possible. The hope is that having a full day on the ground in Seattle will have them at their best Sunday. We also remember how in 2008, when they played back-to-back games out West twice that year, they stayed out there. Team-bonding experience. Tedy Bruschi tells some neat stories about his Seattle experience in 2008. He called it one of his favorite road trips as a player.

David (North Attleborough, Ma)

I think the Lloyd Brady connection is getting better. Will Brady be able to go deep a little more offten against Seattle or do you think their good pass rush Seattle had prevent that form happening.

  (10:39 AM)

David, I thought the Brady-Lloyd connection reached a new level last week. Second-quarter, hurry-up offense, Brady hand signals to Lloyd pre-snap based on a single-high safety look. Snap. Lloyd runs a slant. Bang! 15 yards. When that play unfolded, I said, "This is what Brady-Galloway and Brady-Ochocinco couldn't achieve." I thought that play/pre-snap adjustment, more than any other, signaled a nice progression for those two. As for getting deep this week, it all comes down to Lloyd being able to get off the jam. That's a big test this week. Wouldn't be surprised to see some shots.

Zach (CT)

What is your fondest memory of covering Kevin Faulk in the media?

  (10:42 AM)

Good one, Zach. Let me start by saying I thought his retirement news conference was terrific. Kudos to the Patriots and Robert Kraft for such a first-class event. Faulk deserved it. For me, I'd just say it was some of the conversations later in his career when we talked about non-football stuff -- his kids, my kids, life. You never get too close in the reporter/player relationship, but I do enjoy getting to know the players and what's important to them. I don't think he had an easy upbringing. The life he's created for his wife Latisha (they met in the seventh grade) and their children is something he can feel proud about.

Steve (San Diego)

Hi Mike, a lot of praise has been heaped upon the Mayo-Spikes-Hightower trio at LB, and rightfully so as they have shut down the run completely. But it seems like their skills are a little redundant between the 3. Can you talk about how their ability to defend the pass and whether its a problem the way the league is now. Also, why dont they blitz more? Since they cant cover anyways, why not bring some pressure. Mayo got to Manning a few times early last game, i want more!

  (10:44 AM)

Steve, I thought they blitzed a good amount early in the Broncos game. Mayo shot through there a few times. Spikes too. They're always balancing that risk-reward there. As for the redundant skills, I see some similarities between Spikes and Hightower -- two big, physical guys. I do think Spikes has improved coverage-wise, but it's obviously not his forte.

Connor (Kettering, England)

Hi Mike, does the emergence of a strong running game with depth mean that Tom Brady can extend his career a fair few years due to less reps and maybe allow him to become more of a game manager in the twilight of his career? Also surely this will have an affect on whether Mallett stays around to be future starting QB? Thanks

  (10:45 AM)

Connor, I'm not sure that's why the Patriots have turned to this increased focus on balance, but it might be a residual benefit. The more Brady is under center and handing off, the fewer hits he's exposed to taking. Brady is signed through 2014. I don't think that will be his last contract with the team, assuming good health.

Rob (North End)

With so many negative comments toward the secondary (especially #32), do people ever stop to consider that most of the time that the patriots are playing with the lead which forces the opponent to pass more? Are there any statistics to back up that teams tend to focus more on the pass against the Patriots ? Especially in the second half? Thanks the blog every week

  (10:46 AM)

Rob, I don't have any stats handy, and I see the point. But still, there are times when the secondary has to play the ball better. The long catch-and-run TD pass in Buffalo is one example that comes to mind. Or even the end-of-game meltdown in Baltimore. Those struggles weren't based on game conditions as much as pure execution.

Everton (Brooklyn, NY)

with how well Tavon Wilson is playing, I dont think Gregory should get his starting job back when he returns from injury. Your thoughts?

  (10:47 AM)

I thought Wilson was up and down last week, but you have to like his nose for the ball. Both bring some positive qualities and given the high percentage of sub defense the team plays, they'll need them both.

Casey (Plymouth,Ma) [via mobile]

During the Bruins Stanley Cup run of 2011, a lot was made about the camaraderie and team-building that was developed during their season-opening stint in Prague (and obviously they got some help with other teams' stars going down to injury). Do you see a similar scenario unfolding for the Pats in a few weeks, albeit a mid-season trek overseas? I get the sense that an experience like this can only help the younger guys an the seasoned vets make a push for the final half of their schedule, and hopefully a run to the Super Bowl

  (10:49 AM)

Casey, I believe in that "locker-room" dynamic and I think this is a good locker room. I think you truly find out about it in times of adversity, like we saw in the third quarter of the road game against the Bills. At the same time, I want to be careful reading too much into it. I remember Tom Brady talking about how the London trip in 2009 was good for team bonding, and in retrospect, that team was coming apart at the seams.

Mike, Tampa fl [via mobile]

Wassup Mike, So what if Ridley fumbled once all year. He reminds me of Curtis Martin, who BTW fumbled every now and then too. Heck, Gronkowski and Welker fumbled as well. Then what's all this talk about limiting his carries? Are Pundits nuts, or maybe they don't like Him? I say, let Ridley run loose, he has a chance to be very good. That is all!

  (10:50 AM)

Mike, I think it's because of what happened last year. He had the two fumbles and then saw his opportunities limited. Based on that history, it's understandable why it's a topic of discussion. I just think it would be a mistake if they do that.

Danny (Canton ma)

Hi mike, is Ryan mallet playing Russell Wilson as scout team quarterback? Isn't that somewhere near the tallest quarterback in the nfl (mallet) and shortest (Wilson)? ;)

  (10:51 AM)

Good question, Danny, and I don't have the answer. In the past, they've used Julian Edelman on weeks like this. But Edelman is out with what is assumed to be a broken hand, so I'll look into it. I'm curious now myself.

Mendy (Boston)

hey mike, could we get an injury update on Hightower?

  (10:52 AM)

Mendy, saw him in the locker room yesterday. I don't think the team has a certainty that he will ready, but I don't think he's too far off. Doesn't seem overly serious.

Trixie (Amherst, NH) [via mobile]

Mike, love your blog! Haven't heard much about Ebner since he was pulled off the punt protection team? Any update? I was hoping to see him as a returner.

  (10:53 AM)

He's struggling, Trixie. Had another holding penalty on Sunday vs. the Broncos when he was pressed into duty on the punt protecton unit. He's also not in the mix defensively. Right now, his contributions are coming on punt return, kickoff return and kickoff coverage. I think we put the "jinx" on him by writing on him the Friday before the Sept. 16 game against the Cardinals.

Dave (RI)

Mike, I understand everyone is on McCourty but I feel like he's playing pretty well right now. If you look at the WR's that have actually made plays against this Patriots D (not the PI's) McCourty is shutting his guys down. Are you seeing this?

  (10:54 AM)

Dave, I don't see McCourty shutting them down, but he's been competitive. I think the big thing is avoiding the few breakdowns he's had in almost every game. Those 1 or 2 plays are overshadowing his other work, sort of like I used to feel with left tackle Matt Light. Could have 60 good plays, but when Freeney blows by you on 2 plays, they sort of negate the other 60.

Dan (Delaware)

Mike, You have to admit it...bad things happen when Bill does not wear a hoodie (Giants, Arizona, and Baltimore). What bad things might happen if the League told Bill that he is not allowed to cut off the sleeves?

  (10:55 AM)

Dan, this is the key, no doubt. Forget the Xs and Os. It's about the hoodie, and in this scenario, here is my take: If the league told BB he couldn't wear cut-off sleeves ... he'd wear cut-off sleeves. LOL.

  (10:56 AM)

Let's go for another 5...

Dave (Newton, MA)

Don't know how I feel about the secondary stopping the passing game even if passing is not the Seahawks strength. Last year our secondary was making back up quarterbacks look like All-Pros. We are starting to see shades of 2011 secondary this year.

  (10:57 AM)

Dave, I think the concern on the secondary is fair. See it the same way in this matchup.

Joey LaBella (New Rochelle, New York)

If the Patriots defense is improved a lot of from last year, and the Patriots offense is being considered better then 07 why are the Patriots 3-2 and just don't seem very dominant?

  (10:57 AM)

Joey, I'd say it came down to being able to come through in the critical situations. Those games were winnable. They just didn't rise up in those critical situations.


Please turn me on!

  (10:58 AM)

Honestly, I turned it on to start the chat. It's the first thing I do. Not sure why it doesn't show up. Apologies.

jblackburner (ATL)

Mike, could you see the Pats going away from the no-huddle this week to try and actually slow down the tempo of the game, since the Seahawks thrive on defensive quickness, as well as the crowd noise factor? I could see a methodical ground-and-pound, then playaction, gameplan. It's not like the Seahawks offense is lighting up the scoreboard.

  (10:59 AM)

I do see that, although maybe they use the no-huddle in a specific spot. I think you want to be careful going too fast against this fast, aggressive Seahawks defense that feeds off turnovers. Playing clean is always important, but against a turnover-driven team like the Seahawks, it's even more so this week.

John (Fort Myers)

The OL completely misses on more blocks than I would expect that result a loss of yardage or sack. Is this part of the hurry up offense that they are not getting the correct blocking assignments or just poor offense linemen. I notice the center was a major problem last week agianst the Broncos.

  (11:00 AM)

Too many negative plays, John. That's fair. It's not all because of the hurry-up. Sometimes it's just a technique thing. The defensive players are good, too. All that said, we're talking about a running game that produced 200-plus yards in back to back games for the first time since 1978. That perspective is important.

MarkJ (Japan)

Would you comment on the situation in KC, such as Pioli and Cassel?

  (11:02 AM)

MarkJ, that's obviously a disappointment for them. I believe that those guys are the right people for the job, and they just need patience with them. I watched the Chiefs-Saints game two weeks ago and thought Cassel was part of the problem. Have to find a way to bring out the best in him, like the Patriots did in 2008.

Tim (Newton, MA)

Hi Mike,Belichick likes to take out a big time player from the opposing team. Seems like Lynch would be the guy. Do you agree that the Patriots go into Seattle and try making Wilson (or Flynn) beat them?

  (11:02 AM)

Tim, I think this is a slam dunk. Same thing as Week 1 with Chris Johnson.

Nemanja (Vranje,Serbia)

When will Ballard, Pryor, Shiancoe, and Zusevics be eligible to return to practice?

  (11:03 AM)

Next week. Timely question and something we'll be following up on. Assuming Pryor and Shiancoe have the best chance to help immediately.

Jon (Montenegro (via New Bedford))

Greetings from sunny Southern Europe, Mike! I'm concerned that the 'Hawks present the same challenge that has stymied NE in the past - that is being able to generate consistent pressure bringing only 4 rushers. I have a bad feeling about this game even with Seattle's terrible offense (if NE can limit M Lynch) since NE's o-line has looked shaky at times. Of course the Pats can beat anyone , anywhere but they will have to bring their A game in every facet which I don't think they've done yet this season. I'll be watching live starting at 10 pm local time here.

  (11:04 AM)

Awesome Jon. Nice to make the long-distance connection, so let's end with this one. If you have a chance, read this week's Bruschi's Breakdown when it is posted later today on Tedy Bruschi addresses this and says: "This is why you've brought the running game back. It's the same as the two Giants Super Bowls. Time to pound the rock and see how it really looks."

  (11:05 AM)

Great stuff today. Thanks to everyone for chatting. Let's do it again next Thursday. And for those attending Sunday's game, we have a Seattle tweet-up set up Saturday at Cowgirls (1 p.m. local time). It's right near CenturyLink Field. Hope to see you there.