Good morning. Let's start with auto update. My chat tool is telling me that it is on.
I'll just do a little testing here, and once I see that we're good to go, we'll fire away.
I am here at Gillette Stadium. Quieter day, as has been the norm this season, as it is just media access to the locker room (11:15 a.m.-noon). No news conferences. Bill Belichick lightened the whip on the team Wednesday by having just a walkthrough practice. Tempo should pick up today. Team is banged up. Needs to gut through these next two games and get to that bye. Here we go...
Hi Mike - The best thing about the Belichick era has been the unpredictability of the team. Pass the first 25 plays of a game? Sure....Intentional safety? Sure.....But now, it seems like the team has become gratingly predictable, especially in the 4th quarters of games. As soon as Seattle got the ball back down 13 and even began marching, the outcome was as predictable as the end of the Baltimore game. So what can be done about it?
I think they have the right players, Brian. And I've seen them close out games with authority (e.g. Buffalo this season). It comes down to concentration and mental toughness. I think we'll see the results improve this season.
Hey Mike,I personally feel this team and coaching staff need to be much more aggressive late in games. We can talk all day long about the weaknesses of the secondary, the protection of Brady, or mental mistakes (plenty of all 3 vs. Seattle). But for me, it comes down to being too predictable and cautious down the stretch. Much like the Baltimore game, the Pats had numerous possessions where a solid drive, even with no points, would have sealed the game. Instead, we saw run run pass, and very bland playcalling. Can you envision this team finally getting a lead, and instead of this, they stay aggressive and try to put the game away?
Tim, I personally don't think it's about aggressive/non-aggressive as much as it is playing smart and getting that "situational football/critical situations" edge back. That was always part of their DNA. It isn't right now.
I really do like Tavon Wilson. I think he's a ball hawk and I also think he will be a good player in the future? --possibly the replacement for Chung? But I keep seeing the Sidney Rice bomb in my head and I can't believe he let a WR get behind him with under 2 minutes left in a game. Absolutely inexcusable. And I don't blame Ebner because he wasn't really a part of the play since he was on the other side of the field.
Of course you're seeing that play over again. It was a dagger. Inexcusable is right, but you know what, Eric? That's why there is an "R" next to his name on the roster. He's a rookie and those things happen to rookies. Sometimes I feel like we want it both ways in the media/among followers. We call for youth, we want them to "play the kids!" and then when they do, there has to be an understanding that mistakes are probably going to be a little more prevalent. Mistakes happen. I also saw two veteran safeties look pretty bad (Chung/Gregory) on a 68-yard catch-and-run by Bills receiver Donald Jones in Week 4. Wilson will be OK. He just bombed in the critical moment on that day.
Mike...the defensive is what it is...that being said, they don't instill confidence in us fans that they can stop anyone with the game on the line. Are we in for another gutwrenching season/playoffs? Can it be fixed and if so, how?
Dave, it can be fixed. And all we need to do is look around the AFC and it's clear this thing is wide, wide, WIDE open. It might be another gut-wrenching season/playoffs, but I don't think we sit here right now and say it decisively will be. I see weaknesses on every team. It's all about getting better and I have confidence the Patriots will. How much better? That's the question, and is it enough to compete with the teams playing the best at that moment? Let's look at the reaction after last season's loss to the Steelers, and what happened after that. This is similar to me. I'm not here to defend the defense. It hurts to watch at times. It hurt to watch at times last year. But all you can ask for, in my view, is to be in the hunt and have a chance to win it all. They did last year. I think they will again this year.
Any comments on the clock management issues? We have always had smart decisions here unlike certain teams so this is strange territory... Is this going to be an ongoing issue? Was it a matter of BB putting those duties on someone else?
CJ, the coaches didn't have their best day on Sunday. I wrote about it immediately after the game. That, coupled with quarterback Tom Brady playing one of the poorest games we've seen of late from a taking-care-of-the-football standpoint, was what stood out to me along with more big plays surrendered on D. These coaches are better than that. I can almost guarantee a better operation this week. The cream always rises.
And can I have a mini-rant for a moment?
CJ, this isn't directed at you, but more just a general observation. Can anyone have a bad day any more? I mean, we're all human. I know there are days when I turn in an article, or produce a video, that I look at and say, "That just stinks. What a pathetic performance." It happens to these players and coaches too. The sharp reactions to the ups and downs of a season are so volatile and mean-spirited at times that it makes me wonder if we all need to step back at times and just remind ourselves that we all have bad days.
I understand this is big business, and part of following a team is riding the wave of emotions -- the exhilerating highs and devastating lows. If we didn't do that, it wouldn't be fun. We can't flatline everything. That's for the coaches and players. But I think a little more understanding might go a long way from all of us.
Mike, It is clear that a major struggle for the defense is in the secondary. I've also noticed (especially last week against Seattle) that the defense hasn't been bringing much pressure on the quarterback. In many cases they are only rushing three men which allowed Russell Wilson to move around at will until he found an open target at will. Do you predict a more blitz-heavy attack on Mark Sanchez on Sunday as an alternative approach to the three man rush?
Ryan, I saw mostly a four-man rush in my review of the game and I'd agree that the pressure was inconsistent. The plan on Sanchez is simple in my view -- take away the in-cuts and between-the-numbers stuff and make him make the lower-percentage throws to the outside. He is a 49 percent passer. I don't think blitz pressure is necessarily going to be something they major in Sunday, because it will probably be more advantageous for Sanchez to have the ball in his hands and have to go through his progressions.
Hey Mike, thanks for all you do, I have a theory and you even touched up on it about solder being fatigued towards the end of the seahawks game. The theory is that maybe the patriots fourth quarter struggles have been maybe just that, fatigue. It seems like when tom brady gets pressured it's at the beginning or end of games, thus it is causing him not to be "clutch". Seeing as you have rewatched the game multiple times is there any truth to that theory? And is the hurry-up causing this fatigue?
Tom, I thought the o-line looked fatigued at the end of the game, Tom. It's asking a lot to have them rock back into a pass set 59 times. The up-tempo, hurry-up also leads to fatigue and that's why it's hard to run. But overall, I think the conditioning level is good. I don't think fatigue is the main reason they aren't closing out games.
I was curious to know if the Patriots will retire Kevin Faulk's Jersey number 33? He was a huge contributor to the team on numerous levels and has 3 rings to show for it.
Charles, the Patriots are essentially out of the business of retiring numbers. There just aren't enough of them to go around. That's why they have a Hall of Fame, and potentially a Ring of Honor in the coming years. That's the best way to keep numbers in circulation but honor players. I think the only player whose number will never be worn again is Brady. This is it for No. 12.
I recall last season around this time Tedy saying that if Ocho hasn't gotten it yet he never will. With that said, can we assume the secondary really doesn't have much more upside left? Would the solution be to not protect a lead but rather continue to try and extend the lead regardless of how much time is left on the clock. The Pats seemed to do that against the Bills where they were still going for the end zone late in the forth.
If you have a chance, check out our Bruschi's Breakdown on the site later today. Tedy Bruschi provides reasons why things can turn around for the secondary.
Mike: Any chance we see Devin McCourtey at safety anytime soon? I mean he's clearly better in a safety position. I know that cuts into someone's playing time there. Also, do you think a trade is a possibilty? That secondary needs a veteran presence to be the QB of the DBs ala Rodeny Harrison.
Could happen this week, Kevin, if they don't have Chung, Gregory, and Moore. I can't imagine they'd want to start Nate Ebner.
Mike: We give Dante his due for coaching up 7th rounders to play like starters. Isn't it time to call Flores and Boyer on the carpet for failing to coach up 1st and 2nd rounders into capable starters? I know you like these guys but they deserve a fair share of the balme pie for the mess that is the Pats Secondary right now.
John, their guys aren't playing well. I'm not saying to sweep it under the rug. But my counter is that Dom Capers, one of the highly repsected assistant coaches over the last 20-30 years in the NFL, had the same position in 2008. How did that work out? That secondary was poor as well. That's why my conclusion is that the issues, which we've been talking about on and off since the 2006 AFC Championship Game (and maybe even 2005 with Duane Starks), are deeper than two position coaches.
Hey Mike, It's clear that Gronk is playing hurt, do you think if it continues to linger do you think the Pats will try to rest him for a few games, esp. if & when Shiancoe returns?
Good thought, Farhan. That was one of the things that stood out to me while rewatching the game -- that shot he took to the back at the end of the first quarter revealed a lot. He's showing a lot of toughness. I don't know enough about his condition but if they think a few weeks of rest would help, the bye is coming up and this wouldn't be a bad time to try to manage him a bit. The only thing is that Shiancoe can't come back to the active roster until after Week 8. He can start practicing now, though.
Mike, I know you've received plenty of questions/comments on how terrible the secondary has been, but here is one more. I know you have defended Boyer, but I am curious why? Why is he considered a good coach with these results? I can't think every player in the secondary that the pats have drafted/acquired is a bust, but yet they either fail immediately, or have promising seasons then fall off the next year. Sounds like a coaching issue to me.
Andrew, if they had some of these players going on to other teams and tearing things up (e.g. Darius Butler, Brandon Meriweather), I'd agree it was a coaching issue. Boyer was groomed by Bill Belichick and he's coaching the way Belichick wants him to. He is an extension of Belichick. I think the easy answer is to scapegoat a coach like Boyer, but I just don't see it based on the way the structure is set up here and how players haven't gone on to bigger things elsewhere.
Mike, I appreciate the idea that we all have bad days - even Tom Brady. But this has gone beyond that. How many balls did Brady throw at people's feet on Sunday? And those two grounding calls ... let's face it - they cost us the game. That's just too much coincidence given last year's SB - whwere it may well have also cost us the game. The Pats (and Brady) have not played elite late in close games since Asante Samuel dropped the game-winning INT the first Giants SB. That's not a bad day - that's a bad half-decade (at least when it's close and late). What am I missing?
Rick, we have a story on our site on Brady right now, written by Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN's Stats & Information, that touches on this. He hasn't been as clutch in recent years. On Sunday, that was one of the sloppiest performances we've seen from him. I wrote strongly after the game that game management from Bill Belichick/sloppy play from Brady was the main reason they lost. So I'm not sugarcoating it. You're not missing anything. The only thing I'd say is what team is doing what you wrote? This league is wide open. Maybe it's a case of the Patriots doing something in 2001-2004 that has raised a bar of impossible expectations to reach.
Hey Mike, sort of a "big picture" question for you here. As a fan, I'm so used to the Patriots making the playoffs and usually playing well that this year, I just hope they peak at the right time. I'm OK with a few bumps in the road during the regular season if it means they get that edge back when the games really matter. All I want is another ring! Your thoughts?
Great point, Jim. I appreciate the perspective. So much changes from week to week in the NFL and as the Giants showed us in recent years, sometimes just getting into the playoffs is OK if you're hot at that time. Who knows what the health of the Patriots' roster will look like at that time.
1) So Mike are you ready to finally admit that McCourty is just not that good and drop the "I think he'll get things turned around" line that you've been spouting since last season? Sometimes I think that you're Belichick in disguise cause it seems that you two are the only ones who won't see how awful he is. (And no two picks against a terrible Buffalo team don't change anything.)2) Why can't/won't the Pats try to trade for a good, proven secondary player? Given all the picks we've wasted on players that didn't pan out wouldn't that be a better option?
Jenn, I think McCourty is a good player. He had one bad breakdown against the Seahawks on Sunday, but otherwise was solid in my view. As for the Patriots and acquiring a good, proven secondary player, they aren't exactly giving them away across the NFL. There aren't many of them.
Can you envision a scenario where Kraft tells BB to hire a real GM? Let's face it, as great a coach as Bill is, he's average as a GM. And I hate the argument "everyone misses." Still doesn't make it ok to miss on a regular basis.
I don't see it, Marc. I think the structure is going to stay in place. If anything, maybe Nick Caserio gets a little more juice. Caserio is a sharp guy.
Mike, can you touch on the slowly growing conversation that Brady has lost his "clutch gene" since SB42?
Nick, in the words of Parcells, you are what your record says you are. And Brady's clutch performances since SB42 haven't been as plentiful as we saw earlier in his career.
Mike, Im a little concerned with the end of the game situations it seems in both superbowls against the giants, regualr season against the giants, ravens, seahawks, to name a few what can be done about this? I feel it is overall bad job by coaching(losing timeouts, penalties, play calls), defense giving up scores and inconsistant secondary play. Offense inability to keep drives alive it almost feels like they are playing not to lose the game instead of to win it!! Your thoughts?
I agree with everything you said, Michael. They aren't converting at the end of games. They are accountable for it, and no one is trying to put a happy face on it. I think they will get better, because I think the players in the locker room are better than they've shown in those situations.
Mike, Another tough loss- 3 by 4 points!. My concern is not the fact that we gave up so many deep balls, that's been happening the past couple years. We brought Llyod here to stretch and take the top of the defense. Ever since that early drop in the Tenn game, all we have seen are back shoulder throws- which have been great, but we need to take shots deep! Every team in the NFL throws the ball up once a game; Sometime I feel the offense is to complicated for its own good. We have the qb, line, and receivers to do it.
Greg, I think the idea of Lloyd "taking the top off" a defense was false advertising. He's not a Torrey Smith type of burner. Never really was. He's a competitive outside receiver who has shown a knack for making tough catches and in traffic. I've seen his presence on the outside opening things up for other things.
Mike, super excited for the throwback jerseys this sunday!!! Are there more games on the slate this season for throwbacks????
Dope, this is the only game for throwbacks this season. They will be the 1985 version -- red jerseys, white pants, white helmets with Pat Patriot logo. Patriots are 8-3 all-time in throwbacks.
Hey Mike ,Havent heard any injury updates on slater and chung are they expected to play this week? Also how are gregory and hightower are they set to play?
Craig, Slater isn't even on the injury report. He should play. Chung is more questionable. No clue on Gregory or Hightower, but if I had to guess, it would be close on both of them.
I listened to Tedy's piece on The Herd with Colin Cowherd and I liked when Tedy mentioned that great teams continuously improve throughout the season and not just in the offseason, the months of september and october are an extension of training camp with that in mind can we expect the patriots to start churning out more consistent strong performances after the bye week?
Nick, that has been their m.o. under Belichick. But they have to go out and prove it.
Mike,Nate Ebner was a pre-season sensation and was lauded for his apparent "nose for the ball" and playmaking ability. Since the season started, however, we have seen him miss a key block on punt coverage more than once (one leading to a blocked punt) and now get burned badly while playing safety (Sunday's game). Doesn't it seem obvious that Ebner is just not ready to contribute at an NFL level just yet? The guy played defense on only three plays in college. Now he's playing safety on the road in a hostile environment? On the last drive of the game? You can't tell me that Ras-I Dowling would not be a better option at that point. Or Moore...or even Marquise Cole or Dennard. Anybody! Even Matt Slater has more experience than Ebner. At least they are experienced players who have played American football for more than a few years. How can Ebner be expected to produce in that situation? I think he needs a full year in the system to learn the position and get his feet wet. Why is he playing over better options?
Kyle, Ebner has hurt the Patriots, no question. Moore was hurt (knee) at the end of the game. So then you get into a situation where you have a split second to make a decision on who to put out there and is it the guy who practiced there during the week or someone who hasn't. I understand the thinking and I had the same thought as you (why not Arrington?). But they didn't have any timeouts to regroup (their own fault) and it cost them.
Hey Mike. I don't want to beat the subject to death, but what can the coaches do differently to help the DBs? There has to be a way the coaches can discourage opposing QBs from gambling on pass interference calls.
Gooby, I'm going to defer to Tedy Bruschi because he played the game. Here is what he said in this week's Bruschi's Breakdown: "It's up to the players to implement it in the game. These coaches do a great job because they're being coached by Coach Belichick. The players have to take accountability."
pats should be able to run the ball this week the jets will once again be without kenrick ellis & Pouha. The colts inability to run the ball hurt them last week. the pats run game is much better
The jets are still vulnerable up the middle with their linebacker inability to cover in space & their safeties are big hitters but not very good in coverage. I see Gronk
We'll double up on the Jets stuff. In looking at the defense, I see a lot of vulnerabilities. 30th on third down is not something you expect to see from a Rex Ryan-coached unit. I think the Patriots can run and pass on them. The key will be to diagnose the disguise/scheme Ryan has installed for the game. In-game adjustments a key.
Is it me thinking too early or Pats also thinking .. Time for new QB search?
Clark, for me, this falls into the "be careful what you wish for" category. There are probably 28 other teams in the NFL that would take Brady as their quarterback right now over their current option. Giants/Packers/Saints maybe the exceptions, and you could make an argument for some others, but it's amazing to me this would even be part of the discussion.
Let's give Tom Brady some credit here. He set an impossibly high bar early in his career. In addition, he led his team to a Super Bowl after ACL surgery, something that no other QB has ever done. You can tell he cares about winning as much as ever.
I second this line of thinking, Dan. Tough position to play. He's still playing at a high level.
Mike...unusual to see Jets using some nice words towards Patriots..is it because we are 3-3. Never I saw them so soft.
Ryan, in my view, it is Rex Ryan throwing it back at the Patriots. He knows that's how the Patriots operate -- even if what they say publicly isn't what they truly feel -- and he put his team on the same plan this week. Whatever works to fire 'em up, you do it. But I'll guarantee you this -- just as Bill Belichick is telling his defensive players behind the scenes all the areas Mark Sanchez is vulnerable and a liability, Rex Ryan is doing the same with his Gang Green.
Mike, you seem fired up today. I hope the Pats come out on Sunday with a like-minded passion and remind everyone what they're capable of. Another 45-3 blasting like a couple of years ago would do fans, players, coaches, and media all a little bit of good.
T, maybe a little punchy -- short on sleep with two little ones at home, and just not into the whole "sky is falling" stuff. This team is good. This organization is sound. Do they have issues? Absolutely. But it's never as bad as it seems, and converselt, it's never as good as it seems.
Mike, How good has Welker been the last few weeks? The hits he took on Sunday were huge and he kept on ticking....can we pass the hat around and pay the man.
Unreal, Stuart. So good that I had the thought it's too bad the sides couldn't reach a longer-term deal this offseason. Welker is the type of guy I'd want on my team, and if means extending a little more on a 2-3-year deal, I'd do it. There is still time, it's just too bad it has to be drawn out like this, similar to the Wilfork/Mankins stuff.
I lean toward Welker's side on that one.
Hey Mike, Do you think with the injuries in the secondary BB will be forced to play Dowling? I have a feeling Dowling may be in in Belichick's doghouse but I'm still interested in seeing him on the field.
Tron, Dowling has to earn the trust back of the coaching staff. He's really fallen off. But sometimes desperation creates opportunity and I could see this being the time.
Mike - Coach Belichick's statements sound like he is a fan of Tim Tebow. Has the coaching staff put extra time into the preparing for Tebow's potential role in the game?
Absolutely Harry. The presence of Tebow has forced the team to devote extra time to what he does. That should come into focus even more at practice today and tomorrow.
Going to take a few more...
Mike, Any chance the Patriots look to trade for Dwayne Bowe? Young, talented guy who needs/wants to move on. I think he would be a great fit. Tall, physical, fast guy.
Dave, I don't think they'd trade for Bowe because it's not just the trade, it's paying him a top contract. He doesn't strike me as their guy. Also, if Pioli is qiuck to move away from him in KC, hard for me to see the fit in NE.
Patriots D did a great job blitzing Spikes up the A Gap last game he was in the backfield making alot of plays. I keep think if Tebow does get in there this weekend envisioning Spikes making a big strip sack or hit on his old teammate:)
Garrett, this is a Spikes type of game. Agree.
Hi Mike, I'm an Alfonzo Dennard supporter and actually thought he could be starting opposite McCourty this year based on what I saw from him at Nebraska. He has the skill set to potentially be a top flight corner in this league. Given that he missed alot of time with injury, how do you assess his performance the last few weeks that he's had the opportunity to play?
Real good, Al. I think his coverage has been competitive. The key now is marrying it with solid technique on a more consistent basis. Looks like a keeper.
Hi Mike, I second what Bill said about predicability. I think at this point there's a book on BB. Don't get me wrong, he's the only coach I'd want but when you always play the percentages, play the same 4th quater philosophy, everyone knows what you're going to do. The percentages aren't the percentages if the other team know you're going to do it! Frustrated Mike, tell me the Master will adapt!?
Derek, I'd invest in Belichick. I think the one thorn in his side is the struggles to turn a more decisive corner on defense in recent years.
Mike, the secondary has been much maligned, and deservedly so in some cases, but I think that too much blame is going towards the CB's and their "not turning for the ball"... as you mentioned in the blog piece about the conversation with BB, they can't always turn back or the receiver will break away behind them.I think that is especially the case when the Safety play has been so horrible. Do you think the Safeties we have are capable of playing better pass coverage, or are we going to have to hope our CB's can somehow play perfect coverage on every play?
Riley, I think the safeties can play better pass coverage, although Patrick Chung has been a disappointment. Seems to be heading in the wrong direction. If everyone's healthy, I might look at a Gregory/Wilson pairing and see where that goes for a few games.
Hi, Mike. How is your 13-3 prediction looking? Luckily, with the AFC looking like it is, do you think the Pats can get on a roll at the end of this year and make some noise in the playoffs?
Not looking good, GT. Wasn't expecting 3-3 at this point.
Kickoff return??? Does this exsist? Why not give vareen, dowling, or someone else a chance can't get any worse, mike please bring this up in the next bill belly less than exciting press conference!!!
Goose, it's been awful since the midway point of 2010. No excuses.
Mike: 3 and 3, middle of the road, average, pack animal...The Boston sport fan of today- shocked; we have been spoiled and only need to look around the teams that everyone was saying watch out are struggling also. This is far from over we could be just as easy be 6/0; I expect greatness on Sunday, would not want to be a Jet coming into this stadium on Sunday. Out of the vets in this locker room who do you see taking the leadership role, and turning the corner....
Let's end it here, Corky. Lot of frustration and passion among the masses. It's understandable given the disappointment of the 3-3 record. There is still a lot of football to be played. This is a banged-up team. Let's see what they're made of this week, and revisit it next Thursday.