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December 20, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon. Turning on auto update. We'll get started in a few.

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Just a quick note that I've been experiencing some technical issues with my computer. If there is a long delay, you will know I am in the process of regrouping. Apologies in advance. Will make up any time at the end.

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

It will be like soccer injury time if it happens.

Mike
  (12:01 PM)

General thoughts this week: As much of a mental test for the Patriots as it is physical. They should steamroll the Jaguars. It's a test of their professionalism. Can they prepare with the same sharp focus this week that they did the prior two weeks for big-time games? I think they can. Let's see them prove it.

Mike
  (12:01 PM)

Here we go...

Joseph (Orlando, Florida)

Do you think there is any merit to the report that Josh McDaniels would "jump at the chance" to coach in Cleveland if Lombardi is hired over there as the personnel guy?

Mike
  (12:03 PM)

Joseph, I have trouble with the rumors. I generally dislike responding to them because it only promotes more rumors. I'd say this: I'd be very surprised if Josh McDaniels is the coach of the Cleveland Browns next year. That's not to say it won't happen, but I think a lot of things would have to fall into place and I don't see it happening.

David (Bethesda, MD)

Hey Mike, Is is me or is Brady's long ball just not as acurate as it used to be? It seems like he has either over thrown a lot of balls or just put them in hard places for the reciever to make the play. One noticeable play for me comes when Welker makes the great catch close to the inzone against the 9ers. I feel that was all on him and he actually made Brady look pretty good on that play.

Mike
  (12:04 PM)

David, the long ball has been on and off this year, but I think it's an unusual week to bring it up because that fourth-quarter pass to Brandon Lloyd down the right sideline was about as pretty as it gets.

Dave (Charlotte)

Would you play Gronk or rest him for the playoffs?

Mike
  (12:04 PM)

Dave, I'd play him sparingly, assuming he is cleared, to just get him back into game speed/condition. Wouldn't want his first action to be the playoffs.

Steven (California)

What is Gronk's Status?

Mike
  (12:05 PM)

Steven, he'll likely be questionable. Was limited in practice Wednesday.

PJ (Boston)

Does the loss to the 49ers cost Brady the MVP?

Mike
  (12:06 PM)

Geez, PJ, I guess we could look at it from both sides. The loss hurts, but his performance in bringing them back could actually strenghten his candidacy. And now you have Adrian Peterson making a charge, and Peyton Manning keeps winning and playing well. I don't think it should hurt Brady, but my sense is that it will.

Ash (Toronto, Ont, Canada.)

Hi Mike,So the Pats have reviewed the tape, made notes, and are in process of correcting mistakes while implementing this week's game plan. Will RBs be "auditioning" again - i.e. looking to restore faith back in their coach that they can hang on to the ball? I also have to believe if Gronk can play this weekend, he'll be there for reps to get him towards game shape for playoffs.

Mike
  (12:07 PM)

Ash, we covered the Gronk stuff earlier, so let's focus on the RBs. I don't think you bench Ridley, but I could see that 45.9 percent playtime number come down a bit. When the Patriots were at their running best, they had a rotation with Ridley, Bolden, Woodhead and Vereen. Bolden has had just 3 offensive snaps since returning from a knee injury/suspension. I could see them re-integrating him back into the mix a bit to take some of the load off Ridley.

Peter (San Diego)

Mike, thought the Niners game was a complete step backwards, as Pats were beaten in all three phases of game, and i discount a lot of the comeback, as it came against a soft zone. when game was on the line, Niners were superior, thougths?

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

I agree, Peter. I thought it was the most mild reaction to a loss around these parts that I can remember. I usually think there is an over-reaction to a loss, but this was the opposite side -- I almost thought some were letting the team off the hook. What a disappointment to play that way with so much on the line (e.g. home-field advantage). It all comes down to the four turnovers, first and foremost. Some credit to the Niners for that. They are a real good team. I think they are excellent, and so well coached. A treat to watch from this perspective.

Frankestein (NC)

Mike What is your sense of how the team took this loss

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

Business-like. This is a good Patriots team, with a lot of high "football character guys." They'll give you everything they have.

Garrett (Suffolk, VA)

Mike if Chung and Gregory are both healthy who starts or gets majority of snaps? I think both are overrated in my opinion and is a position in need of upgrade in the offseason again.

Mike
  (12:12 PM)

Garrett, this is an area to really watch because Chung replaced Gregory for most of the second half, and it wasn't injury related. Chung has hardly played in the base defense since his return from injury Nov. 22 but he could be emerging from the "odd-man-out" status. I thought NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth made a super point on the broadcast, noting that with McCourty and Gregory, the Patriots have one of the smallest safety tandems in the league. No one is afraid coming over the middle. You add Chung and it's a little more presence. Maybe you can play all three and adopt more of a rotation than we've seen in recent weeks, but then you have to concern yourself with how that affects communication.

AJ (Oakland)

Is Chandler Jones still hurt? He doesn't seem to be generating pressure like ear;ier iin the season.

Mike
  (12:13 PM)

AJ, Jones was basically benched in the second half of that game. After jumping offsides and then getting easily handled on Frank Gore's 9-yard touchdown run on a broken play, Jones didn't see the field again for about 6-7 series. That's much different from the 90-percent playtime defender we saw earlier in the season. This is a concern from this viewpoint. He's either still hurt or his gas tank is closer to the "E" than the "F" at this point of the long NFL season (compared to the college season).

DG (Washington, DC)

It feels like Ridley's fumbling "problems" have been a bit overblown. Every RB in the NFL puts the ball on the ground if you give them enough carries. In fact, among backs with more than 200 carries, only Steven Jackson hasn't fumbled this year. Further, given how many fumbles there were on both sides of the ball during Sunday's game, which featured two of the least turnover-prone teams in the NFL, how much did weather really play a factor?

Mike
  (12:15 PM)

Weather was a huge factor. Of the two fumbles, I thought Ridley's was more "tolerable" because Whitner put his helmet right on the ball. On Shane Vereen's, that ball needs to be more secure in his grasp. It looked like more careless ball security to me.

KLM (Weston, MA)

Hi Mike -Don't you get nervous watching Aaron Hernandez run with the ball? He holds his arm so far away from his body, fumbling is bound to happen. I wish you'd suggest that he keep it in close come playoff time...!

Mike
  (12:15 PM)

KLM, looks a little loose from here too. Hey, Aaron, if you're reading, we have some concern here on the chat!

grandjordanian (San Diego, CA)

Also, did Justin Francis look as good in tape review as he did in the eye-test of live game viewing?

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

He plays with a lot of energy, grand. I thought he was pretty good in there. Saw him get handled on the edge one time in the running game, but the arrow is pointing up with Francis. BB with some good praise for him Wednesday.

Straight Cash Homie (Rand, WV)

Could you see the Pats going after Tebow and using him in a creative H-back type role? Oviously, he's no threat to replace Brady and there would be no tension there.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

If they feel like they could manage the circus that seems to follow Tebow, yes I could. McDaniels obviously thinks highly of him.

Jon (Richmond (VA))

Hey mike, I know everyone is looking at the positive and sees the loss to the 49ers in a better than expected light. However Whats up with the offense all year they have been very streaky when they score it is generally in back to back or (back to back to back to back) but also when they have their 3 and outs its generally back to back. Why can they not maintain or just level out their pace?

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Jon, in this particular game, I thought the inconsistencies were on the offensive line. They played an uneven game. When they needed to rise up, the 49ers won the matchup up front.

Roger (Newton, MA)

Hey Mike,DO you think Pats will resign Talib in the off-season?

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Roger, reminds me of Randy Moss situation in 2008. If the years are short, yes. But if they are competing with another team that is willing to go longer and pay more, no. So in essence, my thought is that the team will have interest but the market will ultimately dictate.

Matt B (RI)

Hey Mike,Just a generalized observation. One really underrated aspect of 12's game is that you never see a botched snap, may it be shot gun or a center. Being a stat guru, could the kind folks at ESPN figure our the last time we had a turn over due to a botched snap?

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Matt, we can let the ESPN stats gurus enjoy their lunch break because I remember it myself. It was in the Baltimore game, opening drive, when center Ryan Wendell was a little quick on the trigger.

Har Journalist (Snowy Vancouver, Canada)

Hi Mike, how big of a factor do you think it is that the Patriots have essentially blown any chance of earning a BYE during Wild-Card weekend? How important is not earning an extra week of rest for New England? Do you think the Pats can overcome this and win on the road in Houston or Denver? Thanks Mike, Merry Christmas

Mike
  (12:20 PM)

I think they can overcome it, Har, but they just made life harder on themselves. You'd obviously rather have Denver here than there. That's a tough place to win.

Brad (New York)

I think using Slater in the passing game could help fill the void, what do you think?

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

Brad, I don't think Slater is the answer, and my sense is that the coaching doesn't either. They ran the 3-WR package 54 times last week and Slater didn't have a single rep.

Scott (Maine)

I think the patriots need to resign welker, he has proven he is a top tier player and I dont trust lloyd as the number one reciever?

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

Scott, I think it will get done with Welker. If not, they'll probably franchise him again. Too valuable to let go.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Mike, I believe the Pats are the team to beat in the AFC even without Gronk on the field. However, we can assume he is a difference maker when facing a team with all its super stars on defense and a Frank Gore/Colin Kaepernick led offense. Take Bowman, Willis, A Smith or Gholdson off the field for the 49ers and you could see a similar negative impact in continuity of play. Turnovers hurt the Pats for sure. But having Gronk on the field in the first half could have created a scenario in which the Patriots were more productive on the offensive side of the ball and helped them gain some offensive momentum. We will never know if it would have been enough in that particular game. I fall into the group that would like to see the Pats "rest" some players with nagging injuries. We can't afford to risk Brady's health but the replacements on the offensive line have shown they are capable. Further, they would gain valuable game experience. We hear that the next player in line has to be ready to step up; well here ya go. Let's see if Ridley and Vereen can gain the trust of the team in regards to ball security and take some of the pressure (and exposure) off of Brady. If Dennard's health is suspect, give him a break too, but they do need to reinforce whatever they are trying to develop on the back end of that secondary. Merry Christmas to all!!

Mike
  (12:23 PM)

Man, Munchkin, I'm trying to move this chat along and you're coming at me with some serious length here. That's passion. On the play vs. rest thing, I think you play it out this week and assess from there. I wouldn't concede anything at this point. Maybe you manage a player or two differently (e.g. no Spikes, get Welker off punt returns), but I like the Tom Coughlin/2007 "we're playing this thing out" mindset.

Matt (Cambridge)

Hoomanawanui!!! Can we give him some props for stepping up while Gronk was out and passing Fells on the depth chart?

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

Matt, Hoomanawanui will be featured in this week's P.A.T. video segment. I've been shying away because it would mean I had to pronounce his last name, but I think I'm ready for a breakthrough in that area. TE snaps the last two weeks: Hoomanawanui 83, Fells 17. That's a decisive charge up the depth chart.

T.J. (Florida)

Mike any talk of a Tweet up for the week in Jax, I know a few of us will be in attendance. Love to meet the President of Bruh Nation

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

T.J., where should we hold the tweet-up. Need a good location. Can you do some legwork for me, and we'll make it happen.

Ty Law (Canton OH)

Where is Ras-I Dowling? Injured? Doghouse? Wasn't he supposed to be the big physical coner the Pats needed?

Mike
  (12:26 PM)

Nooooooooo...

Mike
  (12:28 PM)

Dowling is on injured reserve. Disappointing second year for him. He'll be fighting for a job in 2013. I was joking with the initial reaction because he was such a hot topic earlier in the season before we moved on to bashing Josh Boyer, then moved on to bashing Brandon Lloyd, then moved on to questioning Stevan Ridley's fumbles. Just made me chuckle because sometimes it seems we're only happy if we're slightly miserable.

Mike
  (12:28 PM)

I know you weren't bashing Dowling. Don't mean to come down hard on you Ty. I also know you could kick my butt, so I'm trying to be nice.

Mark (New Haven, CT)

Mike, who is taller, you or Welker?

Mike
  (12:29 PM)

Mark, I think Welker has me by an inch. But Woodhead ...

Ben (NY)

Hey Mike,Which potential 6 seed do you think the patriots match up best with, and who should they hope to avoid?

Mike
  (12:29 PM)

Ben, I think they match up well with all of them and should win. If I had my choice, I'd avoid Pittsburgh.

Dave (Charlotte)

Can we move on to bashing the "Hoodie"? BB needs to ditch the winter parka and go back to the Hoodie?

Mike
  (12:30 PM)

LOL. Come on, Bill, can you take a little time away from preparing your team and focus more on your sideline attire.

Dan (Leominster)

Mike,What's with the Special Teams breakdown this past week? Very disappointing! McCourty actually came to a complete stop on a couple returns and those stupid return killing holding calls.

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

Really poor, Dan, and uncharactertic based on what we've seen to this point. Inexcusable. And it wasn't just one guy. Some of their more experienced players were right there on that final kickoff return. Just have to play it better.

Pat Patriot (Boston)

Is it fair to say Nate Solder has been a disappointment so far? Whenever Brady gets sacked, it is always fromhis guy. Is he to tall for the position?

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

I would say it's unfair, PP. Pretty strong year for Solder IMO. Didn't get the job done late vs. 49ers, and that hurts, but if we look big picture I think he's been solid.

Tron (Waltham, MA)

Hey Mike, In the wake of the Rob Parker suspension and even reading some other writers who often let their personal beliefs (whether on football or something) I was wondering if you ever feel similar pressure for the sake of your career. I mean, do you ever feel your unbiased, respectful approach to journalism ever holds you back? From my end at least I greatly appreciate your perspective and I think others in the national market would too.

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

Those are always tough, Tron. I think you have to be who you are. For example, this Newtown tragedy really ripped at my heart. But I just didn't think it was my place to use any forum we have here, which is Patriots-based, to share my thoughts. I sort of feel like people come here to get away, talk Patriots, and it didn't feel right to introduce any personal beliefs/thoughts on those types of topics. Does that make sense? Overall, my general feeling is that it shouldn't be about the writer, it's about the team you're covering. There is probably a residual effect where part of the writer becomes the story, but when it becomes too much, it doesn't feel right.

Alex (Melrose)

Are players who are on IR allowed to be with the team during the year? I feel like Jeffrey Demps could be learning a lot through this opportunity, and could really help the team out next year with his speed.

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

Yes, Alex, seeing Demps in the locker room on a regular basis.

Rexy (NYC)

Mike, since Devin McCourty has moved to safety he has been playing with great confidence and has made two big INTs the past two games. Do you think he is better suited as safety and should stay there permanently?

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

Rexy, I think McCourty is a good fit at safety, although that Delanie Walker TD pass reminded us that not everything is prefect. McCourty got sucked over to Randy Moss' side of the field and put CB Alfonzo Dennard in a tough spot. I like McCourty staying there permanently, especially if Talib is back. That's a change for me from earlier in the year. I'm sold after watching the full body of McCourty's work this year.

Tom (Boston)

Any news on the recovery of Dane Fletcher? Will he be healthy for mini camps in May?

Mike
  (12:37 PM)

Yes, Tom, he should be ready.

david (boston)

are the professional players and coaches comments on this chat really from them?

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

No, David, just a little fun some of the chatters like to have. And I play along.

Chris, New Haven CT [via mobile]

Mike, the Pats are always "tinkering" with their roster. Is there any way to gague what moves work well and which ones don't? Specifically when we promote Greg Salas to the 53 man roster and then "cut him" a week later hoping he will clear waivers...who took Salas's spot on the roster and how did they do that week and in the weeks after?

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

They messed up on that one, Chris, but I'd file it in the "not everybody is going to be perfect" category. Just a miscalculation. They promoted OT Markus Zusevics and he hasn't played for them. Added depth in case of injury.

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

P.S. -- Salas would have had 61 catches if they kept him!

Anthony Miller (Taylors, SC)

Speaking of special teams...it looks to me like Devin Mccourty doesn't like to run back kickoffs. He doesn't run hard or as fast as he can.

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

I'd agree on that one, Anthony, based on this last performance. Not a strong showing by McCourty or those blocking for him. That ties into the special teams disappointment.

Paul (Panama City)

Will you be getting together with fans Saturday?If you are where?

Mike
  (12:40 PM)

We're going to do it, Paul. Just need to figure out the when/where. Plan for mid-to-late afternoon. Any suggestions? Will post a meeting spot in the Patriots blog on ESPNBoston.com and also on twitter.

Paul (New Boston)

I really like Fells as a blocker, what do you think has led to his decrease in play time?

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

Paul, believe it or not, I think it was his blocking. Don't think the coaches liked what they saw on tape in the Dolphins game on Dec. 2.

Michael Cee (Columbia, Maryland)

Great stuff Mike! I know of no other blog that has continuous updates all day, every day.With all this talk that the Pats might come out flat against the Jags, I see it differently. I think we'll see an angry and frustrated Pats team out to crush an inferior opponent. I'm calling for a major blow out. Your thoughts?

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

Michael, when Tom Brady says it feels like three years since they won a game, I increased my points projection from 35 to 42. They'll be ready.

Geoff Lutes (Moncton, NB, CANADA)

Happy holidays Mike! I was wondering if players pay attention to the inactives on the other team when they are announced or by that point would most be focused on the game at hand? Thanks!

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

Geoff, they are told by their coaches so they are aware of who is playing/who isn't.

Tannenbaum (East Rutherford, NJ)

Which other AFC East team do you see as the greatest threat to NE in the years to come? Why?

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

I'd pick the Dolphins, but that projects development for QB Ryan Tannehill, which is no guarantee.

Mike (Westwood, MA)

Mike, I'd like start by wishing you, and all of the mailbaggers out there a Merry Christmas. Last week really hurt the Pats chances of making it to New Orleans. Sure there were plenty of silver linings in the defeat, but Denver won and New England needs a miracle to get back into the 2 spot. Tom Brady is 1-4 (stat check?) when playing in Denver and this time around he would be going against Peyton Manning at Mile High. I'll be rooting for Cleveland and Kansas City in the coming weeks!

Mike
  (12:46 PM)

Mike, the same to you. Have you heard that Bill Belichick has made a secret deal with Scott Pioli to switch places with Romeo Crennel and coach the Chiefs in the final week against the Broncos? (editor's note: this is a joke)

Dave (RI)

Hey Mike, No loses are "good" loses. I have heard alot of comments this week about this was a good come back and a good loss etc but I am concerned. The 49ers beat them up and down the field and this was the first time i saw guys shy away from contact (ie Hernandez on the screen which was a INt) I thought they were building this team to beat the Giants/49ers type defenses. How conerned are you about this?

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Dave, I agree with your thoughts in terms of the 49ers taking it to the Patriots. But I wouldn't read anything more into it than that. I don't think it means the Patriots aren't a tough team. It just wasn't their day.

Eric (Boston)

Hey Mike, something i find really interesting is how in general, people think the patriots are full of veterans. The Pats have the 8th youngest team in the NFL and tied for the youngest defense with the Packers. Just because Brady and Belichick are still here, does not mean this team is filled with players from 01-04 (07 even)

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Good point, Eric.

Jared (Boston)

Hi Mike, I know this is not a favorite topic of yours, but instead of thinkign who the Pats draft or sign via free agnecy, don't they have to think about upgrading teh defensive coaching staff. Although they have been better since Talib was traded for, and McCourty plays safety, the fact is that side of the ball the coaching staff is below average at best. A genuine d-ccordinator would make this team even more elite (and I already am aware the argument that said coach might leave in a few years, but Brady may retire in a few years too, so need to capitalize on these remaining years). Thoughts?

Mike
  (12:48 PM)

Jared, the way I view it, Bill Belichick is still running the show. This is to take nothing away from coordinator Matt Patricia, but just watch the sidelines during the games, BB is always huddling with the defense, sometimes as the game is going on. I'm not saying another presence wouldn't help, but with BB at the controls, it's going to be hard to top that.

Benny (Lawrence MA)

I never hear Tavon Wilson's # called. Is he riding the bench? Not playing well?

Mike
  (12:50 PM)

Benny, he's been solely the dime back since Steve Gregory returned from injury. Snaps played in that span: 14, 11, 8, 2, 17 and 4.

Sue (Belmont, MA)

Wasn't it a mistake for the coaches to throw that screen to Hernandez right after he'd gotten smashed to bits in the route over the middle?

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

Yes, Sue, I think that was a mistake. And not just because of the result of the play. That's a tough player to put a player in. We often hear how good coaching is putting players in the position to succeed and I didn't think that was a good example of that.

Andy (Berkshires)

Was Ridley's fumble an error on his part and something that he needs to correct or was it just a nice play by the 49ers player being able to put his helmet on the ball?

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

Andy, I'd say a little of both. I liked Tedy Bruschi's point that Ridley absorbs contact rather than runs through it like a BenJarvus Green-Ellis might. Always learn something from Tedy.

rick (ct)

Mike, always enjoy your work and appreciate these chats. With so few draft choices this year, do you see Pats being aggressive in the free agent market this off-season. I don't mean high priced FAs but rather a lot of depth.

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

Thanks Rick. I'll be honesy, I haven't thought that far in advance. One thing I feel quite certain about is that even though they are a little short on draft picks now, those will multiply through trades etc. So I don't think we'll see an approach based on limited draft picks.

silver (Reno NV)

What is Ron Brace's future look like? That guy is never on the field.

Mike
  (12:54 PM)

Silver, Brace is a free agent after the season and I think the sides will probably part ways. A fresh start is probably best for Brace, the 2009 second-round draft choice who has provided depth but never truly broken through here.

BP (Brooklyn)

How worried should we be about Brady's shoulder? Just wear and tear from the 65 throws? Might we see a run-heavy offense as a results? Thanks

Mike
  (12:54 PM)

Shouldn't worry.

Doug (Arizona)

Since Edelman got hurt, no one looks good running back the ball. Both Welker and McCourtney stopped in mid runback, lost momentum and got tackled. Good returners blow through holes if they are there. I also believe that Welker drops more balls when he has to be WR and PR. There has to be somebody. Bolden? Beuler? Anyone?

Mike
  (12:55 PM)

I think they'll give Chung or Branch some punt return reps these final two weeks. On kickoff returns, they seem reluctant to go away with McCourty.

Sean (Derry, NH)

Hey Mike, I heard on the TV last night that Josh McDaniels was interested in the Browns job, should they fire their current head coach. Last year we though Josh was coming back to stay for a while a possibly be the heir apparent to BB. Will Josh jump ship again or is this just the rumor mill cranked up? Thanks.

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Sean, I think one thing we all have to consider is how these stories crop up. Who is saying this? If it's a "source", I want to know how close the "source" is to McDaniels and what is his/her agenda? I'd prefer to hear it straight from McDaniels himself. All I know is that McDaniels is 37, has a growing family, has been in his third city in three years after a stretch of professional growth/hardship, and is now settled and working with one of the best QBs to ever play the game. Does he really want to be on the move again and put his family through another relocation? I know it's close to where he grew up, but I just don't see the timing matching up on both levels (professionally/personally). I think McDaniels is going to have a similar career to Belichick's in that the second time around is going to be better than the first, and he needs to pick his spots carefully here, just as Belichick himself did. Let's see how it unfolds.

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Mike
  (1:03 PM)

P.S. -- I don't want to discredit anyone's reports. I hope it didn't come across that way.

Neil X. (Rozzie)

Mike, the Pats are still think at WR, so I'm still thinking about Jabar Gaffney. I still have not seen a definitive statement that he really has served his suspension--the only semi-reliable source of the information that the suspension is over is the Tweet from Aaron Wilson. I really thought players had to be signed to an NFL contract in order to start serving a suspension. Can you find out if Gaffney is really available or not?

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

I need to get to the bottom of that, Neil. I thought their lack of depth at the skill positions showed up a bit on Sunday night. Feel like Gaffney could help if everything checked out.

James (Derry, NH)

Hi Mike, I don?t understand people being nervous about playing Denver in the second round. Are they a dangerous team, sure, is Denver a tough place for opposing teams, you bet. But I know that Peyton is still 9-10 in the playoffs, and to quote your article about the Jags this week, ?you are what your record says you are.? Thanks and keep up the great work.

Mike
  (1:05 PM)

Thanks James. No one should be nervous. The Patriots are as good as anyone. But we've also seen times where Peyton Manning controls a game. He has that ability. I think that's what anyone has to respect.

Kecin Ohio [via mobile]

Hi Mike, I am happy to hear that the Patriots players were upset and disappointed in the loss. It seems to me that a lot of fans and media members took too much silver lining from a poorly played sloppy loss.

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Fair. It was a remarkable comeback. I think the way I put it was that the offense has never been so bad, and so good, in the same game.

Bobby D (Watertown)

Mike, hate to say it but that was a good loss. Every lose ball/turnover took SF bounces, several for huge returns one for a TD. Pats were down 28 yet almost won this game while Houston & NYJ both quit when getting throttled by us. We also had the refs against us. Two tackles in the end zone Welker/Branch got missed then they call that OPI on Lloyd. All of those holds on special teams but they missed several on that last return by SF. All I ask is they call it even both ways. My question? What was that call on Logan Mankins? How is an O-Lineman being forced to make a tackle on an Interception return called for "illegal blocking"?

Mike
  (1:07 PM)

Can't go low on an interception return. I thought NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth did a nice job explaining that.

Nemanja (Vranje, Serbia)

Mike, our fan club from Serbia is sending you regards. Keep up the good work. I still remember Mike Vrabel TD catches and I miss that. Is there any chance we see another defensive player do that? Maybe Ninkovich.

Mike
  (1:08 PM)

Thanks for the regards, Nemanja. Nate Solder would be the target. He moves to an eligible receiver role at the goal-line at times.

Jim (Fairfax)

I think we can now safely conclude that Brandon Lloyd wasn't a disappointment. The real comparison isn't to Randy Moss, which was always a stretch, or Chad Ochocinco, who was an unmistakable bust. Lloyd should be compared to Deion Branch in 2010 and 2011, since he is playing a similar role. Lloyd has now exceeded Branch's receptions and yardage from those seasons and is within one touchdown of him. (Incidentally, there has been an uptick in Branch's production in the third receiver role in the last two games he has played as well.i

Mike
  (1:08 PM)

Well said, Jim. What a difference two weeks makes.

Bart (Mass)

Mike any chances the Browns can pull off the upset this week against Denver?

Mike
  (1:09 PM)

Bart, if they pull it off, want to switch roles next week and you run the chat? I'd be surprised if it happens, but if it does, that could be a fun change-up.

Anthony Miller (Taylors, SC)

Not a question but a tidbit.... I called the Jaguars when the schedule came out in April about this weeks game and they returned my call within ten minutes about advanced sales, they gave me a call back in late November asking me if I was interested in tickets and again last week letting me know they opened another section. I can't go due to family reasons but it goes to show how desperate they are to sell tickets. I admire their dedication to selling tickets but I have never heard of that happening have you? It also goes to show how amny Pats fans will be there as you mentioned, I have been to Miami 5 times for Pats games and a current season ticket holder for the Pats even though I live in SC and I wish I could be in Jacksonville to party with you Patriot fans!

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

Thanks for sharing, Anthony.

aboo (Tinville)

Does Nincovich get your vote for most improved Patriot? He seems like a legit pass rusher and is turing nto a playmaker.

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

Real solid season for Ninkovich. 85 percent of the snaps. Good production. Would be on any list of "best values in the NFL."

Frankestein (NC)

Where do you rank the draft class now going by the season's body of work .. I think some shine has come off the past few weeks though HighTower is getting better .. Jones's play has fallen off .. Dennard .. Ebner is ST only Wilson is developing

Mike
  (1:13 PM)

I think that is fair the way you have it, although I might look at Wilson a little differently (he is developing, but he's more depth right now). I'd add Francis as a strong contributor.

rick (lowell)

I believe our play at the center position has been solid this year, why was Dan Koppen cut, he has played almost every snap since joining the Broncos, your thoughts

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

Rick, let's end on this one. Line coach Dante Scarnecchia said it was as tough a decision as the team had to make this year. Just a case of Wendell having more upside -- a little younger. Koppen is still effective but closer to the end of the line. Turned out the Patriots had two effective centers. A case could be made that they could have kept both.

Mike
  (1:15 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. Always enjoyable. Happy holidays to all. We'll do it again next week.