Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
We'll get started in a few...
Quick programming note: If you're following along in real time, and there is a lengthy delay at some point, it's that I got knocked off the system and have to reboot. Hopefully it doesn't happen, but if it does, you'll know why. Will make up any lost time at the end. Plan will be to go until 1 p.m. ET.
Disappointing end to the season for the Patriots. There are some losses when you feel like maybe it's ripped away from you based on something unexpected/unusual (e.g. David Tyree helmet catch). This wasn't one of them. The Patriots just bombed, for the most part, from the end-of-first-half clock management to the second half. They didn't deserve to win. So now we look ahead.
Our chats will continue every Thursday.
Mike, just a comment. It is unbelievable how spoiled we are as Patriots fans. A decade of sustained excellence is not good enough? I now live in Browns country and they people I work with everyday would trade their first born for a Browns playoff run (I am exaggerating, only slightly). So the Patriots are not a SB team. It's really hard to get in the playoffs let alone win the SB. Just trying to infuse some perspective. We are lucky even if we are not going to the SB.
Watson, I feel like there is perspective with many. We're always going to have a subset where it's never good enough. One thing we've talked about in the past is how the Patriots' 3 SB titles in 4 years (2001, 2003, 2004) set an expectation that wouldn't be easy to reach. I think there is a general greater appreciation for what they did now than perhaps back when they were accomplishing it.
Hey Mike - love the chats. It seems that many of the Belichick-Brady era playoff losses - specifically the two Super Bowls and the latest Ravens game - occur when the coaching staff puts the brakes on the offense against a pressure defense. Why do they repeatedly pull the reigns on such a high power offense when that plays right into the defense? The Ravens D was gassed at the end of the first quarter and then the Patriots slowed it down rather than kick them when they were down and continue to run, run, run. And in the two super bowls, the Pats didn't pull out the high speed, spread offense until the 4th quarter when those games could have been put away earlier. Why change an effective offensive philosophy as such crucial times? Thanks.
Patrick, the Patriots were out-coached in the game, no question. My take: They really tried hard to establish the run early and just didn't get the desired results. The hurry-up wasn't working IMO. So I didn't think it was a result of hurry-up or no hurry-up as much as the poor clock management at the end of the second quarter and then the execution on some of the play-calls (Welker drop, Solder hold were daggers in the third quarter). Those plays go in another direction and we might have a different story.
Hey Mike!! Thank you for all your work and keeping us in the loop on Pats news. Its hard keeping up all the time in the military but I know I can always count on the latest info when I do get to check the blog. I was wondering about the status of Dane Fletcher and Bobby Carpenter. Do you think Fletcher will be a contributer next season, and do you envision the Pats taking another look at Carpenter? Thanks again Mike, have a good one!
Thanks for what you do for our country Mike. It's nice to connect on the chat. Fletcher should be back. He was in the locker room on Monday and he's doing well. On Carpenter, that's a little trickier because they didn't bring him back this year even though we saw the need for a coverage linebacker show up in the AFC title game. I'm not as certain on that one.
Mike, I know you have yet to really dive into it, but if you're Bill Belichick, who is your first call of the free agency going to (players on their roster right now exluded)?
Lars, he probably won't get to free agency, but Bills safety Jairus Byrd would be a solid target IMO. From a Patriots perspective, it's a reminder that they picked the wrong Oregon safety in 2009 -- going with Patrick Chung over Byrd in the second round. Chung's disappearance was stunning to me. He must have really been in the coaches' doghouse to not see the field instead of Marquice Cole with the season on the line.
I know how you like to defend Brady by playing the what if's game, but for every single what ifs you have, there's a conterpart. you say what if Brady and Welker connected in last years SB, I say what M Cole didn't swat the ball away in the AFC Championship. Time to be a man and report the truth. NE is SOFT and Tom Brady is SOFTER. Maybe it's time for you to stop shielding them so that they can actually learn this time, and maybe even toughen out
Shane, I'll pass along a link to a story I wrote on the common threads of the team's playoff losses. One of the things that stands out is physicality. I don't shield anyone. I write what I believe to be the truth -- point blank. http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/page/reissmailbagweek0122/tom-brady-co-lost-magic-touch
Mike, not that it would ever happen but if you were the Pats would you inquire about Revis?
I just don't see it, Bob, starting first and foremost from the idea that the Jets would trade him. He's one of their best players. Why trade him? They need to build around him.
Hi Mike, why has no one mentioned kickoff returns as an area for the Pats to focus on in 2013? Hopefully Jeff Demps can provide a spark, but since Bandon Tate was let go, opposing teams never have to gameplan to the Pats kickoff return game. The TD by D-Mac vs the Jets was more of an accident than a trend.
I agree, Nick, and thought it would be an area of focus in the 2012 draft. Tate really dipped in the second half of his final season with the Patriots, so it wasn't like it was electrifying with him at the end either. Definitely an area to look at for changes in 2013.
Mike, Thanks for all you did this season, it was greatly appreciated. The loss of Talib clearly changed the entire game. What is it about that one player that changes teh defense so much.
T.J., let's go back to what happened when Talib went out of the game. They moved Alfonzo Dennard to LCB and inserted Kyle Arrington at RCB. They left Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty at safety. That grouping was actually quite competitive in my view, with Gregory the weaker link. It was when the Ravens made the decision to go to more 11 personnel (1 back, 1 TE, 3 WRs) that changed the game. That spread the Patriots out and had them going to their sub defense -- bringing Marquice Cole into the slot at CB and exposing Brandon Spikes' coverage skills at LB. ...
If Talib was healthy, it would have been Arrington in the slot. This is a fair second guess on the coaching staff IMO. Why not move McCourty to CB, and bring on Patrick Chung at safety? I think they made a mistake. I know Chung hasn't been great, but I'll take my chances with him over Cole (no disrespect to a fine special teams player, but someone I'd only want to call on in an emergency in an AFC title game).
Mike do you think NE would consider bring Scott Pioli back?
Yes, but I'm not sure what Scott Pioli's mindset is at this time.
Which teams might be interested in WesWelker?
Mark, I'd have to look closer at the salary cap space, but I would think a lot would have interest depending on the price. I'm not sure it fits in the Norv Turner offense, but Cleveland was one thought with the Mike Lombardi tie-in. Just speculation on my part without really thinking it through.
Hi Mike, Was wondering your thoughts on the signing of Armond Armstead and how much of an impact you think he'll have.
Ashley, I think this is like having another draft pick. The Patriots are without fourth, fifth, and sixth-round picks this year so this helps fill that void. They guaranteed him $655,000, which is much more than the standard "future" contract. That is an indication that the Patriots view Armstead as part of their future, and also had competition to sign him. I think it could be a steal, but let's wait to see how it plays out before getting ahead of ourselves.
Hi mike, do you think it is likely we can re-sign Welker and Talib or do you think it's one or the other at this point.
I think they could sign both, but my opinion on Welker has changed since a few months ago. I thought it was pretty clear-cut that the team would put the franchise tag on him at $11.4 million to retain his rights, but I'm backing off that now. I don't think they will, and that's not coming from any inside information, just my outside opinion. I think they'd let Welker know they want him back and are willing to extend to a certain point ($7-8m per year), but that if he can get more elsewhere and wants to take it, they'd wish him the best. So it might be a case where the market ultimately dictates.
Sometimes that's what it takes when the player/agents and team have a difference of opinion. Let the market dictate and be prepared to live with the results.
Mike: Can you pull up your preseason Super Bowl prediction? I remember you had the Ravens but I forget your NFC pick.
Great memory, Matt. I did have the Ravens in the Super Bowl. But before we start praising that prediction, let's not forget ...
...the NFC representative was supposed to be the Eagles.
I'm not going to jump on the "pick on Steve Gregory" bandwagon, but I do question if he really fits on the roster next year. Assuming McCourty is at one safety spot, the Pats need a thumper at the other (I agree with Rodney Harrison wholeheartedly here). Gregory is NOT that guy. Further, he offers no special teams value having played just 8 snaps there all season. I don't believe is contract is that bad but can you see him being cut? Thanks
T, I don't think it's a slam dunk that he's back. If he is, it might be as a third safety/sub DB. I agree they need an upgrade back there...
Quick programming note: Have to jump on a quick interview here for 10 minutes. Delay of game penalty, but it is for a story on Armond Armstead. I'll give you all the scoop. Back in a few...
Here is your inside scoop: Argonauts GM Jim Barker on the Patriots' acquisition of Armond Armstead: 6-5, 280. Played nose and 3 technique. A little bit on the edge. Played great, but a better person. Obviously not a nose in the NFL, as CFL is more of a space game. Said NFL teams were hot on his trail and here is his "money" quote: "I don't think it's very often that an NFL team can get a first-round pick without using a first-round pick."
Will be back to kickstart chat in a few...
Ridley needs to learn how to punish defenders like Corey Dillon did. Agree?
Gary, I think on Ridley, it's not so much punishing defenders as it is protecting himself. That means running lower and not lowering his head like he did on the fumble in which Berard Pollard delivered that big hit.
Hey Mike. I was wondering if you'd heard anything about Vince Wilfork and his future in football? I've heard a couple of rumors that he's tired of putting his body on the line every season only for the team to keep coming up short in the playoffs, and that he could be considering an early retirement. It'd be a huge surprise, but you never know.
Rob, Wilfork alluded to his future in his post-game news conference, but it was in the context of how a tough loss sparks those thoughts. I wouldn't read much into it. I see Wilfork as a player who loves the game and will be back. He has one Super Bowl ring, but he hasn't won one as a leader of the team. I think he wants that badly.
Hi, Mike. Can you tell me why Stevan Ridley's fumble was a fumble? I watched it over and over and I don't see it. His elbow and butt hit the ground and then the ball came out. The ground can't cause a fumble, right? What am I missing? Please help me understand and be able to go into the off-season in peace.
Absolutely Chris. In my role as a "pool" reporter, I was asked to get an explanation from referee Bill Leavy on that call after the game. What happens at that point is that the NFL records the conversation and shares Leavy's explanation with all media. Here is what Leavy said: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4738966/referee-explains-fumble-review
Hi Mike. Are the Patriots considered a soft team on offense?
I think it depends who you ask, Mark. I don't think Bill Belichick believes that. But I think the Ravens felt like they could push the Patriots around. I'd just say any team with a player like Logan Mankins on it isn't soft. But I did think the Ravens hit the Patriots in the mouth and didn't see the Patriots respond like I've seen other Patriots teams respond.
Mike, why is there no love for Randy Moss in the media like there is for Ray Lewis right now? Everyone talks about "winning it for Ray" but what about Moss. He's the 2nd best WR of all time and may retire after this year.
I'd like to see Moss win a Super Bowl ring. I appreciate his story -- being out of football for a year, accepting a reduced role. One of the favorite stories I've ever written was visiting Moss' hometown of Rand, West Virginia. Moss is one of the most interesting players I've covered. Complex. A lot of layers there. If you're asking me who I'd like to see win it more -- Moss or Lewis -- it's Moss.
Do the Pats have any linebackers that can cover a TE?
I think Mayo can do it. Spikes had the INT in last AFC title game, but he didn't look as effective in this year's title game. It raises a question to me, even though it's only one game, if he's going to develop in that area. Something to watch...
Mike, did Chandler Jones play hurt the 2nd half of the season? He was such a playmaker at the beginning, but just fell off the planet after that.
The ankle injury was a factor, Ty. At the same time, let's not forget he came up with some big plays at the end of that Jaguars game. Just 2 snaps for Jones in the AFC title game because of his second ankle injury, and they came in the goal-line defense. A disappointment.
I want to respectfully call you on some of the common thread analysis. "Finesse" is not a term Pats fans like, but if you look honestly at recent Super Bowl winners (like the Colts, Packers, Saints, even the Giants) many could be characterized as finesse. Smash-mouth football teams win too, but it's not the only way to do it.
I appreciate the point of view, Ryan. None of this stuff is black and white. If Wes Welker makes that catch and the Patriots get some points on that drive, the whole finesse discussion might be moot. That's important context and I never felt like I said it otherwise. But when I look at four of those losses -- both Ravens games and both Super Bowls -- I felt as if the Patriots were on the wrong end of the physical beating. Would you agree with that?
If Tom Brady is our best player, why not try to convert more fourth downs in the opponent's territory?
Bill, I didn't have as much of an issue with that as others. At that time of the game, it was a field-position type of contest. There were no indications the Patriots were about to implode. I still liked the Patriots' chances at that point. Looking back, it's easy to say it differently, but I always try to stick to my initial instinct/opinion when it's unfolding and not base it on the final result.
Mike, I was blown away with the Patriots lack of pressure on Joe Flacco. Did the absence of Talib in the secondary force the Patriots to change their defensive strategy? I saw zero blitzes and Flacco had enough time to knit a sweater. Very frustrating!
When I watched the game over, I saw some blitzes. The pressure still wasn't good. I really think it was a case of the Ravens winning more one on one matchups. They deserved it. It wasn't as much about scheme/defensive play-calling to me.
Hi Mike. Looking at how the Patriots struggled to cover Tight Ends and Running Backs in the passing game, was one of the most under-rated losses of the year the loss of Dane Fletcher? While not as dominant as Mayo, Spikes and Hightower, he has the coverage skills that were badly missed at times.
Damian, I think that might be overstating it. I like Fletcher, but even in 2011, he wasn't playing a major role on defense at the end of the year. If I recall, he only played one defensive snap in the Super Bowl.
Hey Mike, I don't want this to come off as turning a blind eye to Brady's performance but as poorly as Brady played--some say it was one of his worst playoff games--I still think the defending the pass is the Patriot's biggest issue in the playoffs recently. I was looking back at some stats and the Patriots D averaged less than 210 passing yards a game and were in the top 11 or better in total yards allowed per game as recently as 2009. Since 2009, it has been dramatic drop off. I think to get back to the mountain top the Patriots need an aggressive D, smothering and physical defense that compared to its peers is top ten in both points and yards allowed, that way come playoffs, when turnovers dry up, they are still able to limit the opposing teams scoring. Given this long synopsis, what area of the field needs improvement most to achieve this goal?
Tron, I agree with those who say the game was one of the worst they've seen Brady play. Knowing what a competitor he is, that's going to sting for a while, I'm sure. No one puts more into it than him, in my view. On defense, I don't think it's a scheme thing. Look at the players. They were relying on the likes of Justin Francis and Marquice Cole to play key roles in the game, and the other team rose up. Sometimes you just get beat. That's the way I view the game. A little bit of bad luck injury wise, but a game they didn't deserve. No need to blow it up. Make the tweaks, coach it a little better, add some better personnel, and you're in position to make another run.
In looking back at the season and the last decade+, I'm impressed that the Pats have been so consistently successful. When taking the salary cap and free agency into account I must say we may be watching the best NFL dynasty ever. We should enjoy it while it lasts.
Ryan, they're always in the hunt. Good perspective, which can be tough to have after such a disappointing loss. I'll share his story: I spent part of this morning watching the introductory news conference of John Izdik as Jets GM. As it finished, I thought to myself: That is a team trying to find its way. They are basically starting over in many respects. Then I thought about the Patriots and here we are going on year 14 of the Belichick regime. It's a pretty well-oiled machine. #Perspective
Mike, in nickel packages, why not just put tavon wilson back there. In the Tank Williams mold? We don't necessarily need a "coverage" line-backer.
Yes, Dominic, that's possible. Then the question is if you're compromised against the run. That's a light box. Almost like a dime package if you're putting Wilson on for Spikes.
Brady seems to play his poorest when under constant pressure. This wasn't the case last week. I don't recall him even getting sacked. What were the Raven's doing that made him play so poorly? He seemed to feel pressure that wasn't really there and rush his throws accordingly.
I thought Tedy Bruschi hit at the heart of it. The Ravens used double-edge pressure to slow down the hurry-up run game, and then took away the inside part of the field. Good plan by defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Brady had trouble finding open receivers, and was forced to look to areas he didn't want to.
Mike - Does Brady win a 4th or 5th SB before he retires with a stronger D on the backend? Would be great to win in NYC next year.
I'm not betting against them, Mark. I feel like they'll be in the hunt again.
Mike, I'm late because I'm not over the loss yet but I wanted to thank you for a good season of chatting and i'm looking forward to the off season chat!
Thanks Dave. We'll keep chatting throughout the offseason. There are a lot of topics to address. I won't be able to get to close to all of them today, but we have plenty of time.
Hi Mike, Ive heard some focus on a Coverage LB as a need for the Pats. But with the league throwing more than ever, wouldn't the use of such a coverage LB put Spikes and Hightower (two of our best defensive players) on the bench on a lot of 2nd and 3rd downs. How would this work? Thanks!
Yes, Steve, that would limit the playing time of Spikes and potentially Hightower. That's the tradeoff. There are few three-down LBs -- Jerod Mayo is one -- who are strong enough to play on early downs but athletic enought to play in coverage. This is something to consider when the topic of a "coverage linebacker" is brought up.
Mike:A couple of random thoughts on the year. First, I think the Pats team that started the playoff game against Houston was, in many ways, considerably better than the Pats team that lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. So, I think the Pats will be in the hunt in 2013. Second, the experience with Talib shows us that the Pats defense is just one good cornerback away from respectability. Third, I totally agree with those who think the Pats should focus the team building efforts on the offensive line and defense. Consider this: if the Pats don?t make any investment at all in the offensive skill positions over the winter, the key offensive players for 2013 would be Brady, Ridley, Vereen, Gronk, Hernandez and Lloyd. (And, for modest $$, you could get Edelman.) That?s a pretty good group.
I'd echo those thoughts, Jeff. As for Talib, the injuries cloud the picture to me. I think he'd be good to re-sign, but I don't think it's a slam dunk. Those injuries concerned me a bit from a Patriots perspective.
Mike: How does the Armond Armstead signing figure into the roster? Since the NFL season is not over (at least, for two teams), do all the other 30 teams still have to work off a 53 man roster? Or, are we on some type of expanded roster arrangement?
Jeff, once we get to the start of the 2013 league year, the rosters expand. Armstead's contract was a "futures" deal for 2013.
Hey Mike. Man I hate this time of year when the pats aren't playing... Anyways what do you think of us letting Wes go and signing Percy Harvin or drafting Tavon Austin from West Virginia? Wes isn't gonna get any faster and both these guys have burners for legs.
I think they liked Harvin coming out of the draft that year. Don't know much about Auston at this time, David. Will be hitting the draft stuff hard in the coming weeks.
Will take a few more...
I can't get over how good this offense would be with the addition of Mike Wallace. Teams would have to take Wallace away with a safety over the top, which would leave the middle of the field open and not overpopulated (like it is now) for the tight ends. And then Brandon Lloyd would be the perfect other piece to that offense because of how he works the sideline. He would get consistent one on one matchups. The other options for defenses would be to clog the middle to stop the tight ends, which would give Mike Wallace one on one for the deep ball. And there is no corner that can hang with him, speed wise. It's not possible for defenses to cover all of those weapons, and if they attempted to then they would have to commit at least 8 players to defending the pass every play. Wallace won't cost significantly more than Welker, but he would make a more significant difference. He is on the top of my FA want list.
Ramin, I'd just be careful of overrating Wallace. He had a disappointing year for the Steelers this year, according to those who watched Pittsburgh closer than I did. I could see where a Wallace-type receiver could help, but as for Wallace himself, I'd be careful there when considering economics and how it factors into the overall context of building a team.
Mike--There has been a lot of discussion about which of the Patriots UFAs should be re-signed. It does not appear to me that the Patriots have cap room to re-sign all of the big 3 of Vollmer, Welker and Talib. My perspective is that Vollmer is the most important one to sign. Belichick usually uses the franchise tag on someone. Would he possibly use it on Vollmer? Or is $9.8 million too much for Seabass, given how much the team has invested in guarnateed money with Mankins?
Neil, I have to get deeper into understanding the right tackle market, but that seems a bit rich to me. Eric Winston got a reported $22m over four years with the Chiefs this offseason and Vollmer is a higher-caliber player, so just throwing darts, I'd think the $7-8m range per year for Vollmer might be the target. Would you pay more for one year? Possible, which would be similar to how the Patriots probably viewed Welker last year.
Now that it's the offseason, what do think 2013 will look like for Nate Ebner? Is he just a career special teamer ala slater and izzo, or does he have a chance to break into the defense as a safety or lighter linebacker?
Jim, he didn't play a defensive snap in the second half of the year. I wouldn't say it's already decided he will be a special-teams-only guy, but that's the way it's trending.
Are you worried that if the Patriots do win a Super Bowl again, that all the "haters" are just going to assume they must be taping something and couldn't possibly just have the breaks work out for them like they did in the early 2000s?
Silly stuff, Brian. Anyone that brings up the taping doesn't understand it IMO. They are just trying to get a reaction.
Mike, the Patriots have essentially become the Peyton Manning Colts of years ago. High powered offense, sub-par defense, soft team overall. When they get punched in the mouths they don't know how to handle it. Again, like the Colts used to be. A team that blew everyone out in the regular season but wasn't battle tested at all and loses to a hard-nosed team in the playoffs. I hope this changes soon because it's becoming a trend for this team.
Let's end on this one, Dan. I think it's something that warrants more inspection. When I wrote that piece on common threads of recent playoff losses, the idea that tough, physical opponents were imposing their will on the Patriots showed up. It is almost like the way the Patriots took pride in beating up the Rams in the Super Bowl, or the Colts teams in the early to mid 2000s is what teams are doing to them now. I want to be careful going too far down that road right now, but I will say it is a thought I had as well.
Thanks to all for chatting. Apologies for the mid-chat interruption but wanted to take that call from Jim Barker, the Toronto Argonauts GM. For those who were following along real-time, you got a taste of how this works sometimes -- you never know when the call is going to come, but you always have to be ready.
We'll chat again next Thursday.