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October 31, 11:00 AM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (10:54 AM)

Good morning and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few...

Mike
  (11:00 AM)

Let's lead off with a few Red Sox thoughts. I don't follow baseball as closely as football, but I was struck by something last night in the World Series celebration. Almost every interview I heard from players, coaches, executives reflected back on spring training and how the mix just seemed right. Chemistry is hard to build/generate/create -- there is no one formula -- but you don't have to be a fan of a specific sport to appreciate it when you see it. That's what I saw from the Red Sox. ...

Mike
  (11:01 AM)

... And of course, players rightly pointed out that chemistry alone doesn't win. You have to be good players, too. ...

Mike
  (11:01 AM)

On to football. Here we go.

Mike (Beantown)

Love the insight Mike, and while I know you're going to touch on it in your opening words (which I love btw) what can you tell us about Sopoaga? Also, speaking of the Dline, when do you think Kelly plays, is Armstead doing anything right now? and is Talib playing this week lol. Sorry for the barrage of questions!

Mike
  (11:03 AM)

Thanks Mike. Great day in Boston. On Sopoaga, he's like a more experienced Kyle Love, with a better skill level. I watched the first quarter of last week's Eagles-Giants game just to get a feel for him. He's a hold-the-point nose tackle whose job will be done if he can occupy blockers and keep the LBs free to make plays. He should help the Patriots. I don't buy some of the stuff that I've read in Philly that he has nothing left. Not based on what I saw. ...

Mike
  (11:04 AM)

On Kelly and Talib, one thing to consider is that you have the bye week after this one. So that probably contributes to the mindset of maybe holding them out another week if it's not a 100 percent slam dunk. I'd lean in that direction right now, aiming for Nov. 18 at Carolina for their return. Just an educated guess. On Armstead, I saw him yesterday in the locker room. That could be a sign he isn't far away.

Mike (NYC)

The patriots pass offense has been suspect, with Gronk hopefully good to go from his hamstring injury and the steelers strong against tight ends, do we think we will see a Gronk Spike this week?

Mike
  (11:06 AM)

We sort of got one last week, even though it was called back, right? The little right shoulder twitch from Gronk before the "Boom!" If he plays, I think it's a good bet. Even if he doesn't get it, his presence is really helping inside the red zone. A good example was Danny Amendola's 8-yard catch to set up the Brandon Bolden TD run. Gronk clears it out for Amendola underneath -- not seen on the stat sheet but pure impact.

JP (St Louis)

Good Morning Mike,What do you think about the Pats slowing down their offense? It seems like they go out rush to make plays, then they go 3 and out and quickly give the ball back. They should slow down and make sure everyone is on the same page, and make more accurate plays.

Mike
  (11:07 AM)

JP, I think that can work at times. There is usually a reason for the fast tempo. For example, when playing the Jets or Saints, they do a nice job disguising their intentions pre-snap, moving people around and putting stress on your protection and pre-snap read. So by going fast, you take that away from them a bit. I thikn we'll see that vary from game to game.

Peter (Houston)

Mike, Brady is stinking because of his hand, right? And in the first few games, it was partly his receivers' fault? Or are we doomed to a future of missed throws and 3-and-outs?

Mike
  (11:09 AM)

Peter, I think "stinking" is too tough of a word to use here. That 14-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson is a throw that I would argue, in the face of pressure, that fewer than 10 other starting QBs in the NFL could make. The throw to Thompkins in the Saints' game to win it, maybe only 3 other starting QBs in the NFL make it. I'm not saying Brady has played well compared to his past standard. He hasn't. But let's be careful about losing context here. The line can block better, the coaches can call better plays, the receivers can do a better job getting open, Brady can make better decisions and throw a more accurate ball. It's a little bit of everything.

Patrick Adam [via mobile]

Looking forward to getting Carter and Sopopaga up to speed, as well as implementing a healthy running back, reciever and TE corps. I also have tremendous faith in Marcus Cannon. There's no reason not to expect a great second half, if everyone can stay healthy. This has been a nail biter season for sure, but it's reminiscent of seasons long past. The defense seems to step up and get a turnover in critical situations seemingly every week. Happy Haloween!

Mike
  (11:11 AM)

Patrick, they're 6-2 and as Tom Brady essentially said Wednesday, this is when the days get shorter, the weather gets colder, and the complexion of NFL games start to change. That thought resonated here, and I think the Patriots have developed some mental toughness to put themselves in position for success. I wouldn't count this team out. On Cannon, one concern this week is the matchup with Lamarr Woodley. He usually rushes off the defensive left side and he can be disruptive. I look for the Patriots to help him at times as he gets into the groove. But overall, I'd agree with you -- most teams would be thrilled to turn to Cannon in a situation like this. He's shown he's a starting-caliber lineman when that call comes.

Mike (DC)

With the trade for Sopoaga and the IR of Vollmer, this means someone who was on the D line on gameday will now be a healthy scratch right? Is this the end for Jake Bequette?

Mike
  (11:12 AM)

Mike, we often talk about the second-year jump -- from rookie to Year 2 -- as being the time players usually show us what they are. Bequette hasn't made it. No indication it's coming.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Next offseason: Larry Fitzgerald

Mike
  (11:14 AM)

Dream scenario. Special player and not that it counts for much, the most impressive non-Patriots player I've interviewed. Caught up with him at the Super Bowl two years ago (he was there for marketing stuff) and he just ripped through the Patriots depth chart as if he was preparing to face them that week. I remember thinking to myself, "That's Belichickian. At some point, Bill Belichick is going to want to coach this guy." Whether it happens, I have no idea. But I'll say this: It would be fun.

Peter (Houston)

Mike, those two picks on throws to Gronk were Sanchez-esque. From 2001-2012, he completes those passes. Do you disagree?

Mike
  (11:14 AM)

Agree with you, Peter. Bad throws. Inexcusable throws if he's at full health. Not sugarocating or making excuses for Brady's play.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Did the Pats have any trade talks for Gordon? Did they offer Mallett?

Mike
  (11:15 AM)

No, no, as I understand it.

Mike
  (11:15 AM)

WR chatter at trade deadline more media-driven than a real team priority, I believe.

Terrel Owens (Jerry Jone's ego room)

Mike. Seems when a QB yells at receivers he's "teaching them" while a receiver is being selfish, making it all about himself. Is it fair my 2nd favorite receiver to ever play for the "boys", Dez, gets blasted by the media for being a prima donna, while Brady basically received a pass (pun intended) for screaming at his receivers?

Mike
  (11:16 AM)

Interesting debate and apologies, but I'm not really up on it. I obviously know that Bryant had some sideline blowup, but I actually haven't seen it. My time is more devoted to Patriots-specific stuff and other stuff (Sopoaga tape/Patriots-Dolphins tape) has pulled me away from that. I'll try to catch up later in the week.

Eric (MA)

Does Soap start this week? Seems like an easy position to just plug a player (like BB said trading for a 3b) and if so, who sarts next to him - Vellano or Chris Jones?

Mike
  (11:18 AM)

Eric, it will be package specific. So if the Steelers come out with a 2-TE package with Heath Miller/David Paulson or two-back package, I'd expect the Patriots to match with a base defense with Sopoaga in the middle. Depends on if they go 3-4 or 4-3 who is next to him. If the Steelers are 3-WR with Emmanuel Sanders/Antonio Brown/Jerricho Cothcery, he's probably on the sideline. A good comparison might be Kyle Love and how the Patriots used him. Early-down run-stuffer.

Seabass (Rehab)

Mike, with me out for the rest of the season, are you aware of any O linemen at home with the skills to help out with me loss. I've been disappointed with our protection of Tom this year, with my loss, I have even more concerns. Any hope out there?

Mike
  (11:21 AM)

Sorry about that Seabass. I know where you are coming from when considering offensive line reinforcements, but if you look around the NFL, I think you'd actually feel much better about the Patriots' depth. I'd say there might be 1-2 other teams who would be able to turn to a player of Cannon's ilk, with another veteran in Will Svitek behind them, and be able to sustain. I give the Patriots credit for building solid depth up front, while also acknowledging that the o-line play, to me, has been too inconsistent this year. Does that make sense? What I'm basically trying to say is that the right answers are in-house, they just have to play better.

Glenn (Concord,nh)

Mike,How is Collie working out? He looked very effective in previous years. If he stays healthy do you think he could be an important piece of the offense?

Mike
  (11:21 AM)

A little quiet last week. About 32 snaps with no catches. But seems to be in the right spot. Brady seems to like him. He'll be a factor. They are obviously more comfortable with him out there as compared to rookie Josh Boyce, who will probably be a game-day inactive the rest of the way if everyone is healthy.

Mark (mass)

Mike, being no stranger to Twitter, I am sure you came across quite a few pictures of the Patriots dressed up for Halloween. Whose costume did you like the best?

Mike
  (11:22 AM)

LOL Mark. Little surprised at Bill Belichick for going back to the pirate costume. He had in 2009 and he's usually a coach who varies his plan. Expected more variety.

Alex (Raleigh NC)

Hi mike love your chats, My question is that does it seem like edelman is being phased out of the offense. We haven't seen or heard much of him in the passed couple of games and he is still the leading receiver on the team, both in yards and receptions. I think that we need to get him more involved, especially because he as been more of the dependable receivers(being healthy). your thoughts?

Mike
  (11:24 AM)

I wouldn't say phased out, Alex, but as Amendola has returned and Collie has been integrated into the mix, and Dobson has played some more, they are spreading out the snaps a bit more. He'll still be a factor. On the WRs, the main thing I look at is how Dobson, at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, just gives them something a little different than they have with the other guys. Would think they keep trying to get him in there.

David from framingham [via mobile]

Does Belichick have a rule against non active players being on the sidelines during games? I always see other teams injured players on the sidelines and can't help but think Talib or Gronk could have helped with the young guys. Keep up the great work.

Mike
  (11:25 AM)

David, hope all is well in Framingham. Go Flyers. No specific rule that I know of, as special teams captain Matthew Slater was recently on the sideline during games in which he was inactive. Overall, though, most of the inactive players watch from home or the box upstairs.

Lonster 33,000ft up over FL [via mobile]

Hi Mike, I'm a but surprised that Amendola wasn't more effective last week. Thoughts?

Mike
  (11:26 AM)

Lonster, you chatting from an airplane? How great is that? Amendola -- 39 snaps, 3 catches/15 yards. Still getting back into the groove. If he stays healthy (a big "if" based on what we've seen), I don't think he'll be an issue. Good player.

Mike
  (11:27 AM)

Random thought on the WRs: We often just focus on their pass-catching production, but these guys mainly also do a nice job in the run-blocking game. Some impressive stuff last week from most of them.

Roger (Brookline, MA)

So here's a theory as to why Ridley isn't used more, particularly at the start of games. The Pats are running plays designed for Vereen as RB but using Blount and Bolden as placeholders until Vereen is back. With a genuine recieving threat in the backfield, some of these opening series' plays, which have been such duds lately, will become much more dangerous. Your thoughts?

Mike
  (11:30 AM)

Roger, the way I view the running backs is that they are split up in two categories -- 1) More traditional big back (Ridley/Blount); 2) Passing back (Vereen/Bolden/Washington). So it just depends on how they want to attack the opposition that week. I agree with the thought that he should play more, but I also know that I don't have all the information coaches do. For example, he very well could be making the wrong read on 25 percent of the carries (just randomly picking a number), and they're not going to tell us that. The thought comes to mind when thinking back to the third-and-1 run against the Jets in the third quarter that he bounced outside when the Patriots had an unbalanced line to the right side with Sebastian Vollmer/Nate Solder/Michael Hoomanawanui. It's like a receiver running the wrong route. Do you keep putting him back out there? Or get someone in there to run the right route? Just spitballing here.

Todd (Philly)

Not to harp on this subject, but Terrell Owens should know that many fans were critical of Brady "yelling" at his receivers early on, and expected a different type of leadership going forward. There was no "pass" given in many people's eyes...kudos to Tom for turning it around thus far...

Mike
  (11:30 AM)

Fair, Todd. And like I said, I'm not really up on that storyline. Need to catch up.

Mike
  (11:31 AM)

When I do catch up, one question I will be asking is "Why does anyone care what Terrell Owens think?"

Rodney (Tony Dungy's man cave)

Hey Mike Who would you say was the most dominate, fear instilling safety between the Pat's Harrison and the Steeler's Polamalu? Does Polamalu knock out the helmet catch?

Mike
  (11:32 AM)

Different type safeties. I'd pick Polamalu just because he seems to have this innate ability to get from point A to point Z faster than a player is supposed to.

ben (los angeles)

Mike,if the Cardinals had one would we still be talking about chemistry and togetherness on their team? Winning seems to have that effect.

Mike
  (11:33 AM)

Very fair, Ben. I think I still would have appreciated what Ben Cherington put together. I love team-building and what goes into it. Spinning it back to the Patriots, I think BB feels like he has a group he feels good about taking a shot with. Let's see what happens.

David (Revis Island)

Do you think Bill over emphasis on special teams hurts the depth at DB

Mike
  (11:34 AM)

David, I think he should emphasize it more after the team has picked up 6 special teams penalties in the last 2 weeks. LOL.

Mike
  (11:34 AM)

To answer the question, no, I don't think that hurts the depth at DB.

garrett (Raleigh NC)

hi mike, have you notice anything new about Tom's hand, has the swelling gone down?

Mike
  (11:34 AM)

Garrett, didn't get a good look at the hand over the last two days.

Dave (NYC)

Hey Mike, I think fans are misguided when they say this is the type of Patriots football that won us Superbowls, as if it's a better "strategy" to have a less potent offense and somehow scoring too many points ultimately led to playoff losses. Our defense is better. And that's great. Had we had this defense combined with our past offenses, we may have had more SB wins. But we didn't. And it's certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. How many 2nd round defensive draft picks (unfortunately most not with the team anymore) have we had over the years trying to improve the defense? So many in fact that we had not drafted a receiver to possibly stretch the field, which had we had that, some of our playoff recent playoff losses might have turned out differently. Finally, while I still haven't fully gotten over "the catch" and "the catch that wasn't" either, and I measure ultimate success by SB wins, let's not forget that we haven't exactly been knocked out early in the playoffs. We made it to 2 SuperBowls with our offense. If we're going to beat the Denver's and the like, we'll need our offense to be able to score with some comparable rate to what we've seen in the past. And hopefully the defense can do its part as well. Not so much a question I guess, but a rant of thoughts.

Mike
  (11:35 AM)

Dave, today is a day for rambling thoughts. I would think we're all on short sleep. Couldn't turn off the TV last night watching that World Series celebration. I don't think there is any question, this offense has to do more. What we've seen to this point is probably not going to be enough.

tim (keene)

Mike, I really want to challenge you on Brady's play. While we have seen some beautiful throws this year (reminding us of his ability), we have seen him miss relatively easy throws in every game (a lack of dependability). I think there is a real issue with his lack of accuracy, and I can't remember the last time he threw a decent deep ball.

Mike
  (11:37 AM)

Tim, how about the beautiful deep ball that went right through Dobson's hands a few weeks ago (forgetting the game off the top of my head). I like that you challenge me. I don't have all the answers and I don't think Brady has played that well this season compared to his past standard. Some uncharacteristic plays. But some real good ones too. Some of the parts around him are contributing factors that can't be overlooked.

Richard Seymour (Unemployment Office)

Mike, with the addition of Isaac Sopoaga does that mean I can forget about a ridiculously high offer from Bill and remain unemployed for the rest of the 2012 season?

Mike
  (11:38 AM)

Yes, never a serious consideration. More media-driven than based in reality, Big Sey. Good luck getting your pilot's license.

Jeff (Helena)

Think Talib will be back for Steelers or an extra two weeks rest for playoff push?

Mike
  (11:38 AM)

Jeff, I'd think two weeks, but just guessing. He loses some money if he sits (per game bonus), so that could be a factor to consider.

David (Revis Island)

So you think Marquise Cole, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson, and Kyle Arrington are all NFL caliber DBs? What is with Bill's love of Kyle Arrington, to me he is the 4 best CB on the team after Talib, Ryan and Dennard.

Mike
  (11:39 AM)

Arrington solid in the slot. When asked to do more, that's when there are issues. Cole more of a special teams guy who can get you by in the event of a week or so emergency. No on Wilson and Ebner -- just special teams guys.

Lazar (Jerusalem, Israel)

We've seen rookie QBs come in and get on the same page as their receivers much quicker than Brady, a veteran, has this season. That excuse is invalid, in my eyes. So why does Brady continue to be so off halfway through the season?

Mike
  (11:42 AM)

Different reasons, Lazar, and really can't pinpoint just one. I'd urge anyone who thinks it's all on Brady to rewatch the third quarter of the Jets loss and tell me any QB who would have succeeded with that pass protection. It was awful. So sometimes it's protection, sometimes the WRs aren't getting open or simply catching the ball, sometimes the coahces are getting away from the run to settle it down, and sometimes Brady is just misfiring or making the wrong decision. It's hard to play good offensive football (it was easier when the debate was on if the Patriots were running it up in 2007) and when it's inconsistent, it affects a QB getting into a comfort zone.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Quickly becoming a fan of Logan Ryan, Bill might have finally gotten a CB pick right.

Mike
  (11:43 AM)

Some good things there. Zero snaps in first half last Sunday. 31 in second half and big impact. Good adjustment to get him on the field.

frankestein (NC)

Mike What are your thoughts on Pats run Defense ..? To fix it do you think it is as simple as adding Sopoaga ??

Mike
  (11:44 AM)

Sopoaga alone not the answer, but he should help them compete better at the line of scrimmage. When the Jets run it 52 times, it speaks volumes to me. Needed to get a little bigger and better up front. Andre Carter helps in that area too. Those are two guys that look good coming off the bus.

Shaun (Sharon)

Hey Mike, I have quick question, piggy-backing on the Talib question, how much of it is his choice (roster bonus consideration) and how much is the coaches'? Love the Soapoga pick up. Clearly they're replacing Vince with multiple guys - Soap on running downs and Jones/Vellano on passing downs. Care to delve into how much tougher it is on the coaching staff to have to manage multiple players as opposed to a guy like Vince who virtually stayed on the field at all times?

Mike
  (11:45 AM)

Great point, Shaun, and it highlights how the Patriots' staff is coaching its tails off. Real hard to piece it together, but that's why they're good at what they do. As BB said yesterday, at least they haven't gotten to the point where they are lining up WRs as slot CBs. Or seeing if Earthwind Moreland is available.

Angel fl [via mobile]

GM Mike, i wanted to say i have a special feeling about this team. its the most mentally tough team we've had in years, they fight hard for 60 mins and there improving every week. Your thoughts?

Mike
  (11:46 AM)

Definitely resilient, Angel. Where it all leads, who knows? But I think if you're BB, you feel pretty good about giving it a shot with this group. Would have been nice to have Welker/Woodhead, but that's in the past. While we often lament those who depart, part of what makes the team what it is has been the ability to move beyond and focus on the task at hand.

Danny Woodhead (Blacks Beach La Jolla)

Still missing me Mike?

Mike
  (11:47 AM)

LOL.

Delevie (Wilmington)

Mike, as much as I love football, injuries this year appear to be at an all time high, at least in my 45 years of watching. Every week multiple players are coming away with ACL injuries, an injury up until the past 30+ years or so would be career ender. The concussion injuries appear to be the same or slightly lower than in recent past years. My question is why the NFL permits hard plastic helmets and shoulder pads when there has to be a softer alternative. What about Kevlar or some other super durable fabric that can be painted? Some of these guys are so big and fast that the plastic being used is now a weapon.

Mike
  (11:47 AM)

Interesting thoughts, Delevie. I don't know enough about it, but have shared similar thoughts - love the game, but it sometimes feels like a guilty pleasure when seeing what it does physically to some of these players.

Rick (Providence)

Brandon Spikes needs to be resigned. He is the number one priority for this team in the off season. Yes he can't handle man to man coverage but he is the emotional heart and soul of that defense and he is a playmaker.

Mike
  (11:48 AM)

Rick, he's playing a lot more since Wilfork was lost for the season and helping in many ways. Limited player in coverage, but still has value. It's just a question of what value you want to put on the player.

Mike
  (11:48 AM)

Going to take a few more and we'll make up the time next week...

Bernardo (Brazil) [via mobile]

With Sopoaga and TK getting healthy in just time, and as the weather is turning most teams will run more often, as Vereen comes back do you think this team will get better on the second half of the season?

Mike
  (11:49 AM)

Good stuff, Bernardo, and ties in to a story I wrote on Wednesday. Link coming...

Mike
  (11:50 AM)

http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/9904996/some-promising-signs-new-england-patriots?ex_cid=espnapi_public

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, Roger Goodell has recently mentioned the possibility of a NFL franchise in London, which I think is not a good idea. How is your take?

Mike
  (11:50 AM)

Tough with logistics. Would need to hear more about how they planned to make it work.

John -New Jersey [via mobile]

Mike, as the weather gets colder, touchbacks on kickoffs decrease placing more importance on the return game. With that in mind, do u see Leon Washington becoming our primary return man once he returns from injury ???

Mike
  (11:51 AM)

I think so, John. While Blount has been a bit better in recent weeks, if Washington is on the roster, that's the spot where I think he provides the greatest value.

MIKE D (Sydney, Australia) [via mobile]

Hi Mike. Thanks for the great stuff as usual. I'm really happy for the Red Sox! I still remember your blog post earlier this year where you wished John Farrell good luck. They say it takes a village to raise a child; well, I dunno how many it takes to win a championship, but a tremendous effort by everyone involved! My question for you is if you think Tom Brady will be "seeing ghosts" this weekend against the Steelers defense. Thanks again, Mike.

Mike
  (11:55 AM)

Let's end it on this one, Mike, as it brings us full circle. Had to wish John Farrell good luck, as well as Ben Cherington, because every season brings new hope. You have to believe and invest in the process. I spent a night with Cherington last November hosting an event with him and two other MLB general managers at my alma mater at UMass. It was fun for me becasue I really don't follow baseball too closely (all the new stats are over my head) but I have a genuine interest in people and team-building. So we're getting ready to go on stage and about 30 minutes before, the Blue Jays pulled off this blockbuster trade and I was there backstage with the GMs as they reacted to getting the news on their mobile devices (I didn't know many of the players involved). Cherington didn't blink, then he talked about adversity and staying the course. Great stuff. So as far as I'm concerned, they deserve everything that came to them. ...

Mike
  (11:55 AM)

... As for Brady, stay out of third-and-long and there will be no ghosts. That's when the Steelers, under coordinator Dick LeBeau, do their best work.

Mike
  (11:56 AM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. Have a great day and a safe Halloween.