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Ask PFW: Prepping for Big Blue
I honestly don't see any change in Brady's preparation and demeanor from now to the first game he played. He's an extremely consistent guy off the field and does a tremendous amount of film work to get ready for every game. I don't think he played great against Denver and just average against Baltimore because of any pressure he put upon himself. The Ravens are pretty good defensively and they had something to do with the fact that he didn't throw six touchdowns again. That happens when you play tough teams in the playoffs.
Do you think the Patriots should be the underdogs in the Super Bowl?
I was a bit surprised to see the Patriots were 3.5-point favorites initially but I don't think they should be underdogs. New England has won 10 straight and after struggling on defense all season long the unit is showing some signs of life. Obviously the offense is capable of putting big numbers on the board as well. The Giants are certainly a worthy opponent and deserve their credit as well. They already beat the Patriots - in Foxborough - and have proven themselves against the best in the NFC. Personally I think Brady gives the Patriots a slight edge but we have plenty of time to discuss this before the game.
Am I the only one who thought that "the bomb" to Matthew Slater following Brandon Spikes's interception was one of the worst play calls of the season? Not only was it a bad play call but Brady should have never thrown that ball. That play could have cost us the season. There were nine minutes left, we were up by three, and we could have run some time of the clock and put together another scoring drive. Do you believe that it was an irresponsible play call?
As with most cases when people think they're the only ones to think something, you are not alone on this one Jesse. Many people expressed displeasure with the call and echoed the comments you just said. I do not share that opinion, however. While I think Brady's decision to throw into double coverage was terrible, I actually loved the play call. The Patriots had tremendous field position at the 50 with 7:22 left in the game and they needed a touchdown to basically finish the Ravens off. After a quick change off the turnover, that's a great time to look for the kill and go deep. The problem was Slater was not open and Brady should never have thrown the ball to a covered receiver like that. The Patriots have not been very good at running the clock out with the ground game this season and BenJarvus Green-Ellis really did all of his damage on one second-quarter drive. He carried five times for 38 yards and a touchdown on that drive but had just 10 carries for 30 yards for the rest of the game. Expecting him to run the ball effectively enough to kill the clock was unrealistic at that point. But I do understand the displeasure with the call and the many fans who disagreed.
Initially I was concerned with facing the Giants again in the Super Bowl ... but after reviewing the 2007 roster and this year's roster, it seems that this could be a more talented Patriots team, considering the current OL, RBs and TE and on defense it appears the LB corps and DL are younger and faster. Is this just wishful thinking?
I don't think this team is really comparable to the 2007 team in terms of talent. Using the areas you focused on, the 2007 team had Dan Koppen instead of Dan Connolly at center and an experience Nick Kaczur instead of rookie Nate Solder at right tackle. Brian Waters for Stephen Neal is a wash, and the other two - Matt Light and Logan Mankins - are the same. The 2007 team had a much younger and more effective Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney at running back as opposed to Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Benny is steadier than Maroney but Faulk was more explosive and productive than Woodhead. The receivers were far superior in 2007 with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney and Benjamin Watson. As great as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been, that group was better and deeper. Defensively it's not even close - Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green and an effective Adalius Thomas had much more talent than this group, and that doesn't even address the likes of Rodney Harrison and Asante Samuel in the secondary.
First Brady, then Welker, now Gronkowski. Does Bernard Pollard have a personal issue against Patriots players' left legs?
Can someone please take out Bernard Pollard? I swear, if this guy played for the Pats then all the best players would be constantly getting injured in practice. This guy is like kry-Pats-onyte...or something like that. It doesn't seem like he's trying to hurt guys, and he had absolutely nothing to do with Welker's injury, but Bill needs to find a way to stop playing teams that Pollard's on.
It is somewhat amazing that Pollard has been involved in three separate injuries to such key players. Maybe he's got a personal vendetta against the Patriots offense or something.
It is clear that the Giants defensive line is among the best pass rushing units in football. Connolly and Solder have proven inconsistent at times, and Sebastian Vollmer has not been playing much at all. With that said, both Light and Mankins were beaten up in the previous Super Bowl by the likes of Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. My question is who should we be most worried about on the offensive line?
I don't look at pass protection in terms of individual matchups. I understand they are involved in one-on-one battles every play, but I feel the strength of Dante Scarnecchia's line is its cohesion and ability to play together as a unit. Rarely does it work out that one guy drops the ball up front and allows Brady to get hit constantly. When that happens the team usually schemes to figure out ways to cover up for such a deficiency. The Patriots do a great job of adjusting to this and usually find a way to give Brady enough time to be effective. But without question the performance of the offensive line will be a huge part of the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl here we come! With living in New Zealand I don't see a lot of the Patriots games on TV. I noticed that against the Ravens they played in the 3-4. Was the switch back purely game plan or is this more common since Andre Carter was placed on IR?
The Patriots have switched back and forth seamlessly many times this season but it does seem like it's been more often than not since Carter went out. He was a better fit as a 4-3 end and Mark Anderson seems more comfortable working either as an end or a linebacker. Plus, the team spends so much time in subpackages with extra defensive backs on the field that it rarely matters whether the base defense is 4-3 or 3-4. But Belichick has said all season long that he likes the ability to do both and as usual he's done it.
My question is about the "stiff arm" move. During Torrey Smith's touchdown, he stiff armed Devin McCourty and literally hung onto Devin's facemask. Had he landed differently, he could have broken Devin's neck. When the play was reviewed for a touchdown, nothing was said about the facemask issue. Now for the question: Why is it not illegal when a receiver grabs a facemask during a stiff arm move?
If the officials deem the offensive player pulled and grabbed a defender by the facemask then they can throw the flag. So, it's not legal to grab any player by the facemask. I didn't think Smith's play was as egregious as you are describing it but it certainly could have drawn a flag as it did appear he grabbed McCourty by the facemask. Generally, ball carriers are granted far more leeway for this than they probably should, which is yet another reason why the defense is in such a tough spot. One other thing in regard to the play … the officials cannot call a penalty after watching the replay. If the play requires review, as that one did, the official can only determine whether or not it was a touchdown. He can't see a penalty on the replay and call it.
Stevan Ridley was inactive for Sunday's AFC Championship game. Was that a direct result of the fact that he fumbled last week vs. the Broncos?
I'm sure Belichick wouldn't say that publicly but my guess is yes. Ridley fumbled in each of his last two games - one against Buffalo and the one against Denver. At this time of year ball security can literally cost a team a season. Just ask San Francisco, which was knocked out largely because of two Kyle Williams gaffes on punt returns. Ridley will be a fine running back for the Patriots in the future but he will need to learn how to protect the ball better in order for that to happen. Also, the fact that Green-Ellis has never fumbled in his career had to make Belichick feel better about using him against the Ravens.