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Ask PFW: Can the Patriots compete with the Colts?

I've noticed this season's play calling has been completely devoid of the old Charlie Weis staple play, the short one or two step drop by Brady with a quick strike to one of the receivers behind the line of scrimmage. In the past during such plays, commentators have always commented that this was a glorified run play for the Patriots. Do you think reincorporating these type of plays into the offense would help the struggling running attack and keep the DB's off balance so the receivers can stretch the field with a double move?Scott Rezendes

You are probably asking the wrong guy because I hate that play but you are right, the Patriots haven't been using it a lot this season. I don't know how much that would help out the running game. You know what would help the running game? Better blocking by the offensive line. I thought Dillon ran hard against the Bills but he's still getting hit in the backfield way too often. Another reason the quick pass is not being used as much this season is because corners are playing up on the Patriots receivers more this year. That is a play used when defensive backs are giving the receiver a big cushion and if you look at teams like Carolina, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Atlanta and Buffalo, they are all physical teams who have their corners crowd the line of scrimmage. A team like the Colts, however, usually doesn't play that way so maybe we will see those two-yard passes this week. Either way, I, for one, can live without them.
-Tom Casale

Hey PFW! Holler!!!! Great freakin' job with the forum! Hey, I've got a thought for our secondary problems. Why don't the Patriots employ Don Davis as the strong safety like last year? That way Eugene Wilson can move to free safety or slide down and play corner. It might help with the long passes Duane Starks has relinquished. Thoughts?Tim Qualls

Well Tim, I'm not as hip as I used to be but I believe the correct way to say it is "Holla." See what I did there? It's holla with an a instead of an er. Like "Holla back." I believe that is what the cool crowd who wants nothing to do with me is saying these days. Now, on to your question. I love Davis. I think he is a great guy and a valuable special teams player. But to think he can come in and solve the secondary problems is stretching it a bit. Remember, Davis played last season because the Patriots didn't have any other options. I also don't think Wilson would excel at corner. Safety is his natural position in the pros. I'm sure Belichick has given this scenario some thought but taking Wilson out of the safety mix would make an already weak position even weaker.
-Tom Casale

Hello guys, it's fun to read your responses each week. My question in concerning the draft. It seems as though the Patriots are very deep at every position except for LB and DL. But I have a feeling they will select another unknown name. Do you guys think that Bill Belichick knows something about these players he selects that we aren't seeing?Glen

Glen, Bill Belichick knows a lot about a number of things that we don't see. One thing fans don't realize is how much time and effort goes into selecting players. For instance, the Patriots have a scouting department. Right now, those scouts are in places you never even heard of looking at players who will be available in nest year's draft. It is a long, time-consuming process. With the actual NFL Draft and combine getting popular over the last decade, people focus too much on that aspect of the process. In reality, evaluating college players is a 365-day a year job.

As far as players we never heard of, there are a lot of players who are good in the NFL that didn't play at USC. No one ever heard of Ben Coates. No one ever heard of Rodney Harrison. How many people were drooling over Tedy Bruschi when he came out of Arizona as an undersized defensive lineman? If you look at the Patriots drafts over the past few years, they have done very well. Especially when compared to some other teams in the league. One last comment. If you think the only two areas the Patriots need depth at are defensive line and linebacker, you apparently know of some safeties and running backs the team has that I am not aware of.
-Tom Casale

Everyone, especially the media, need to take it easy on Monty Beisel & Chad Brown. The Pats did not sign Ray Lewis or Derrick Brooks to replace Johnson & Bruschi in the middle. It was Monty Beisel, a player in which all of us said "Who?" when we read of the signing. And Chad Brown is playing a different position than he has throughout is career. It would be no different than moving McGinest inside. Would it be fair to criticize his play all the time? Or would we realize that it is due to unfortunate circumstances? They are filling in for some very good players that knew the system very well. Johnson, when healthy, was one of the best run stuffing linebackers in the league throughout his career and Bruschi has been a playmaker since he joined the team regardless of his role. These guys will get better, especially if Seymour stays healthy. Let's see where we are in 5-6 weeks before we give up on the season.David Houlden

David, first I have to correct you on something. Chad Brown is not playing a new position. He played inside a lot when he was with the Seahawks. His days as an outside linebacker were in Pittsburgh for the most part. I personally think he has been playing out of position for years. I think Brown's strength is getting to the quarterback, not fighting of blocks on the inside. As for Brown and Beisel taking criticism, I agree and disagree with you. I think you are correct when you say they are replacing two very good players and they have a lot to live up to. However, I think if their problem were just adjusting to the system, fans would be more sympathetic. Their problem has been missed tackles. I'm not sure what that has to do with the system. Either you can tackle or you can't. In my opinion, Brown is better suited fore the outside and Beisel as a backup middle linebacker in a rotation. Now, with Bruschi back, both players should be able to be used in the roles they were meant to be in and help the team more over the second half of the season.
-Tom Casale

Dear PFW, I know the issue of Duane Starks has been brought up again and again but after last night's game, I have to say that I think something needs to be done. Is there some reason I'm missing why Ellis Hobbs isn't in for Starks? The last straw was watching Starks quit running after he missed his coverage on Moulds during one of the Bills biggest plays. Does he just plain lack the talent or does he lack the heart? In either case it seems to me like Hobbs would be a better bet. Your opinion?Katrina DeGraff

Well Katrina, the problem with starting Hobbs is he is a rookie. You think Starks is getting beat? Put a rookie in this defense and teams may start scoring 50 points a game on the Patriots. Listen, Starks has not lived up to expectations. That may be the most obvious statement ever written in this forum but I don't think he lacks heart at all. I think he is a standup guy who is working his tail off. In my opinion, Starks has never been a shutdown corner. He struggled in Arizona and the Ravens did little to try and keep him. Remember, his best years came as a member of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. My guess is a lot of players could have played on that team and looked good. I think the biggest problem with Starks right now is his confidence. I can't count how many times I have seen a corner get beat early in the year and it's ruined his whole season because he never regains that confidence. I know fans are calling for his head but right now, Starks is the best option, and really only, option the Patriots have at corner. Believe me, if Hobbs was starting you would be on your knees begging for Starks to get back in there. Also, I don't think the touchdown pass to Moulds was his fault. I think that one was on the safety. We can't just start blaming every long pass on Starks just because he has struggled.
-Tom Casale

Why, in your opinion, are the Patriots doing so poorly this season? Last season everything was going for them but now, it's just all falling apart. Is it because of Weis and Crennel leaving or is it just the team has had their run? Second question, will the Patriots make wild card this season or is it out of their reach?Jason Ouellette

Whoa, Jason put the rope down. The world isn't coming to an end. I have to say something: Patriots fans have been spoiled over the past two seasons. Do you realize how difficult it is to go 14-2? Do you also realize how difficult it is to go 14-2 in back-to-back seasons? Go take a look at how many teams have gone 14-2 in NFL history and it will give you a better appreciation for the Patriots have done over the last two years. I think any team on this planet would miss two stellar coaches of Weis and Crennel's ability. Anyone who says different is lying. Now, that's not putting down the coaches who are here now, I'm just saying losing two great coaches would hurt any team. Having said that, I don't think coaching has been the major problem this year. I think it has been a lack of production from some of the players. Some players haven't stepped up and while coaching has something to do with that, players not making plays when they are in position to make them has more to do with it.

Will the Patriots make the wild card this year? Have you seen the AFC East? Hey, the Patriots may lose in the first round of the playoffs but as long as Tom Brady is healthy, they will at least have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title in January. Now, get back inside and close the window. All is well.
-Tom Casale

After 20 years of supporting the Pats from afar, I came over from the UK to see them play against San Diego and had a really great day. Pity about the score! It seemed like the Chargers QB had all day to throw. We have seen several Patriots games on TV in the UK and I wonder why we don't blitz more. It would take the pressure off of our secondary if the QB had less time. By the way - great column.Ray Towey

Man Ray, that's tough business. You came all the way across the pond to watch that miserable performance, huh? I think you saw a bad game and that's what probably has you wondering about the team blitzing. In the past, and in other games this season, the Patriots have blitzed. Why they didn't against the Chargers, I have no idea. I think it was one of the few times the team has had a bad defensive gameplan. They pretty much watched what the Giants did against the Chargers and did the same thing. The problem is both those teams gave up over 40 points to San Diego; so future opponents may not want to play them that way. The Patriots do blitz but with all the problems in the secondary right now, they can't do it as often as they would like. More blitzing means leaving Duane Starks one-on-one with receivers and that means more Ask PFWs asking what is wrong with Starks. We are averaging around 25 a week and that's good for now.
-Tom Casale

I hate to say this but I have been a loyal Pats fan since the franchise started in the 1960s and if you go by the stats and see how "weak" our defense has been and how our offense is " 3 and out" with very little line blocking strength ( Poor Dillon) we are in trouble. Aren't the Colts just salivating to kick our weak and injured butts? It's the survival of the strongest in the NFL and boy are we the Wildebeests in this game. It's a Monday night embarrassment. Am I wrong?TC

No one despises the Colts more than I do and I could never get my lips to say they will come in here and beat the Patriots until I actually see them do it. However, I will say if the Patriots come out and play the way they have in every other game this year, they will get blown off the field. They have to play by far their best game of the season to beat the Colts this Monday night. If they miss tackles, leave receivers wide open, give Manning all day to throw and don't sustain drives on offense, it will be a long night. In all honesty, the Patriots have yet to show us anything that says they can beat a balanced team like the Colts. They need to put together a full four quarters for the first time this season or they won't win. If they come out and play like they did against Buffalo, the game could be over by halftime. Now, having said all that, I like the Patriots 31-24.
-Tom Casale (The real TC)

What's in the water that has turned Corey Dillon into Antowain Smith? Dillon has looked super slow from his first carry this year. He is much slower than last year and no longer has the ability to break away. The offense needs to carry the defense this year or they will have no chance against playoff teams like the Colts. Can Amos Z help?Griff Thomas

Didn't you hear? Corey is too old play anymore. Seriously, I think Dillon is getting a bad rap this season. He was obviously hurting in the Buffalo game and he gutted out 72 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. I agree Dillon is no longer the breakaway back he once was but I have said from day one, what back in the league can get yards when he is getting hit in the backfield as soon as he gets the hand-off on every other play? Can you name one? Maybe Tomlinson makes someone miss every now and then? Say what you want about Dillon but he clearly wasn't 100 percent Sunday night and he ran the ball hard in the fourth quarter when the team needed him the most. I'll make a deal with you. When I start seeing the line open up holes and if Dillon can't get through them, I will blame him but until then, I'm not going to slam Dillon. I don't want to hear about Patrick Pass either. He piled up almost all of his yards against Denver when the Broncos were playing the pass (not Patrick) and let's be honest, defenses play the Patriots different when Dillon is in the game compared to Pass. Pass is a nice player but Dillon is one of the better backs in the league. That's a big difference.
-Tom Casale

You guys don't have to post this question on the website but I was just hoping you guys could explain to me why a local game would be blacked-out? I was just wondering because I read today on the website that last nights game was the 250th game broadcasted locally on TV. Thanks in advance if you reply. You guys do a great job, even though I miss the contributions of Bryan Morry.Damon Lavik

Wait just a gosh darn second. I'm the guy who replaced Bryan Morry. My mother says not only am I better looking than him, but I'm more talented as well. I'm sorry but my mother wouldn't lie about something like that. It's nice to see someone who misses Bryan though. I told Paul and Andy at least one person out there cared that Bryan was gone. They both owe me a dollar. The reason a game would be blacked-out is if it doesn't sellout. That isn't a problem in New England because the Patriots always sell out but let's take a place like Los Angeles where no one cares about football. When the Raiders were in LA, the games were blacked-out almost every week. The problem exists more in bigger cities with losing teams. Places like Green Bay and New England, where there is always a number of fans on the waiting list waiting to buy season tickets, don't have to worry about it.
-Tom Casale

Enjoying the win over the Bills Sunday night and then two names crept into my consciousness. Marvin Harrison and Duane Starks. Oh well-- so much for optimism.Pete Clark

Pete, I don't think you are going to see Starks matched up one-on-one with Harrison very often unless Belichick forgot everything he knows about defensive football. Obviously, stopping the Colts receivers is a big concern but let's not put all the pressure on Starks. The entire defense needs to play better than they have been. The safeties have to get over and help and the defensive line has to put pressure on Manning. Besides, I think Asante Samuel will be opposite Harrison most of the time. All you need to worry about is Starks stopping Reggie Wayne. Feel better now?
-Tom Casale

From what I keep reading, you're constantly defending Duane Starks. All the readers keep questioning him and your answer is always that in the first game of the year, Randy Moss burned someone not named Duane Starks and that it shouldn't be held against Starks because he isn't getting help. I just can't disagree more. It's one thing for everyone in the secondary to get burned once in a while but our problem is that with the exception of the Moss torching, it's always Starks that's getting burned. We continue to bring in guys off the street and yet Starks continues to get lit up. The opposing quarterbacks are starting to notice it, so things might get worse. I'm assuming you're seeing the same thing the rest of us see but you're taking the corporate approach and not singling out Starks when the fact is, he simply can't defend. I trust BB, but I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that Starks continues to play. Sure, injuries have killed us but we keep finding replacements. So, why can we not replace Starks? I cannot accept the fact that he's been in the league for almost 10 years and yet he is the target despite the lack of experience in the rest of our secondary. Surely that tells you all you need to know.Rick Schneider

Okay, point taken. Now, once again, who do you want in there instead of Starks? Hobbs? Hank Poteat? How do you think those guys would hold up against the likes of Rod Smith, Eric Moulds and Reggie Wayne? We are not defending Starks. He is playing poorly and not performing up to his contract. However, if you think Hank Poteat is a better option at corner than Starks is, you are out of your mind. Let me ask you something. If Poole was healthy, do you think Starks would be starting? Of course not. Defending Starks is not the same thing as pointing out the obvious fact the Patriots don't have a better option at corner right now. Those guys off the street are playing great against team's fourth and fifth receivers. Let's see what they do one-on-one with Keenan McCardell. When one person e-mails us with an actual viable solution to the Patriots secondary problems instead of just saying, "replace Starks," then we will stop "defending" him. How does that sound?
-Tom Casale

Why was it considered both a sack and a forced-fumble when Colvin got to the Buffalo QB? I thought if the QB was sacked then he was down and the play was over. Why isn't it just considered a forced-fumble? Thanks in advance for the enlightenment.Brian Tabor

No problem Brian, enlightening people is what I do. It was a sack because Colvin brought Kelly Holcomb down behind the line of scrimmage and it's a fumble because he lost the ball before he was down. When there is a loose ball, the play is not blown dead until the ball is recovered, whether there is a sack or not. It's not considered just a forced fumble because Holcomb would have been brought down behind the line and that's a sack. Just because he fumbled the ball, the defensive player is not punished and is credited with a sack. Does this make any sense because now I'm starting to confuse myself? I'm just going to shut up now.
-Tom Casale

I was wondering if Bill Belichick has a rule that only certain players can give interviews. I notice that on radio stations and after games there are a select few that are always the ones that give interviews. Is this the case or can any player speak at will without getting Bill's permission first?Jeff Comolli

Belichick can't prevent any players from talking. If he did, he would be getting a call from the player's union. Now, he can "advise" them not to talk about certain things. For instance, Keyshawn Johnson probably wouldn't be a good fit in New England but in no way does Belichick decide who talks and who doesn't. All players are available to the media. The reason you are hearing the same players is because of two reasons. First, the media wants to talk to high-profile players who actually have an impact on the game, so obviously you are going to hear from Brady, Bruschi, etc. The other reason you may hear some players more than others is because certain players are good talkers while others aren't. For instance, Rosevelt Colvin is a walking quote. The guy is great with the media and he always has something to say so people will try and talk to Colvin first before they would a player who is quiet by nature and not comfortable in front of the camera. Who you see and hear is decided by what players the media wants to talk to. Belichick has nothing to do with it.
-Tom Casale

My question is regarding Andre Davis. I saw him in the game quite a bit against Buffalo. Is he a guy who will make an impact this season? Thanks.Matt Ricks

Davis did see quite a bit of time against the Bills and I think he has a chance to play in a lot of three receiver sets for the Patriots. Tim Dwight and Bethel Johnson are more situational guys. Davis is probably better suited to play the receiver position on a regular basis. It will be interesting to see what Davis can do in New England. He has 13 career touchdown catches, so he can get the ball in the end zone. I imagine once he and Brady have better chemistry together, Davis will become a bigger part of the offense.
-Tom Casale

I am looking for information on a former player last name of Shaw, number #23. Please supply first name, position held and years with your organization. Thank you.Erin Touth

The player you are inquiring about is Sedrick Shaw. He was a running back and he played two seasons in New England (97-98) before going to Cincinnati and finally Cleveland. Now I have a question for you. Why in God's name do you care about Sedrick Shaw? I'm not being a wise guy; I really, truly want to know. I have racked my brain and I can't come up with one good reason why anyone would care about Sedrick Shaw. Please put my mind at ease. Thank you.
-Tom Casale

Hi Guys, It was more than great to see Bruschi back! Even to my untrained eye, it was obvious the defense played more cohesively than in weeks past. It could even be argued the defense won the game for us. Welcome back Teddy!!! I have a couple questions. How was the noise at the Bills game last night? I don't have the opportunity to go to a lot of games, but my buddies and I did our best to help out last night and think overall it was a pretty good job by the fans. What is the chance we might be able to get Kory Chapman back from the Colts? Len LaPadula

Len, I'm going to go ahead and disagree with you on the defense's performance. I didn't think they played well at all. Willis McGahee gashed them on the ground they made Kelly Holcomb look like the second coming of Jim Kelly. The defense couldn't get off the field, as the Bills controlled the ball for more than 40 minutes. That just puts too much pressure on Tom Brady and the offense to be perfect with the few opportunities they get. To be honest, I thought the Bills game was very similar to the Chargers game in many ways. The only difference is the Chargers have a more explosive offense and the Bills had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. I know it's all warm and fuzzy to think the defense played better with Bruschi in there but I just don't think that was the case. Let me put it this way: if the Patriots play defense like that against the Colts, they will get blown out and I think they know that.

The only way the Patriots can get Kory Chapman back is if the Colts release him. The trade deadline has passed, not that they would trade for him anyway, and Chapman is currently on the Colts active roster, so there is really no way for the Patriots to get him. Besides, it's not preseason anymore so I don't think it really matters.

As for the fan noise, it was incredibly loud when Bruschi was introduced. That is one of the loudest moments I have heard at a stadium and it lasted a whole six seconds. After that, everyone was too busy sitting down doing nothing to make noise. I am being 100 percent honest. I looked down at least 10 times to see what the fans were doing while the Bills had the football and every time I looked, I saw them just sitting there doing nothing. Maybe they were bored. Who cares? The Patriots already won three Super Bowl titles, right? When does baseball season start? What's going on with Manny?
-Tom Casale

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