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Ask PFW: Election Day Edition

If you could place blame on one unit or individual that lost us the Indy game, who would it be and why? Would it be not going for it on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter? Would it be David Thomas' 15-yard personal foul? Would it be the desperation calls at the end of the game instead of trying to get into field goal range?
Nicole Audet

You forgot a few ... What about the two third-down conversions the offense failed to complete in the second quarter? You know, the ones that led to two Patriots field goals ... those could have been touchdowns, right? Then there were the two touchdown passes the defense gave up to Anthony Gonzalez. The corners could have covered better, no? Or the field-goal rush team could have blocked Adam Vinatieri's 52-yard, eventual game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter, am I right? Nicole, my point is, it's true that individual plays and players can sometimes seem to affect the outcome of a game more so than others. Heck, count me among those who was stunned that Belichick decided to go for two in the third quarter of that game. And I still can't believe that Jabar Gaffney dropped that easy touchdown pass. But remember, football is not tennis, or checkers. That is to say, it is ultimately a team game, not an individual one. There were dozens of plays in the Pats-Colts game Sunday night, and each one affected the outcome equally. Sure, some stood out more than others, and I realize you're frustrated by the loss to Indy. But teams win games as a team, and they lose games the same way. To place all the blame on one player or group of players (or coaches, for that matter) is not only a knee-jerk reaction, it's a gross injustice.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

Hey guys, I know the team made its share of mistakes in the second half against Indy, but what about some of the errors by head coach Bill Belichick and his staff? Going for two made no sense, given that our defense had only given up seven points through two-and-a-half quarters. Also, what's with the timeout before Matt Cassel's QB-sneak? Why call the play, then change your mind and waste a timeout? Throw in the wasted timeout on a 5-yard challenge, and I'm starting to believe Belichick is out-thinking himself. Just let the team play!
Kris Johnson

OK, let me answer your question by first asking you a question. Remember the last time the Patriots beat the Denver Broncos at Mile High? It was back in 2003, when Tom Brady threw the game-winning TD to David Givens with seconds left in the fourth quarter. What else stands out about that game? The intentional safety when the Pats were punting from their own end zone, right? The "genius" word was tossed around a lot to describe Belichick in the aftermath of that call. Was he "out-thinking himself" back then? NFL head coaches must be risk-takers at times. When they win, they're geniuses to some observers. When they lose, those same observers can suddenly become critics. Belichick is as prepared and disciplined a coach as any who's ever led an NFL team, Kris. Sometimes, his risks are successful, other times, they're not. More often than not, they're successful. I say he's earned the right to take those risks - regardless of what anyone else thinks - whenever he pleases.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

What's with the personal foul call on David Thomas? I think that was a bad call.
Ian M.

It was certainly a close call, Ian. But I haven't seen as many replays of it as Belichick has, and he said the day after the game that he could see why the call was made. That's enough for me.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

During New England's first drive in the red zone in the first quarter of the colts game, Cassel got rushed out of the pocket and ran it for a first down. While in the slide, he was hit by a Colts defender. Not only hit, but a helmet-to-helmet hit, and no foul was called. Did my eyes decieve me or would that not be 15-yard penalty?Micah Sanguinetti

Your eyes are fine, Micah. Replays distinctly showed Cassel being hit helmet-to-helmet on that play, but the refs failed to throw the flag. They should have.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

What is the likelihood that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will open up the playbook and start using more aggressive plays with Cassel?
Gabriel M.

By aggressive, I assume you mean down-field throws. I admit, I'm a little surprised the offense hasn't gone long as often as they did a year ago. But in the Colts game, for example, Randy Moss was constantly double-teamed with a corner and a safety over the top, and the one time they did take a shot long, Jabar Gaffney dropped the ball at the Indy 5-yard line. I agree, the offense should take a few more chances per game, but overall, I can't complain with the results Cassel has been producing.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

Mayo was around the ball all night against the Colts, but it seemed to me that the reason for that was because he was always a step or two behind the receiver. I know that it's a hard matchup for a linebacker to cover Dallas Clark, but isn't that the kind of thing that we drafted him 10th overall for? He has been good in stopping the run, but overall his pass defense hasn't been as good as I expected.Bud Kullen

Well, his lateral speed was what a lot of scouts raved about leading up to the draft. That's more a sign of a good run-stopper than a coverage guy. But I think you answered your own question, Bud. It is difficult for most linebackers to cover Dallas Clark, and Mayo may have been a step or two behind him on a few plays. But remember, Mayo is a rookie, and for a rookie, I thought he did a decent job on Clark. Not great, but he'll get there.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

I was wondering what the name of a certain play is. The play goes like this: The QB lines up in the shotgun and there is a player lined up beside him. The QB gets the ball snapped to him. He turns and throws to that player. I have seen the Pats run this a few times this year and it has yet to work. Does anyone know why they call this play?Matt Lucia

The play you're describing sounds like a wide receiver screen. Yes, the Patriots run it quite often, and it's not always the yardage-getter it can be. So, I can understand your frustration, Matt. But New England is usually one of the more successful screen-running teams in the league. Randy Moss actually scored on the play in New England's recent game against Denver. It is a difficult play to run effectively because it requires precise timing by not only the QB and receiver, but also by the blockers, some of whom are pulling guards or tackles who often must get out in space to block their opponent.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

When a team lines up in the "Wildcat" offense and the ball is directly snapped to the running back, what happens if he is tackled behind the line of scrimmage? Is it considered a sack for the defense?
Kevin Hahn

Great question. Let's analyze some scenarios. When a QB tries to tuck-and-run and is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, for instance, it's logged as a sack. Also, if the ball is snapped to a player other than the QB and that player throws a forward pass, that statistic is kept in the passing category (a perfect example came when Patriots running back Kevin Faulk took a direct snap in the second quarter against Indy and threw a pass to Wes Welker ... the play went for minus-two yards, but it went down in the stat sheet as a pass from Faulk for negative yardage). So, I believe that the first player to handle the ball after it's snapped is considered the quarterback on the play and whatever he does with the ball on that play is scored as it would be for a normal QB.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

I keep hearing that Tom Brady will never play again because of his knee. I mainly get knews about Brady's condition from Can you update where Brady is at regarding his knee and infections and dispel (and hopefully not confirm!) these rumors.
Doug Baker

Doug, I've not heard such pessimistic prognoses. Brady did have some extra procedures to clear up those infections you referenced, which could impact his recovery timetable. But I expect to see him back in Foxborough soon enough.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

Which do you think is more glaring of an issue at this point: our weak secondary or lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks?Andrew Farwell

I've been saying all year that the front seven needs to live up to its considerable talent and produce more sacks and quarterback pressures than they've gotten so far. The secondary has been snake-bitten by injuries, personnel turnover, and a youth infusion. Given all those variables, it's unfair to place higher expectations upon that group than it is to the front seven, which, for the most part, is made up of veterans, high draft picks, and free-agent talent. If they can get more pressure on opposing QBs, that'll be a significant help to the young, banged-up secondary. So, I'd say the more glaring issue right now is with the front seven and its lack of a consistent pass-rush.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

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