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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Apr 16 - 12:00 AM | Sun Apr 18 - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Is there a cure for the Pats ailing defense?

A lot of blame has been put on the secondary with all the injuries to it. But the middle linebackers have not been able to stop the run. This has made the secondary have to over play the run. Do you believe this is a breakdown in the scheming or do you believe that the talent has diminished as opposed to last year?Andy Pressman

Well, there are two new starting linebackers this season so fans are going to have to be patient and give Monty Beisel and Chad Brown a little time. As far is the talent being diminished, the answer to that question is yes. Anytime a team is without players the caliber of Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson, they are losing two players who meant a great deal to the Patriots defense, not just on the field but off the field as well. The biggest problem with the middle linebacker position is the lack of depth. Brown and Beisel are not traditional middle linebackers and may wear down as the season goes on. If one of those guys were to get injured, the Patriots may have to move Mike Vrabel inside and start Rosevelt Colvin outside. It's not the scheme, Bill Belichick still knows defense. It really comes down to the players making plays and that hasn't happened on a consistent basis for the Patriots defense this season.
-Tom Casale

I am a huge Patriots fan, and have been so for over 30 years. As much as we all have enjoyed the success over the last four years, it's not that unusual to have an off year. Call it injuries catching up or other teams are just getting better. It's tough to win every year. Would you agree that all they have to do is win 10 or 11 games to finish first in their division? We shouldn't be looking for 14 wins every year. It's just not going to happen. It's still the only league in which I will watch any two teams play. Great job guys.Brian Corless

You are exactly right. All that matters is the Patriots make the playoffs and then it's anyone's ball game and the Patriots have something no other team has: Tom Brady. The 49ers made the playoffs in the late-80s with a 10-6 record. They didn't have their usual dominating season, mainly because of injuries. However, they got healthy late in the year and won their division. They traveled to play the mighty Bears and everyone thought the 49ers were doomed but they had Joe Montana and the Bears didn't. San Fran won that game 28-3 and went on to win the Super Bowl. Trust me, even if the Patriots win the division at 9-7, no team in the AFC wants to see them in the playoffs. As long as Brady is breathing, the Pats will always have a fighting chance.
-Tom Casale

I've had it with all the "lack of crowd noise" comments. I've been a season ticket holder for 11 years. During those 11 years Foxboro/Gillette Stadium has been SOLD OUT. I can only recount a few times when the crowd hasn't been into the game. I sit in the south end zone and I can pretty much say that the crowd not only in that section, but the entire stadium, is into the game. As I recall during the playoff game against Indy last year I couldn't hear myself it was so loud. In the Chargers game, what the heck was there to cheer about? The three-and-outs by the offense or how about great tackling by the secondary? I suppose it's the 12th man's fault that the Pats lost that game? How about this: quit the complaining about this so-called lack of crowd noise and actually make a legit comment or question. This topic has become just as annoying as the idiots that ask the same question every week asking what that thing is in the middle of the field? Please PFW, do us all a favor and please stop answering the individuals that ask that question every week. To those who feel that the stadium isn't "loud" enough. I suggest you then encourage those around you to make more noise. Until then quit complaining and cheer on your team.Stephan Murphy

Okay, this is the last time we will address the crowd noise. First of all, you said there was nothing to cheer about in the Chargers game. Did you arrive in the fourth quarter? If I remember correctly, wasn't that game tied at halftime? No kidding it was loud during a playoff game against the Colts. That was a big game. The problem is the crowd isn't into games against teams they feel the Patriots should beat like the Raiders and Chargers. Personally, I have been to Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Buffalo, New York, Philadelphia and Washington and every one of those places is by far and away louder than Gillette Stadium was for the Chargers game. It's not even close. And if you are going to yell at someone who is complaining about the crowd noise, try pointing the finger at Tom Brady. He called out Patriots fans on national television and they still didn't respond so take it up with him. Fans should enjoy this team now because you never know what the future holds. Just ask 49ers fans.
-Tom Casale

With the tight ends that the Patriots have why don't they use them to run a power football scheme? I don't understand why they don't try a play some smash mouth football for a little while to open the up the swing passes and medium range passes. The way I see it is if they bring the tight end in and play power football they would eat the clock up and help their defense out by keeping them off the field.Don Dubuc

It's hard to run power football when Corey Dillon is getting hit in the backfield by two defenders on every other play. The Patriots use two and three tight end sets all the time but you can't run power football when it's third and long all the time. The Patriots started running the ball well this week at Atlanta and hopefully that will continue as the year moves forward. The problem with the running game has been the offensive line. The tight ends have been in to help, that's why they didn't catch a lot of passes in the first four games. Ironically, against the Falcons the tight ends were more involved in the passing game and the Patriots had their best day on the ground all year. Believe me, if the Patriots were able to run the football at will, they would. Hopefully the Atlanta game will be a sign of things to come.
-Tom Casale

This is a comment for Eugene Wilson: You were Rodney's understudy for two years and now it's time to step up and take on his leadership role. Go Pats!Bill Heaney

I agree with you. Wilson is the player who needs to step up, be a leader and set the tone for the secondary. He isn't a vocal guy like Harrison is but with all the injuries in the secondary, it's now up to Wilson to be a mentor to some of the younger guys on the team. There are way too many open receivers in the middle of the field and it's time someone comes in and lets these guys know if they catch the ball, they are going to pay for it. With Harrison gone, that job now belongs to Wilson.
-Tom Casale

The depth at running back seams to be a concern to me. My question is this: Do you think we will draft a running back in this year's draft? Who do you think would be a good fit? Thanks.Jeffrey Adams

I think with Corey Dillon getting up there in age, it's quite possible the Patriots will draft a running back on the first day of the draft. Maybe not in the first round, but someplace between rounds 2-4 would make sense. A positive for the Patriots is a lot of good backs could slip in this draft because a majority of teams in the NFL are set at the running back position. It's too early to throw around a lot of names because we don't know who is coming out and what will happen the rest of this season but one guy I really like is Alley Broussard out of LSU. Broussard is a junior so he would have to come out early but at 6-0, 235 pounds he is a bruising back with speed, similar to Dillon. I haven't started my draft work yet so I'm not sure where he would go, but Broussard is a player to keep your eye on come draft day.

-Tom Casale

Do you see Tim Dwight making more of a contribution in the offense, in light of his recent performance? Also, do you see anyone (on offense) that you may not expect or have heard from recently that can make an impact the rest of the season? Thanks.Scott MacKenna

Dwight can make some big plays for the offense but because of his lack of size, it's hard to play him 15-20 plays a game. He's kind of in the same boat as Dante Hall in Kansas City. He will come in from time to time and make a big play but the team wants most of his contributions to come from returning kicks. Players like Dwight have a hard time against the more physical corners so the Patriots will use him when they see a matchup they can exploit. I was going to mention Bethel Johnson as someone who could make an impact on offense but after his big catch against the Falcons, we have now heard from him. Look for the Patriots to possibly use Johnson's speed more in upcoming games to hit some big plays down the field.
-Tom Casale

Hello, my name is Eugene Chung. You may remember me as the New England Patriots 13th overall draft bust in 1992. With the Patriots recent injuries on the offensive line, I have decided to make a comeback. Can you please forward this e-mail to Mr. Robert Kraft & coach Bill Belichick? I would be willing to play any position on the O-line that is available. I have been doing two a days in my backyard for the past week and have my weight down to 450 lbs. I just want to help the team win another Championship! Thank you.Eugene Chung

Eugene, it's good to hear from you. Coach Belichick said if you can get your weight down to 360 pounds, he will give you a look. Now, put down that Whopper Deluxe and get back to work Eugene.
-Tom Casale

I have watched the steady decline of our defense. I understand that we have a lot of injuries, but they still need to be able to toe the line. Is this just a transitional issue, or can we expect this to continue. Just watching, waiting and wondering.Joanne Johnson

Right now, the Patriots are really struggling on defense, especially against the pass. The good news for the Patriots is Tyrone Poole and Randall Gay should be back soon to help the secondary and hopefully the injury to Seymour is not serious. Once some of the injured players return, the defense will improve but the one problem they have is the overall depth they have had in recent years isn't there. It's going to take some doing to improve this unit but if anyone can find a way to fix a defense, Bill Belichick can.
-Tom Casale

I was wondering if there has been any interest in running back Michael Bennett? The Pats could use a good back up and he would fill that need. I am not sure of Bennett's contract value, but he would be a nice addition. I'm sure Dillon could use a break here and there. Pass has done a decent job in recent attempts but Minnesota is asking for a sixth round pick. That's a very low price tag for a player of his caliber.Rick Paquette

I'm not sure what you mean when you say, "a player of his caliber." Do you mean an average running back who is always hurt and can't run inside? Is that what you mean? If so, then Bennett is perfect. Listen, this guy has been given chance after chance to succeed in Minnesota and he hasn't gotten the job done. He has only played one full season in his career. What team wants a running back who hurts himself blowing his nose? If this was track and field, I would say give Bennett a look but since it's football, he's a waste.
-Tom Casale

Although I'm pleased with the steady improvement of our Patriots in all three phases of the game and I realize that most of the injured players that we have will return at some point to contribute. I am still concerned over the play of Chad Brown. Do you think that Chad will at some point in the season finally turn on the switch and be the playmaker we need at inside linebacker? He has one of the highest total tackles on the team, but it seems that they are made after big gains on the ground. When I watch the games on TV I rarely, if ever, hear his name mentioned. What is your opinion? Thanks and keep the info coming. Go Pats!!Gary Abrams

I think Brown's days of being a playmaker are over. He doesn't seem to have the speed he once did. Besides, when he was making all those big plays, he was usually playing outside linebacker. I have always thought Brown played better on the outside. He has 78 career sacks, more than any other active linebacker. That's where I think he excels. On the inside, he appears to get tied up too much and engulfed by bigger offensive linemen. The Patriots don't have many other options on the inside so Brown is going to be the guy unless something unexpected happens. Hopefully, as he gets more accustomed to the Patriots system, he will make more plays for the defense and settle into his role on the team.
-Tom Casale

After the thrilling game in Atlanta, I have three questions for the experts at PFW. First - I was excited to see the return of the running game, and would like to know if you think this is a sign that the Pats running game is back on track or if Atlanta's defense was just unusually poor against the run? Second - Is there news on why Corey Dillon didn't play at the end of the game? And third - I only saw Sanders in there for a bit when Guss Scott was out but he looked good from what I saw on TV. Could you let us know what the thinking is about this player? I thought all of our rookies did well (or at least better), but it's sometimes tough to tell from what you see on TV. Thanks!Andrew Miskavage

Thanks for the e-mail. I will have to tell Andy and Paul they are experts. I don't think they got the memo on that one. However, I did get the memo about being an expert so let me use all my knowledge and wisdom to answer your questions. First, I don't think running reasonably well in one game means all your troubles are over. The Falcons have a fast defense but they are a little small and the Patriots took advantage of that. The Broncos, however, are not small on defense and are very physical against the run. Denver will be a tough test for the Patriots ground game but it's also an important test. The Pats can't run the ball once every four games against a team they can overpower. They need to prove they can run the ball on anyone and this week against Denver is as good a time as any to prove that. As for Dillon, I wouldn't be too concerned. He was back on the sidelines laughing and joking around and he looked fine after the game.

Sanders is a guy I think you may see more of as the year goes on. He has been injured, so he may be a little behind but Sanders is a physical player and the Patriots need to get more physical on defense. At Fresno St, Sanders was known as a big hitter. If he can improve in coverage, he may see more playing time in the future, especially when the Patriots play teams with bigger tight ends. Guss Scott is having some matchup problems against taller tight ends because of his size. Sanders isn't much bigger than Scott but he's a more physical player, so he could play more against guys like Tony Gonzales and Randy McMichael.
-Tom Casale

Who was the quarterback for the Pats in the early 80s? Thank you.Doug Jones

Well, you are going to have to be more specific. This is like asking who played shooting guard for the New Jersey Nets in the early 80s. From 80-82, Steve Grogan and Matt Cavanaugh both started games for the Patriots. From 83-86 it was Grogan and Tony Eason. After 86, there were about 150 quarterbacks who played for the Patriots until the team drafted Drew Bledsoe in 1993. That was a glorious day for Patriots fans everywhere, especially in the Perillo household.
-Tom Casale

I don't know if anyone heard the Falcons' radio announcer on Sportscenter as the Falcons' kicker made that 58-yard field goal, but he was talking trash. He said something along the lines of, "Where's your timeout now Mike Vrabel. It's in your pocket that's where it is." I don't know who this announcer thinks he is talking trash to the two-time defending world champion Patriots after they performed a common procedure of calling a timeout to ice the kicker. In hindsight, it was a mistake calling the timeout and the kicker made a nice second kick but there's no room for immediately calling out Vrabel. Just would like to hear your thoughts on this.Dan Carnevale

I did hear it and I laughed my butt off. I thought it was funny. I mean, how many radio announcers do you know have the guts to tell Mike Vrabel to stick it? The only thing I wanted to know was what that guy was saying when Vinatieri hit his field goal to win the game. Did someone say, "Where is the Falcons home winning streak now smart radio announcer that no one knows? It's gone, that's where it is."
-Tom Casale

Hey PFW, Love the PFW forum!! I sent you guys a question last week regarding the underutilized Patriots tight ends . . . and it appears that even though you didn't answer my question that BB must have somehow read it. Wow!!! That was some game by the tight ends. If you ask me that facet of the Patriots offense is open all day long in every game they play. Think they'll continue to exploit defenses with it? It looks unstoppable, and opens up other areas of the offense (i.e.... the running game and the wide receivers). This was a big win. They beat the Falcons while preparing for Michael Vick. Contrary to what the national media thinks don't you think that the defensive game plan swayed in the Falcons favor? I mean the D was prepared for a running QB, not a pocket passer like Matt Schaub, who ripped the secondary apart. I am also sick of analysts overlooking the Patriots tough schedule. The Elias Sports Bureau calls it the toughest ever for a defending champ. So, why do the analysts anoint the Colts and others as being dominant when they haven't played anyone yet? Thanks for your time.Phil Spence

Actually Phil, we forwarded your e-mail to Bill Belichick last week and he changed his gameplan after reading it. Coach was wondering what he should do this week against the Broncos? He was thinking of getting Amos Zereoue more involved in the offense but he doesn't want to do anything until he hears from you first.

As for the Patriots preparing for Vick, I don't care if they were preparing for Steve Bartkowski. Anytime a team gives up almost 300 yards passing and three touchdowns to a second-year, unproven quarterback, that's a problem. Besides, the team knew Vick was injured and prepared for Schaub as well. The defense played poorly against the pass and that's the bottom line. Don't make excuses for their poor play because I doubt the Patriots are.

In regards to the schedule, it is what it is. It will have no bearing on whether or not the Patriots win the Super Bowl four months from now. If anything, it will make the Patriots a better football team at the end of the year, so let's move on and stop complaining about the schedule.
-Tom Casale

I'm so sick of hearing about how the Colts are 5-0 and about their dominate "D". Who have they played? All scrub teams! It seem to me the NFL is setting this team up for home field advantage in the playoffs so poster boy Manning can get a ring and stop all his crying! I got news for the Colts; it doesn't matter where the Patriots play in the postseason, they still WIN!Rian Bednarz

Listen, no one despises the Colts whining and complaining more than I do but for the 1,467 time, the NFL sets the schedules years in advance. Apparently, you guys don't believe us so please contact the NFL offices in Manhattan, NY and they will tell you the same exact thing. The Colts play in a weak division, and they can't help that. The Colts play the weak NFC West this year and they can't help that. The Patriots enjoyed the same advantage last year playing those weak teams. I agree the Colts haven't played anyone but the fact is they have defeated everyone in front of them and four of those games weren't even close. Everyone knows, especially the Colts, they won't prove anything unless they beat the Patriots on Nov. 7 but if you have to rank the teams right now, the Colts deserve to be ranked as the best team in the NFL. Of course, they don't play the Super Bowl in early October, so none of this matters. My advice would be to wait until the two teams play. The Colts will have their chance to prove they are the best when they come to Gillette. Wait until the Patriots beat them again before we start knocking the Colts. There will be plenty of time for that in the months ahead.
-Tom Casale

I have heard and read much in the last two days about Vinatieri kicking 19 game-winning field goals, including TWO Super Bowls. Why don't they count the third one? We won all THREE Super Bowls by a three-point margin, and in all cases Vinatieri scored the last three points tallied by the Pats. Does it have to be kicked literally in the final seconds of a game to be counted as "game winning?"Andrew Miskavage

Game-winning field goals are not an official stat but it is considered a game-winner if the field goal is kicked late in the fourth quarter to put a team ahead. Against the Rams and the Panthers, Vinatieri won both games with field goals late. The Eagles game is a totally different story. Vinatieri made a field goal to put the Patriots up by 10 points but the Eagles scored again, plus they got the ball back one more time. Saying Vinatieri should get credit for a game-winning field goal in that situation would be the same if he kicks a field goal in the second quarter to put the Patriots up 24-7 and the team wins 24-21. Yes, they won by three points but Vinatieri's kick didn't win the game for them. The first two Super Bowls and this year's games against the Steelers and Falcons are game-winning kicks but not the Super Bowl against the Eagles.
-Tom Casale

I would just like to say that I think that our most costly loss this season, whether to injury or free agency, is Joe Andruzzi. The offensive line, although it played better Sunday, is nowhere near the same without him. Matt Light, Rodney Harrison, David Patten, Ty Law and Charlie Weis certainly are big losses, but Joe gave a lot more than just great line play. He had a mean streak and was the unofficial captain of a very underrated OL. I'm afraid this is one Patriot that we should not have let get away. Your comments?Ike Lee

I'm going to go ahead and kind of agree with you here. While I won't go as far as to say that Andruzzi was the single biggest loss out of all those guys, I do think the Patriots may be regretting not re-signing him. Like you said, Andruzzi brought things to the team that you can't really measure with stats. So far this season, his leadership and toughness along the offensive line has been sorely missed. Now, in the long run, once the rookies come along and the line gels, letting Andruzzi go might not be that big of a deal. However, if you are just looking at the five games this season, then I would say yes, the team is definitely feeling the loss of a savvy veteran like Andruzzi.
-Tom Casale

Do you think that we are the Indianapolis of the last few years? Meaning that we have a high-powered offense but find it hard to stop anybody. From the first few games it looks like the offense is going to good this year, maybe even great, but it looks like the D is lacking. I'm hoping this is just because Gay, Poole etc are out. Do you think the defense will keep being this bad all year?Nick Johnson

Well Nick, if the defense is this bad all year, the dream of a 3-peat will come to an end and I'm willing to venture a guess and say Bill Belichick would tell you the same thing. The Patriots can't win another championship playing this poorly on defense, especially in the playoffs. While the team doesn't always rank high in total defense because they give up a lot of yards, they always rank high in the most important stat: points allowed. So far this season, the Pats have allowed 136 points in five games. That is uncharacteristic of this defense, no matter who is in there. I don't think we can call the Patriots the Colts of this year until we give Belichick a few weeks to see if he can work his magic once again. In my opinion, they have until Nov. 7 to get everything fixed. If they play the way they did against the Chargers and Falcons when the Colts come to town, the Patriots will have to score 50 points to win that game. I say give it three more games and see what the coaching staff comes up with. If we get into November and the defense is still struggling, it is highly unlikely anything will change this season.
-Tom Casale

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