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Ask PFW: Losing streak?

Hey guys, first off I'd like to say that I enjoy the podcasts and find them pretty informative and entertaining. That being said, I'm interested to hear what you have to say about the loss to the Jets. I know the conditions were bad, but I think the receivers were far worse. It seems like they can be put into two categories: those who can get open, but can't catch, and those who simply can't get open. I was particularly disappointed by Ben Watson. I have been excited by his potential for a couple of years now, and was really hoping that he would emerge as an elite tight end this season. Unfortunately, he has been very disappointing. It seems like he drops half of the passes that he has thrown his way. I am beginning to think he might fall into the category of being a great "Madden" player. He looks great in the video game, but in real life, he just can't put it all together. I hope I'm wrong, but eventually Brady and Belichick will decide that they've had enough of his drops. What do you guys think? Are the Pats stuck with two first-round busts at tight end?
Sean Murphy

"Pretty informative and entertaining"? Sort of a backhanded compliment there, no? I guess it doesn't matter, just keep listening to the podcasts and tell all your friends. As for Watson, he has been a bit inconsistent with his hands this season. Yes, that's the same fate that's limited Daniel Graham's production in the early part of his career. I am not ready to give up on Watson yet. He's already established a career-high in leading the team with 34 receptions for 436 yards and one score. Remember, after missing virtually his entire rookie season with a knee injury, this is really just the midpoint of his second season playing in the NFL. He needs to improve his consistency in catching the ball, but calling him a bust right now might be a little premature. I agree that his potential, based largely on his immense stable of physical gifts, is quite alluring. Now we just need to see it turn into more consistent impact production on the game field.
Andy Hart

There was a man in Washington who thought that the mission can be accomplished with fewer men and an awesome plan. He is gone. Our coach took, in some ways, a similar approach - be a winner with underpaid players and a genius game plan. It's about time he learns a lesson of humility. Admissions that we are "outcoached" is not enough. I wish more of our media would have the guts to tell him that he cannot stay the personnel course any longer.Ted T.

Not sure about the political reference, hopefully it doesn't fuel a bunch of respondent emails. I think you might be jumping to conclusions a bit. Two weeks ago the Patriots were flying high and everyone was in full praise mode. Now, two losses later, the sky is falling. Belichick generally includes getting outcoached in his postgame comments every time his team loses. I think the players, to some degree, were echoing those comments as they so often do. And even if personnel is the problem, there isn't much that can be done at this point in the season. For the most part the roster is what it is, for better or worse. But beyond simply blaming the coaching and game plan, let's put some of the blame on the players for not making the plays that need to be made at the critical times. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular; I just think this team has lacked key plays at key times. Consistency and spark have been major contributors to the team's three losses. Until that's fixed, this team will continue to have trouble beating quality opponents. The group is now 4-10 over the last two years against winning opponents. Close games against solid teams are won or lost on a few key plays. New England simply isn't making those plays right now.
Andy Hart

Hey guys at PFW, First off, I'd like to say that I'm a huge fan of both the Patriots and of PFW. Both "teams" are great at what you do! Question: After watching yet another game played on a horrible field surface, I wonder if this will finally convince the Krafts NOT to have soccer games, concerts, and who knows what other events held on the field at Gillette Stadium. I realize that you can't blame the Patriots second consecutive loss on the field conditions, as both the Patriots and the Jets had to endure the same shoddy field. That's not what this is about. It's about negative effect on the quality of the game...it's about risking injury to the Patriots players and to the visiting team...it's about Patriots fans paying top dollar for a sporting event, and essentially getting less than they should because the field has been trampled during other events. I appreciate that the Patriots organization made an effort to restore the field, and during the Colts game it appeared (at least from the stands) to have held up pretty well. But we all saw the results of one game played in wet weather. The field is yet again a disaster! Folks, this isn't the first time we've been through this! I implore the organization to reconsider the priority given to events other than Patriots football. It's hurting the game! I realize that the revenue generated by other events is important and I certainly don't want to see ticket prices for the Pats games going up! We are already at or near the top in that category, But what about the potential loss if a one or more marquee players goes down due to an awkward slip or poor footing? I further realize that few things are tougher on a grass surface than professional football, with the possible exception of a draft horse pulling contest; but why subject that surface to further abuse when the Patriots games are the primary source of revenue, and in fact the very reason for the stadium being built? I hate to bring up a beef without offering possible solutions, so here we go...1) Hold concerts in the parking lot...2) build the Revs their own field which is sized appropriately for the amount of fans that they draw. A facility about a quarter the size of Gillette would suffice! Thanks for listening.
Paul Bissonnette
Pats fan in NH

Sunday's field was muddy, but part of that was due to the fact that the new sod hadn't had time to truly adhere. In fixing the previous poor surface, and then getting heavy rains, the solving of one problem led to another. I don't think it will lead to the Krafts having less events, my guess would be that it will lead them to even more strongly consider installing a synthetic surface sooner rather than later. In fact, by sooner I mean today. The process has already begun on installing a new FieldTurf surface at Gillette that will be complete in time for the game against the Bears on Nov. 26.
Andy Hart

Having watched the game at Gillette on Sunday, it was apparent to me that our offensive line is in need of some help. With Billy Yates going on IR yesterday did not help. While many are critical of Brady and his decision making (myself included), the offensive line seems to be an area that needs immediate attention. If Brady has time to make better decisions-he will. He's shown us that time and again. My question pertains to the return of Russ Hochstein and Stephen Neal. Can we expect them back anytime soon or is anyone on the practice squad ready to step up?
Patrick Keogh

Hochstein returned to the field on Sunday, first as a third tight end and later replacing Yates at right guard. Neal has been in the locker room and on the practice field of late, so I don't think his injury is of the serious variety. As Belichick would say, I think he's probably day-to-day and week-to-week. But I also don't believe his return will be the magic cure-all. The line has been too inconsistent all year and needs to start playing better as a unit. It's a young group that the team has invested money and draft picks in, now they have to start making that pay off on the game field on a more consistent basis. I would also expect the team to add another lineman to the active roster for depth, and the Boston Globe has reported that guy could be former Patriots Gene Mruczkowski.
Andy Hart

Was Richard Seymour playing on the left side because of his elbow injury, or because Ty Warren was out? It didn't make sense to me that they'd have Jarvis Green sub for Richard Seymour, if Seymour was "subbing" for Warren. I'm used to seeing Green on the left side... 2) Do you think that Gaffney is for real? Only three catches, but three really nice ones - and I didn't see him on the field that much to start with. 3) 3rd Quarter, Jets up by 4 - the Pats discard the running game and get clobbered in the passing game. I bought the explanation last week that we had to abandon the run when down by two scores, but where was the run game in the 3rd quarter? 4) I'm worried about the right guard position. Neal is out (for now), Hochstein is playing at less than full strength, and Yates (who I thought played pretty well) is out for the year. Do you think that they'll be getting healthy soon, or signing someone from the practice squad? Thanks! You guys rock!
Andrew Miskavage

Seymour was playing the left side because Green has primarily played on the right side when he plays on normal downs. Seymour has played all three slots in his career and is clearly the more talented, versatile player. I also think, for Sunday in particular, that putting Seymour on the left side did allow him to have his injured elbow on the outside rather than as his inside power arm. In the end, though, it didn't work out. Seymour didn't play well and neither did the group as a whole. Moving on to Gaffney, he's clearly coming along but I'm not ready to say he's the answer to the passing game woes. I actually find it disappointing that he might have passed rookie Chad Jackson on the depth chart after just more than a month in a Patriots uniform. Gaffney is a somewhat productive veteran with experience in a system like New England's in his time in Houston. So maybe that's the reason for his quick advancement. But I still don't think it's a good thing that Jackson continues to be unable to break the regular rotation or have much of an impact. Gaffney's increase in playing time on Sunday coincided with Doug Gabriel being sent to the sideline for good after his second-quarter fumble.
And I know everyone is worried about abandoning the run. It's been a common theme in recent weeks but I think it's been a bit overblown. New England didn't really leave the run until the team trailed by 11 points with less than five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Right now the play calling and straying from the run seem to be the hot-button topic, but I'm not sure the facts totally backup the complaints.
Andy Hart

Last week most of Patriot nation was asking why Maroney didn't get the ball more against the Colts in the second half. Well, this week most of the people I talk to are asking why Corey Dillon didn't get the ball more in the second half. He was successful in the first half at moving the ball and the field conditions were tailor-made for Big Corey's bruising, straight-ahead style. So I ask this week why didn't he get the ball more...Heck he didn't even really play in the second half, let alone produce. Got any answers for me PFW?
Brad Terklin

Dillon did play in the second half, in fact he had more carries (6) than in the first half (5). After running out of gas and laboring out of bounds on his 50-yard run late in the first quarter, Dillon didn't carry the ball again until early in the third quarter. But a closer look shows that the Jets held the ball for a drive that consumed 9:12 in the second quarter. And Laurence Maroney had just two carries prior to Dillon asking out after his 50-yard scamper. So if the team is really trying to employ a two-headed monster and split the carries, the rookie was up for his share. He got a few on New England's drive to a field goal late in the second quarter. At the half the rookie had seven carries and Dillon had five. The split continued in the second half as Dillon got six more carries to Maroney's five. And as I said earlier the team didn't abandon the run until they were down 11 points with less than five minutes to play and had to go into more of a hurry-up mode. Oh, and the Jets had another pretty long drive that ate up 6:40 in the third quarter. So I don't think the abandonment of the run is quite as dramatic as some have made it out to be. Are you, and others, asking to end the split of the carries and give them all to Dillon? Maroney? Not sure what you are looking for. Do you have answers for me?
Andy Hart

I am not sure if I understand why Bill B seems to bench players out of the blue when they are clearly needed. Doug Gabriel, Corey Dillon and Richard Seymour all missed a big portion of the second half for no apparent injury reason. Was Gabriel benched because he fumbled? Benching a player for hustling to get extra yards when he is clearly needed does not make sense to me. Is he going to bench Brady for making a mistake or throwing a pick? I doubt it. This year has been puzzling to us all why certain decisions are made and I guess we can expect the same redundant answers from Mr. Bill. Do you guys have any insight to these second half no-shows?
Corey Tully

I don't think Dillon was much more than splitting the carries with Maroney and then personnel moves that were dictated by the score. But I am curious with the Gabriel move. I think there must be more to the story than just the fumble. I have always thought that physical plays were things that happened and you move on from. Could Gabriel have made things worse by something he did or said on the sideline? I don't know. I just find it hard to believe that he was benched for just the fumble. If that's the case then you are right, a lot of Patriots players need to be benched for the physical mistakes they've made in recent weeks. There has to be more to it than that, I just don't know what it is and we know Belichick is certainly not going to tell us.
Andy Hart

Hello, This message is about the prospect of converting Gillette Stadium into a dome because I think it would be auspicious for the team in the long run (pardon the pun). The rationale behind this supposition is that the team wouldn't be subjected to inclement weather conditions during home games, and unfortunate losses (like to the Jets) could and should be averted with the advantages of a dome as well as field turf. Some people hold the fallacious assumption that outdoor teams are stronger than indoor teams because they're exposed to the elements (if that is a reality, then why have the Colts been the most dominant team in the NFL for the past two seasons?). Furthermore, I believe that indoor teams could aggregate fewer injuries than outdoor teams because they're not wallowing in the mud during home games. In conclusion, these are the reasons why I think the Patriots management should contemplate the prospect of turning Gillette Stadium into the Gillette Dome. Thanks for listening.Marc

Boy, someone swallowed a thesaurus while writing his little speech. I don't usually post strict opinions in Ask PFW (you know, the emphasis is on "Ask"), but with all the big words you clearly wanted to show off, I figured I'd throw you a bone. I don't think the Krafts will be turning Gillette Stadium into a dome any time soon. If they wanted a dome they'd have built it that way. As we all know by now, the team is putting in FieldTurf to improve the actual playing surface conditions. Oh, and have the Colts really dominated the NFL over the last two seasons? How many rings do they have? Many a dome team has dominated the NFL regular season from the current Colts to former teams like Minnesota, Atlanta and St. Louis. But the bottom line in the league is about championships and only the Rams got the job done. It might be a coincidence. It might not be. But even if you play in a dome, sooner or later you are probably going to have to take to the great outdoors (and maybe some questionable January conditions) to win it all.
Andy Hart

Here's something other than one of those endless "Why don't the Pats trade a cheerleader and the Gatorade bucket for the first pick in the draft?" type questions. I see a lot of players wearing a thin black band on their arms, usually just above the elbow, but sometimes below. What is their purpose?
Rick Soden

Personally I'd keep the Gatorade bucket and just send cheerleader and Patriots Today host Lori Baranski somewhere for a player to be named later. I think her best days are behind her and she's on the downside of her career. Just a thought. Anyway, I believe those bands are nothing more than aesthetic additions to the uniform with the purpose of making the players look cooler. It started with guys putting sweatbands there, but then companies began making specific cloth bands designed for that very purpose. I'm sure they soak up a little sweat, but mostly they make guys look cool and accentuate the players' biceps. It's sort of like the bands the Ultimate Warrior tied in that area when he was running through the rest of the competition early on in his career in the WWF. Remember that? Now those were cool.
Andy Hart

Since Rodney Harrison became a Patriot, what is the Pats' record with/without him in the starting lineup, including playoffs?
Kevin Coskren

New England is 36-11 with Harrison in the starting lineup (that includes a win when he was hurt last season in Pittsburgh and a loss when he was injured this year against Indy). The team went a perfect 6-0 in the 2003 and 2004 postseasons with Harrison. Following Sunday's loss the team is now 8-6 without Harrison over the last two regular seasons. Obviously New England went 1-1 last postseason without Harrison.
Andy Hart

I don't want to make excuses for the Patriots loss on Sunday, but when is the NFL going to quit giving teams two weeks to prepare for a team that didn't have their bye week at the same time? I don't think it would be impossible for the four bye week teams to play each other instead of playing a non-bye week team. Doesn't the NFL realize this is unfair advantage?
Sparky

You are right, the NFL is out to the get the Patriots again. Just like scheduling the team to be on the road for the final two weeks of the season on holiday weekends. Oh, and by the way, you are doing a tremendous job of making excuses while trying not to make excuses.
Andy Hart

After the game Ellis Hobbs was the first one to take the blame for allowing the Cotchery TD at the end of the game but I thought that was one of his better performances as a Patriot. He really made a lot of plays on balls and looked more aggressive. Maybe I'm just looking for a silver lining to the cloud but maybe this game will help spark his play as the Pats should sure use it for the rest of this season and beyond. Do you agree with my assessment?Brian Matusek

I think Hobbs, like the rest of the Patriots team as a whole has been inconsistent. I thought he had a tough game against the Jets. He was beaten a number of times and as you said, when he was in position to make a key play in the game he came up short. I know he's still wearing a brace as he recovers from the broken wrist, but I still think he needs to become more consistent. I certainly think he could use a spark, as the rest of the defense could. But I will credit him for standing up and taking the blame for the loss. He talks the talk – good and bad – I'd just like to see him walk the walk a little more consistently.
Andy Hart

I found myself on Sunday waiting for someone to make the big play. You guys remember the old days (it wasn't that long ago) when Teddy B would come up with a big interception, Seymour would have a big tackle behind the line to force 4th down or Vrabel would strip the ball away in the 4th quarter to ice a game. Those kind of plays don't happen much anymore. Nobody seems to rise to the occasion anymore when the team needs them most...What happened to this team? What happened to the karma, the aura they used to have? They knew they would make a play in the end to win the game...now they seem to be waiting for someone to actually do it.
Shane Cahill

Shane I couldn't agree with you more. This team hasn't played with much of a spark on defense for most of the season. The supposed playmakers, guys who've came up big in the past, just aren't getting the job done. I put the likes of Bruschi, Vrabel, Colvin, Seymour, Wilson and others in that mix. It used to be that even when the team wasn't playing well, those guys and others would step up and make the handful of plays that changed the outcome of the game. That's not happening anymore. But with all that said, the team has given up more than 17 points just once this season. That's pretty impressive and only three teams have allowed fewer points through nine games. So the unit isn't playing all that badly as a whole, but imagine what it could be doing if it was making the big plays it became so well known for in the past. A year ago the lack of playmaking was blamed on injuries, guys playing out of position and vanilla schemes. I'm not sure any of those excuses hold water this fall. I think guys just need to step up and make plays that they are capable of making. But that can be much easier said than done.
Andy Hart **

Read Part II **

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