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Ask PFW: Monday night madness

I have been a long time season ticket holder and have gotten used to watching the whole field so this may seem like a dumb question if anyone was at the game against Baltimore. It seemed like on a number of completed passes by the Ravens (on TV anyway) that there was a Pats defender flying by the receiver trying to intercept the pass instead of defending it. It was hard to tell on TV but I noticed it on a number of passes.Dave Bates

Watching this stuff on TV is hard but in my opinion that wasn't the case. I thought the Ravens had many open receivers and Kyle Boller, for the most part, did a good job of getting them the ball. On the fourth-and-seven play in the first quarter Derrick Mason was wide open on the sideline and Boller easily completed that pass. The only time I felt any differently was at the end of the game when Baltimore was in desperation mode. Meriweather should have picked off a pass on the second-to-last play, and on the Hail Mary there were obviously many Patriots around the ball. But overall I thought the coverage was lacking for the second straight week – and in Baltimore that included Asante Samuel.
Paul Perillo

I know it seems a little ridiculous what with the calls from the officials that helped us at the end of the game, but I still really thought the officiating was terrible. I could not have been the only one who saw the absolute mugging of Asante Samuel by, I think, Derrick Mason on the last play of the game. I live in DC and if they had scored on that Hail Mary I swear I would have driven to Baltimore to yell at those refs. In addition I feel like every time a play could go either way, the call never goes for the Patriots.Frank Osborn

I usually don't answer the "refs are out to get us" emails because I don't have enough time in my week to do so, but this one made me laugh for so long I had to include it. How any self-respecting Patriots fan could argue with the refs after this game is beyond me. I absolutely thought the fourth-down call on Benjamin Watson in the end zone was a penalty, but how many of you out there have seen similar plays go uncalled when the game is on the line? I was stunned to see the flag, even though I thought it was definitely the right call. Was there a penalty on the Hail Mary? Again, I thought so, but I've never seen one called in such a situation in all my years of watching the NFL. About the closest I can ever remember was when Terry Glenn got the call against Buffalo at Foxboro Stadium in 1998, but that was one-on-one coverage and not a bunch of players jockeying for position. Just one day before the Pats-Ravens game I saw Cleveland's Kellen Winslow get killed in the end zone as he was trying to keep his feet in bounds on the last play of the game in Arizona. Winslow was definitely interfered with as he was hit before the ball got there. He also likely would have come down in bounds. But the refs took their normal path when the game was on the line and they made the players decide the game. That's what they do on those Hail Marys when there are 10 or 12 players operating in a phone booth-like area. Complaining on not getting that call, after every other one in the fourth quarter went the Patriots way, is comical. And can we please stop with the conspiracy theories.
Paul Perillo

Is Rosevelt Colvin out for the year? I always thought his specialty was pass rush, but with him gone the run defense looked a lot poorer. I think it's the fact that we had five top tier LBs and now we have four so they tire earlier in the game (however Willis McGahee ran a will in both halves). What's your analysis of this?J Hus

Colvin is out for the season and his specialty is the pass rush. There's no doubt that McGahee made the Patriots look bad last Monday night but I chalk that up to one bad game. I thought Belichick did a good job of rotating the linebackers in and out of the game so fatigue shouldn't have been a big issue. What I did think was a problem in the Ravens game was the play of the defensive line. Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green and Mike Wright all saw plenty of action and none did a very good job. In talking to some of them after the game they felt that poor technique and poor tackling were the biggest areas of concern. The Patriots rarely try to correct something and have it continue to be a problem throughout the season but the bad tackling has been a concern almost all season. That more than Colvin's absence was a problem in Baltimore.
Paul Perillo

What is to become of Jabar Gaffney after this season? From what I've read, his two-year deal is set to expire at the end of this season. Assuming that either Randy Moss or Donte' Stallworth do not return to the team next year, do you think that Gaffney has a shot at being re-signed? After his clutch performance in last year's playoffs, not to mention in the past two games, I'd hate to see the Pats let him go. I also understand that he is good enough to be, at least, a No. 2 receiver somewhere else, and might opt to look for more money. What do you think the odds are that he comes back? My buddies think it's strange that Jabar Gaffney is my favorite player, and I'm probably the only guy in NE with a Gaffney jersey, but somebody has to root for him, right?
Michael Cole

I'll have to admit that I think it's a little strange too, but to each his own. While I don't know for sure what's going to happen with Gaffney, I would think he'd be rather easy to retain next season. He was a guy that was out of football before the Patriots signed him last season so I don't think the demand for his services would be that great. Others teams might look at his success in New England as a product of being with Tom Brady and playing for such a talented team. There could be some interest but I don't think anyone is going to blow him away with an offer. If that's the case, then I would think Gaffney would rather stay here where he's earned a role, especially if you're right and either Moss or Stallworth is not back next season.
Paul Perillo

On the Hail Mary, the Ravens didn't almost win the game, the Pats played it smart by not getting a pass interference penalty (there was however offensive pass interference) and just making sure he didn't go anywhere where if he caught it. What are your feelings on Hail Mary?
Tyler Flanagan

I don't think Belichick has ever designed a prevent defense that calls for allowing a 52-yard completion and assuming the player will be tackled at the 3-yard line. There was definitely a penalty committed by the Ravens on the play, but like I said earlier, you're not likely going to see that called in that situation. I thought the Patriots were in position to prevent the completion but no one did, and my guess is Belichick wasn't happy with that. The coach did say that with 8 seconds left it was somewhat unclear whether the Ravens would be going for it all or instead trying to set up a field goal. Therefore he did not employ the same prevent defense he would have if it was a definitive last-play situation.
Paul Perillo

Players have incentives built in to their contracts for everything from working out to performance. How does this figure into the cap for a season? Must a team hold back all amounts that could be earned in incentives when computing how much money they have left to spend under the cap? Does the amount paid in incentives instead apply against the next year's cap?Irwin Heller

Incentives come in different forms and depending on how they're termed they can be counted on the current year's cap or the following year's. Basically, incentives are deemed likely to be earned or not likely to be earned with the difference usually coming in whether or not the player involved has ever achieved the given mark. For example, if Brady has an incentive for a $1 million if he threw 40 touchdown passes this season, it would have been deemed not likely to be earned because he had never done it before this season. Therefore, the cap charge would come in 2008 for that. If an incentive is likely to be earned but the player doesn't achieve it, the team would get a cap credit for the following year. There are also team incentives that are counted differently, but that's a very basic way of understanding how incentives work.
Paul Perillo

As you guys once said on the radio, this game vs. Steelers could be the "trap" game. But, I do not buy other people's argument that the loss would help us win SB. I think that we urgently need to fix things, and do it this weekend, or there won't be any records or rings.Mike T.

First I have to defend my fellow PFW boys because none of us would ever suggest that Pittsburgh would be a trap game. The Steelers are just too good to sneak up on anybody and them winning a game against anyone would not be classified as catching anyone by surprise. But I do agree with you in regards to the argument about a loss being beneficial. Losses are never beneficial and I always believe that lessons are better learned in victory. I don't see how losing a regular-season game would take any pressure off the team in the playoffs.
Paul Perillo

What's the deal with Eugene Wilson? He's not listed on the injury report for the Patriots, yet he's been inactive the last two games. Did he lose his starting job to James Sanders and where does that leave him in the team's plans? I think he's a great ball-hawking safety and he can help the team out defensively.
Kyle Carmack

I think Wilson's situation is curious as well. I'll start by saying that yes, he did lose his starting job to James Sanders and the reason for that is simple: Sanders has played better than Wilson. But if he truly is healthy, and the fact that he hasn't been listed on the injury report suggests that, then there's no way he should be inactive while Rashad Baker and Brandon Meriweather get reps on subpackages on defense. If he's not as good as those players then they should cut him now and better utilize the roster spot. I'm not sure exactly why Wilson's play dropped off after two promising seasons to start his career, but it hasn't fallen to the point where he should be a healthy scratch.
Paul Perillo

It is hard to second-guess a 12-0 coach, however, I was wondering why the Patriots didn't onside kick the ball from the Ravens 35-yard line. Worst case, Ravens get the ball at the 25 instead of the 20. I seriously doubt they would have had a return opportunity.
Dave Brassard

I actually brought that up in the press box but my fellow PFW boys disagreed. I thought Bill Belichick might tell Stephen Gostkowski to kick it as high in the air as he could, which likely would have forced a fair catch. But your squib kick idea would also have worked since the clock would have been running and the chances for a return would have been minimal. But I have no argument with the decision Bill made to have Gostkowski boom it through the end zone, thus ensuring there would be no return.
Paul Perillo

What do the teams look at on the screenshots of previous plays on the field and the equipment used to get the screen shots?Paul Wanless

When the offensive players look at the photos on the sidelines they're checking out snap shots of the defensive formations at the time of the snap. This helps the quarterback and coaches determine how the opposition is defending certain formations and how best to combat those going forward in the game. That's a very basic and unsophisticated look at the process.
Paul Perillo

I think we can all agree that playing Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau full time is less than ideal. Do you think the Pats might use Rodney Harrison in more of a hybrid safety/ILB role to help out covering RBs and TEs? They seemed to do this against the Colts and it worked pretty well. What do you think?
Conrad Davids

Harrison will definitely continue covering tight ends since that's what a safety's job entails. He'll also continue to play at or around the line of scrimmage from time to time. He won't play linebacker on a full-time basis, even if that means Bruschi and Seau are forced to do so. The Patriots will likely keep doing plenty of substituting in passing situations and it's possible Harrison is serving in a linebacker-type role as part of those subpackages, but on running downs he'll remain at safety.
Paul Perillo

How significant do you think the loss of Rosevelt Colvin will be for the rest of the season? I am a little bummed as I want them to crush the Steelers in a few weeks and wonder if the defense would be adversely affected by his loss. I live in this black and gold hell called Pittsburgh now and don't see much of the Pats.
Don Peters

I wouldn't worry too much about it Don. Colvin's loss is not ideal, but it's also not the end of the world. The Patriots still have four quality, experienced linebackers to fill the roles if Bill Belichick decides to do it that way. He also could opt to use some four-man fronts if he wants to keep rotating the four healthy starters. Colvin's presence allowed Belichick to shift his personnel by using five players for four spots and if he sticks to the 3-4 he won't be able to do that. But as long as Bruschi, Seau, Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel stay healthy, I don't think Colvin's injury is a major concern.
Paul Perillo

I have a three-part question: How big of a blow is it to Pats D is losing Colvin and how do you envision them filling that void? Lastly what type of match up problems could this cause in a rematch with the Colts?Tim Arsenau

I pretty much answered the first part of that question in the previous post but I'll try to tackle parts two and three. My guess is that Thomas will slide to the outside with Vrabel while Bruschi and Seau man the inside spots when Belichick plays a 3-4. I also expect to see some more 4-3 with Bruschi and Seau rotating inside depending on the situation. Belichick brought in Chad Brown for his experience but I'm not sure we'll be seeing a lot of him unless there are more injuries to the corps down the stretch. I'm not sure the injury means anything in terms of defending the Colts specifically. Thomas and Vrabel are capable of getting pressure on the passer off the edge, and Thomas also is big and rangy enough to cause some trouble against Indy's passing game. Remember, Thomas didn't play much in the first meeting in Indy, so he could be a piece to the puzzle in a potential playoff rematch that could cause some trouble.
Paul Perillo

Another one bites the dust … Kareem Brown. In retrospect over the last couple of years for the most part the draft picks have been a major disappointment, including their last two No. 1s, Laurence Maroney and Brandon Meriweather. Sooner than later this will have a significant impact on an aging team that seems to rely too heavily on free agency. Is there a talent evaluation issue in the front office, and how much of a say does Bill Belichick have in the final draft selections?Jake Moran

I'll start with the last part of your question. Belichick has final say in all personnel decisions and he works in concert with Scott Pioli in determining which players the Patriots will draft. In terms of the busts you describe, I'm not sure I'm ready to label either player yet, especially not Meriweather. As a rookie taken at 24, the fact that he hasn't done much shouldn't be a total indictment of his ability. I'll admit that I thought we'd see more of him at this point but he evidently hasn't picked up the system as well as the coaches would have liked and therefore he's being brought along slowly. If he's not getting much defensive time next year, then maybe I'll join you and write him off. I'm less optimistic about Maroney, although with his injuries I'm not completely ready to label him either. Let's see him get more opportunities and see if he can establish any level of consistency. I'll admit it hasn't looked good after a year-plus, but there's still time for him to prove himself.
Paul Perillo

It appeared clear to me that the Eagles onside kick did not go 10 yards before an Eagle touched the ball. This was not challenged and I have not seen anyone else comment on it. Am I correct?Bob Blackwood

Not sure which game you were watching Bob, but it went almost 15 yards before Philly recovered it. The Patriots front line guys – Kelley Washington and Kyle Eckel were the two closest – all started retreating before the ball was kicked, which allowed the Eagles to easily move ahead and recover it at the 48-yard line, well beyond the 40, which represents the required 10 yards.
Paul Perillo

So here we are, in the push for playoff positioning and we are back where we started, potentially soft in the middle and vulnerable just as they were against a good offensive team (like the Colts) who can exploit two aging veterans (this is not meant at all to bash Junior or Tedy, it just recognizes that they are not the players they were in their prime given their age) who are not what they once were. I'm afraid that this team, as good as it has been, will have to try to outscore teams to win, when, we all know that teams that can prevent points are better suited in the playoffs.Dan Isenbarger

That may be the case but I'm not convinced yet. First, Bruschi and Seau, if they remain healthy, are a much better alternative than Bruschi and Eric Alexander, which was the case in Indy last year. There's a big 'if' there in terms of keeping them both healthy down the stretch, but if all four linebackers are able to do that then I don't see the gloom and doom scenario of having to outscore every team that you do. But more importantly, if that situation does occur, I really don't have a problem with that either. Personally, I think winning titles with defense is a bit of a myth. I think there are plenty of offense-dominated teams that have won it all, most recently Indy just a year ago. Now it's hard to win with just offense and no defense, but the Patriots won't be asked to do that even with a banged up linebacker corps. And if I had to have an offense outscoring teams in order to win, I'd choose Tom Brady and this Patriots version.
Paul Perillo

Although the Pats have a high scoring passing game to date, they need to be able to run the ball and don't do so. What's going on with Maroney? He's nonexistent and when he does get on the field, he is terrible. As the weather turns worse and games get closer, the running game needs to step up and be effective. What's your take and inside information on this and Maroney? (Bring back Dillon!)
PJ Dyring

My take on this is about as opposite as yours as you could possibly get. Why must the Patriots be able to run the ball? As long as the Patriots are moving the ball and putting points on the board, why must they run it? Brady has been successful in bad weather games in the past and there's no reason why that shouldn't continue. There's obviously a chance of terrible weather – like what happened with Pittsburgh and Miami a couple weeks ago – leveling the playing field and giving an underdog a shot. That won't have much to do with the running game, though, since Pittsburgh runs the ball pretty well but the conditions prevented them from doing so. Maroney has been troubling to watch this season, no doubt. But if he had to get 20 carries in a game then I'm reasonably confident the running game wouldn't look so bad. And if you really want to improve the ground game, why would you want to bring Corey Dillon back? He was out of shape last season and now hasn't played in almost a year. I'm picturing him sitting on his couch with Cheetos sprawled out on his ever-growing stomach. No thanks.
Paul Perillo

You cannot be serious. As John Madden said "I still don't see interference." After seeing the tape - after he saw it live - What advantage did you see? And saying that he got away with it before is no argument. Sometimes all you guys get things wrong too.
B Timbie

These are judgment calls and my view was the same as the officials' on this one. Assuming you're talking about Randy Moss' offensive interference in the end zone against Philly, I saw his run into the defender and when he came out of his break he gained separation by pushing off. In fairness to those who disagree, the replays NBC showed did not really give a good look to this because they kept picking up Moss after he'd already come out of his break and the contact had already taken place. I'm not saying my view is the only one, but I can tell you that live it certainly looked like interference and I never saw a replay that showed Moss before he cut away from the defender. But no one's saying we don't ever get things wrong.
Paul Perillo

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