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Ask PFW: Picking up Packers pieces

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Watching players like Julian Edelman, Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and others battle through injuries, and then seeing Aaron Dobson barely able to make it through four plays without contact is frankly the last straw. Don Jones was a far more valuable player for the Pats in his short stint than Dobson has been in two years and I feel it was a mistake to cut him rather than Dobson. How long do the Pats wait before they conclude Dobson has reached Chad Jackson-like status and cut bait?**
Tony D.

I have to say I'm sharing your frustration with Dobson. I had such high hoped for him coming into this season. I thought his second year in the system would pay dividends but foot surgery took his entire offseason away and now he's little more than an afterthought. He's contributed nothing to the team in 2014 and when he finally gets a chance to play he appeared to injure his hamstring. I also agree that Jones appeared to be a contributor on special teams and was a curious cut prior to the Green Bay game. Perhaps there's a story there that we don't know about but it certainly doesn't make sense to cut a player who is contributing while keeping Dobson on the roster. I understand Dobson is a recent second-round pick and it might be too early to cut him loose, but at this point I wouldn't be against it if a roster spot is needed elsewhere.
Paul Perillo

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I was just wondering why we didn't run the ball a lot more against the Packers? Isn't the packers defense ranked 30th against the rush? I really think that if we would have given them a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray we would have won that game.**
Todd Patton

This was the No. 1 question coming out of the Packers game and it remains somewhat of a mystery. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady explained how the lack of offensive plays (the Patriots ran just 54 in the game) prevented the team from running more. It's also worth noting that early in the game the Patriots failed to pick up a first down on two rushing attempts in short-yardage situations, so perhaps that discouraged them from sticking with it much more than that. I do think the team could have run it more, though, and perhaps panicked a bit too soon while watching Aaron Rodgers tear the defense apart. Trailing by two scores the Patriots knew they needed to score to stem the tide, and anytime New England has needed to score it generally does so by throwing the football. In retrospect I believe Belichick would have kept the ball on the ground a bit more often and forced Green Bay to prove it could stop the run before getting away from it.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, thanks for letting me out of the doghouse. But two carries? Come on I earned more than that. What's my role gonna be this week against SD?
Jonas Gray

Maybe one reason you're in the doghouse is your trouble with numbers. First you couldn't tell time and showed up late, now you get one carry and think it was two.
Paul Perillo

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Team photographer, David Silverman, offers his best photos from the Patriots game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, November 30, 2014.

The pundits have heaped praise on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, seemingly implying that the Patriots are no match for the Packers. From my point of view there was only one play separating the Patriots and the Packers in their game last Sunday, which was the pass to Jordy Nelson at the end of the first half. Without that play the Patriots would have won, and considering that they had many fewer opportunities to score their points, they had a very good game. Their loss and the follow-up chatter may have been a good thing.**
Margie Chastain

I didn't get that feeling based off what I read and heard following the loss to the Packers. Instead I heard a lot of people claiming it was a very well played game between two very good teams and the home team made a few more plays to win. Nowhere did I hear anyone imply that the Patriots were overmatched in any way. And I'm also not sure why the Patriots had fewer opportunities to score. They had the ball as often as the Packers did. Green Bay just moved it better and that's why they score more. I don't ever believe losses are good things so I also don't share your view that it will be beneficial in any way. Now the Patriots are likely in a situation where they'll need to win out in order to secure the top seed.
Paul Perillo

Call me a homer but the Patriots being officiated more strictly than their opponents. Marginal calls in critical situations. How many first downs via penalty when the Patriots stop their opponents on third down?
Brett Larson

Homer. My major complaint with the officiating is often times it becomes too much a part of the game. But I don'r believe the calls strongly benefit one team over the other. The answer to your specific question from last week's game is one. The Patriots were called for one penalty on third down that gave the Packers a first down. The Patriots also committed a penalty on second down that resulted in a penalty. Green Bay also was called for a penalty on a failed third down that led to a Patriots first down. In general, I'd rather the refs just let the players play and for the most part that's what happened at Lambeau with each team flagged four times each. I didn't see the marginal calls in critical situations that you're referring to.
Paul Perillo

Can the Patriots activate Sealver Siliga and place Dobson on the non-season ending IR?
Jake Logan

That's absolutely a possibility, especially considering Dobson's hamstring injury suffered against Green Bay. Dobson has provided little this season and Siliga could help the run defense if healthy. That actually makes a lot of sense at this point.
Paul Perillo

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Is Brandon Browner getting reputation calls, as I've heard them referred to, or are we going to live or die with his hands-on style?**
Michael Monk

Here's where we might have some refs conspiracy stuff to chew on. I think Browner is definitely victimized by not only his reputation but also his sheer size. He's so big that he sometimes looks like he's beating up opposing receivers but in actuality when you watch the replay sometimes the contact isn't as egregious as it may have originally appeared. There's no doubt in my mind that Revis would not draw flags for similar contact because his reputation is the opposite of Browner's. In fact, Revis made a particularly pass defense against the Packers and when they showed the replay his hands were all over Jordy Nelson before the ball arrived. Had Browner done the same thing I bet it would have been a penalty. Obviously there's no way to prove this, but my feeling is refs are always influenced by the caliber of players involved in plays. It happens in every sport.
Paul Perillo

So do you think James Develin should have played? Maybe help make a few more holes in the Packers 30th-ranked rush D. And how many more stupid things can Josh McDaniels do before he gets kicked to the curb? That should have happened a long time ago.
Matt Lucia

I agree with you about Develin but not about McDaniels. Develin should have been an element of the game plan offensively for the Patriots against the Packers. I believe they should have run the football more often and done so in traditional run formations with a heavy package including Develin and an extra tight end. For some reason they didn't agree and Develin only got a handful of snaps. That might have been due to the fact that New England fell behind early but I would not have allowed that to affect my game plan. As for McDaniels, I believe the Patriots have been among the most productive offenses in football for years and he's been a big part of that. He was successful when Matt Cassel was the quarterback and he's been successful with Brady working with several new targets. Now he's been successful with Brady at this best over the past two months and the team is one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. I don't want to see McDaniels go, although at some point I believe that he inevitably will when someone offers him a job he can't refuse.
Paul Perillo

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I disagree with your postgame notes on the "encouraging" loss to the Packers. The game showed that Patriots have several not championship-caliber areas, which were known but somehow concealed by the wins over weaker opponents. For instance, our pass rush is not great, our run D could use Jerod Mayo when facing elite running backs, after Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty there is a noticeable drop-off in the secondary and our O-line with Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell at guards yet again unable to stand up to an elite defensive front. Now, no team can have it all, but would you agree that the Packers are a more complete team than Pats?**
Ben D.

I'm not willing to say that at all. In fact I thought Sunday's game was a good battle between two very good teams. Are the Patriots the best team in the league? I don't know, maybe, but being the best team in the league in December doesn't mean anything and nothing I saw at Lambeau Field made me think the Patriots don't have a chance to win it all this season. Yes, the pass rush is not the most potent in the league and it was non-existent against the Packers. Chandler Jones should be back at some point this season, though, and he could add something to that area. I don't think the run defense is as big of an issue as you do. Eddie Lacy is a good back and he got off to a hot start but over the last three quarters the Patriots held him in check. I don't expect the run defense to be a huge concern in the playoffs, especially against teams like Denver or Indianapolis. Maybe Seattle could hurt them in that regard should they meet in the Super Bowl, but that's a long way off. The secondary is as deep as it's ever been and Brandon Browner has played better the last two games. Kyle Arrington has also been productive. And the offensive line has done a pretty good job over the past two months after a shaky start. Are the Patriots perfect? Not by a long shot, but one loss did nothing to change my opinion that this is a very good football team.
Paul Perillo

The lack of a pass rush in the Packer game was so obvious Ray Charles could see it. They'll get into the playoffs again and it will be one and done again without it. The defensive line needs to be rebuilt.
Ott Reid

Chandler Jones practiced last week and could be back soon. If he's healthy that will improve the pass rush greatly. Rob Ninkovich also will benefit from Jones' return as he'll get less attention on the other side. Yes, the rush needs to improve, and perhaps the Patriots will become more aggressive in terms of blitzing on occasion in order to get that done. But I thought they got some timely heat on Peyton Manning against Denver and Andrew Luck in Indy two weeks later. I'm not willing to say that just because they didn't pressure Aaron Rodgers means they'll be out of the playoffs as a result. No need for wholesale changes just yet.
Paul Perillo

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