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Ask PFW: Rocky Mountain High

The Patriots are off to Denver to battle the Broncos. Do they have what it takes to defeat the Broncos and Colts? Should the team select a young running back in this year's draft? The answer to those questions and more in this edition of Ask PFW.

At first I was concerned about the Pats going to Denver for the playoffs because of memories of their game during the regular season - a 28-20 Broncos win. After looking more closely at that game's stats and plays though, I'm much less anxious. Denver scored three touchdowns on major pass plays of 72, 55, and 68 yards with Duane Starks in coverage and against a defensive line depleted by injuries and unable to put any pressure on Jake Plummer. And they rushed for 178 yards. Even though the Pats were fielding Patrick Pass and Amos Zereoue as running backs, in our last four possessions Tom Brady was able to drive for three scores, failing only on the last. Fast forward to now: the Pats front seven are now stuffing the rush, pressuring the quarterback like crazy and the secondary has stabilized. The offense continues to put up numbers, averaging 29.6 points over the last five games. Looks good to me. I think Denver is in for a big surprise. Your thoughts?Peter Adair

I agree and disagree with you Peter. The part I disagree with you on is the first time the two teams played. For three quarters, that's about the worst butt whooping I can remember seeing the Patriots take. The Broncos did anything they wanted to do on offense and that's the worst punishment I've ever seen Brady take. I think the Broncos took their foot off the gas late in the third quarter and it almost came back to haunt them but in my opinion the game was much more one-sided than the score would indicate. Another thing to consider is the Patriots started to come back once Champ Bailey left the game with an injury. They didn't run the ball well against the Broncos at all. The Patriots only had 11 yards rushing at the half. All of the Patriots rushing yards came when the Broncos had a 28-3 lead and they were playing the pass. Early on when the game was still close and the Patriots tried to run the football they were stuffed every time. That could be a problem again this week.

Now for the part I agree with you on. The Patriots aren't even close to the same team that played the Broncos back in October. They are playing the run much better and when a team can shut down the Broncos running game, they become much easier to beat because everything they do on offense revolves around them running the football effectively. The other thing I like is the Patriots have had an opportunity to play a couple of rollout quarterbacks – Brooks Bollinger and J.P. Losman – in recent weeks. Now, obviously neither of those players is the caliber of Jake Plummer, but they were able to practice against those kinds of quarterbacks and they did a great job defending them. The bottom line is Seymour, Bruschi, Faulk, Dillon and Troy Brown didn't play and Hobbs didn't start against Denver the first time out and that's a big deal. I'm not sure about Bruschi's status for the game but my gut tells me he will play. My one concern with the Broncos is if the Patriots can't run the football at all, the Broncos will blitz Brady like crazy and that could cause problems. I'm not sure if the Broncos will be surprised because they know how good the Patriots are but they're in for a dogfight. Expect this to be a very physical football game with the team that controls the line of scrimmage coming away with the victory. I think with the way the Patriots are shutting down the run right now, they win a close one.
-Tom Casale

With all the fired coaches now available are the Pats interested in hiring someone for the offensive coordinator position?John Perreault

If Mike Martz isn't offered a head-coaching job, do you think the Patriots might try to hire him as our offensive coordinator?Timothy Billiel

I don't think the Patriots are going to be in the market for an offensive coordinator. They like Josh McDaniels and quite frankly, I think he's done a fine job this season calling plays. When you look at the injuries the Patriots have had at receiver, running back and the offensive line, he's really gotten the most of the players that were available to him. I don't think you can blame McDaniels for the running game. That falls on the shoulders of the backs who – lets be honest – have not run well this season. Plus, this is McDaniels first year calling plays. I think he's only going to get better as time goes on. I already see a marked improvement from the first half of the season up until now. As for Martz, forget it. Putting him and Belichick together is like putting a snake in a cage with a mongoose. I'll give you one guess who the snake would be in that scenario.
-Tom Casale

Tom Brady is darn right when he says the Pats get no respect and another example happened in the MVP voting. I can't believe Manning actually ended up with more votes than Brady and never mind Brady not getting the MVP, which he should have! What other player has been more valuable to their team? Other than Branch, Mankins and Neal, Brady has been the only starter on offense not injured all year long! MVP: Most valuable player! Not most touchdowns. Take Brady off of our beloved team and what do you have? Dolphins win the East. Take Manning off their team, they probably still make the playoffs. Take Shaun Alexander off of his team, they probably still win ten or so games and make the playoffs also. I honestly can't wait for the playoffs to come around so we can show everyone which is the best TEAM! Our defense is going to kick some people in the mouth! Go PATS!Brian Rompre

Come on guys, stop with the "Brady doesn't get any respect." The guy is being compared to arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history (Joe Montana) after only five seasons as a starter and he was just named Sportsman of the Year by SI. That's not bad for a guy who doesn't get any respect. Listen, the MVP is a joke. It really doesn't matter who wins it because the criteria changes every year. Now when you say Brady is the most valuable player in the NFL, I agree with you 100 percent. If Brady got injured in the preseason, I think the Patriots might be drafting Reggie Bush. In my opinion, Brady is the best player in the NFL and the most valuable to his team but even I can't say he doesn't get respect. When a player gets compared to Joe Montana at the age of 28, there's no higher honor than that for a quarterback. Trust me, I go into the opposing team's locker room every week and if I had a dollar for every time a player said Brady was the best quarterback in football and how much they respect him, I would be a rich man. Anybody who thought Brady was winning because he was just part of a system can no longer use that argument after his 2005 season. I'm not sure who Patriots fans think disrespect Brady but trust me; it's not the players and coaches around the NFL. As for the media, there are plenty of people in the media who love Brady so much it has to be sickening for fans of other teams. The disrespect thing is getting old. Lets put it to bed. Brady and the Patriots are great and 90% of the world thinks it so that should be good enough.
-Tom Casale

Great win Pats!! Great Article about Cedric Jones. Many young Pats fans don't remember this great team player. Before there was Troy Brown there was Cedric Jones. Listening to repeat of PFW in progress, (that is all I get here in Shenzhen, China), Tom Casale is absolutely right when he says now is the time to draft a stud running back. Sorry Fred Kirsch but LenDale White, is the man we should make every attempt to go after. ABC showed Tom Brady's passer rating as fantastic with play action. I like this guy Tom Casale. He tells it like it is and pulls no punches. Keep it up!Bob Sulik

Thanks Bob, I appreciate the comments. Believe me, it's a pleasure and an honor to be working for the best organizations in all of sports. I have a lot of opinions and I try to not be biased but no matter what I say, you can bet I'm up in the press box rooting like heck for the Patriots to win every week.

In my opinion, the Patriots need a young running back and they need one now. Let's be honest, it has been 17 games and the Patriots can't run the football. That's just a fact. Not only do I think Dillon is on the downside of his career, look at the other backs on this team. Kevin Faulk is great at what he does but the Patriots have no viable backup running backs and that was proven when Dillon went down this year. I'm sorry but I'm just not comfortable playing the better teams in the league with Patrick Pass and Heath Evans. I have loved LenDale White since last year. He reminds of Shaun Alexander with his patience and vision in the hole. He isn't as flashy as Reggie Bush but he's one heck of a running back who I think will have a great NFL career and be a future Pro Bowler. The problem with White is he may not come out and even if he does, he won't be around when the Patriots pick. His draft stock has been going through the roof and he now projects as a top ten pick if he leaves USC.

The one back that could slip who I think would also be a great fit in New England is Laurence Maroney. I love this guy. How great would it be to have a back in New England that could take it 90 yards to the house? Even last year, Dillon never broke any huge runs. Actually, when is the last time the Patriots had a runner who was a threat to score from anywhere on the field? That's the kind of threat Maroney is. Just imagine how much better Tom Brady and this offense would be if they had a home run hitter like Maroney in the backfield. I get giddy just thinking about it. He could go pretty high in the draft as well, I just have a feeling that one of the top backs may end up slipping to the Patriots because a lot of teams drafted young running backs last season. Until I start watching film on players, go to the combine and talk to more people, I won't have a good grasp on who is going where so these are just hunches right now. Beware of the draft stuff you read on the Internet because most of it is garbage. I've been covering the draft for a while so I'm speaking from experience. I will be leading our draft coverage here at and believe me, we're going to have a ton of draft stuff in the coming months. This is going to be draft central for all Patriots fans. You can take that to the bank. Some other running backs coming out I like that you may want to keep an eye on are: Joseph Addai (LSU), Wali Lundy (Virginia), Wendell Mathis (Fresno State), and Dontrell Moore (New Mexico). It's still early to talk draft and the Patriots need help at other positions as well but I think getting a young running back who can carry the load has to be a top priority in New England this offseason.
-Tom Casale

Dear PFW, a great win on Saturday (Sunday Australia time). The Pats are almost back to the "old Pats". Now I'm writing to you because I was looking over the game against the Jaguars and I thought to myself, people have been saying for a wile now that the Pats need to draft a really good running back and mould him for after Dillon goes or get a back from the free agency that is capable of taking the running duties handed to him. Well I think we really need to open our eyes and see that we already have a capable running back that can take care of the running duties for the Pats and his name is KEVIN FAULK! I mean dang why hasn't this guy been given a chance? He can run very well (don't tell me he cant just look at his stats) he can also catch out of the backfield. Now why in God's name don't people (or coaching staff) give this guy the respect he deserves and let him start? I mean I'm one of the biggest Dillon fans there is but put him in as backup as clearly his time is over. We can all see that. I mean just look at the last game, Dillon averaged 2.5, while Faulk averaged 8.5. Yes Kevin is as old as Dillon but because he has been a "backup" for so long I think he has a lot left in the tank and a lot to offer and would have a season or two left in him. What do you guys reckon? Jan Yaakoob

I have to disagree with you on this one Jan. Faulk is a great player and he does a lot of things for the Patriots but he isn't an every down back in the NFL. You can't give Faulk 20-25 carries over a 16-game season. He just isn't that kind of running back. The Patriots know that and I would say even he knows that. That's why he's so comfortable in his role. He knows catching the ball out of the backfield and being a change-of-pace back is how he's going to earn his money at this level. Think about it. If Faulk was the undisputed starter, teams would actually gameplan to stop him. Remember in Dallas when everyone was calling for Troy Hambrick to replace Emmitt Smith because Hambrick looked good every time he ran the ball? It's a lot different when you are the main man opposed to being someone who gets 8-10 carries a game. I'm not saying Faulk is a stiff like Hambrick – he's a very good player – but he has his limits and the Patriots coaching staff uses him the right way. If they want to start Faulk for the rest of this season, that's fine because we've waited 17 games for Dillon to get going and it's just not happening. Faulk is a great player to have on your team because he can do so many things well but being the primary ball carrier over a 16-game season isn't one of them.
-Tom Casale

More than one ACL tear against Pittsburgh this year? I would question if this were more than a coincidence. Brady may want to practice with some protective gear (for the knees), a reinforced knee brace with sidebars like Matt Leinart wears.Jarrod James

First off, what a big playoff win for the Patriots! Secondly, those dirty Pittsburgh Steelers should be investigated by the league for tackling low on quarterbacks in the playoffs. They knocked Carson Palmer out of the game and they did the same thing to Tom Brady a couple of years ago in the AFC Championship and knocked him out of the game. Dirty rotten Steelers! GO PATS!!!Mike Smith

Listen, I saw all three plays you guys are referring to and I don't think they were dirty at all. How anyone can think the play where Rodney Harrison got hurt was dirty is beyond me. Cedric Wilson got blocked into him and it was just a freak thing. Plus, we all know Harrison. If he thought it was dirty, he would already be threatening Wilson's life and telling him what is going to happen when he gets back on the field.

As for the Palmer and Brady play, I think those are just freak plays. The same exact thing happened to Ben Roethlisberger against the Chargers. I think the Steelers have a reputation of being a physical football team but I don't see Bill Cowher being the kind of coach that tells his players to go out and hurt people intentionally. I could be wrong but that's how I see it. I should also mention that former players around here, players on the Bengals and Carson Palmer himself all said to a man that the play wasn't dirty and they know a heck of a lot more than I do.
-Tom Casale

Hi. I am confused by the fact that Matt Cassel appeared on the inactive list for Saturday night's game against the Jaguars but is listed as playing the final down of the game. (These items are both posted in the official game summary sections of My assumption is that anyone on the inactive list doesn't even dress for the game - let alone play in the game. How did this happen? Should a penalty have been called? Glad the Pats won but I'd like to know how this could happen.John Arnold

How does the inactive player thing work? I noticed that Matt Cassel was listed as inactive for the game against the Jags, yet he still came in at the very end for a handoff. I thought that players listed as inactive are not allowed to play?Nathan

You are both correct. Inactive players aren't allowed to play but there is one exception. Every team lists one quarterback as their designated third quarterback and he's inactive but he can come into the game and play at any time. However, if the quarterback on the inactive list comes in and plays, no other quarterback on the roster is allowed to come into the game until the fourth quarter. For instance, if Cassel was inactive and came into the game in the first quarter, Flutie or Brady wouldn't be allowed to play until the fourth quarter started. These rules are the same for every team in the league. Hope this helps clear things up.
-Tom Casale

Is there a chance that the AFC Championship Game could be held in New England this season? If so, what has to happen?Al Johnson

Yes, it's a very simple scenario. The Patriots have to beat the Broncos and the Steelers have to beat the Colts. If this were to happen, the Patriots would host the Steelers next week. Of course, that means the top two seeds in the AFC would have to lose and that doesn't happen often but stranger things have happened. And as we know, if the Steelers come to Foxborough, we can start packing for Detroit because the Patriots don't lose at home in the playoffs. Actually, they don't lose on the road either.
-Tom Casale

Was Troy Brown in on defense (and I thought he performed admirably again, man I love that guy!!!!) a lot more against the Jags than he had been all year? And if so, what does that say about the state of the rest of the secondary?Jason Miller

I wanted to know is the Pats defense is good enough in the secondary to challenge the wide receivers of the Colts and Broncos?Alex Alvarado

Yes, Troy Brown played quite a bit on defense against Jacksonville. Brown hasn't played much on defense this year but Belichick said after the game Brown was used more because the Jaguars were running a lot of three and four receiver sets. What it says about the secondary is it isn't very deep. After you get past Hobbs and Samuel at corner, it's pretty much a crapshoot. I would say moving forward into the playoffs, Brown is the Patriots fourth cornerback behind Hobbs, Samuel and Hank Poteat.

As far as the Patriots secondary matched up against the Broncos and Colts receivers goes, I think they'll do okay against Denver but Indy could be another story. Let's be honest, if Indy is clicking of offense inside that dome, there isn't a secondary in the NFL that can stop them. If the Patriots and Colts meet in the AFC Championship Game, it's going to be up to the front seven to have a big game. The Chargers don't have a great secondary but their defensive front put so much pressure on Manning, he didn't have a chance to burn the San Diego defensive backs on a consistent basis. The same thing will have to happen for the Patriots. If they can pressure Manning and get him off his rhythm, they have a good chance to win. If Manning has time to sit and the pocket and look for his receivers, the Patriots secondary will get picked apart.
-Tom Casale

Why do they put Danny Klecko on the inactive roster for playoff games? I noticed the same thing last year and now this year already. Thanks.Herb Richards

Belichick dresses the players who are healthy that he believes gives the team their best chance to win. He has said this time and time again during his press conferences. Klecko's role on this team seems to be declining and he will have a battle in training camp next year to make the roster. Look at this way: the Patriots activated Santonio Thomas off the practice squad and put Klecko on the inactive list for a playoff game. Dan is a great guy but that's not good news in regards to his future with this team. Also, Klecko has been on the inactive list a number of times during the regular season as well.
-Tom Casale

I believe that Dillon will count for several million dollars against the cap next season. I was wondering if it would be prudent for the Patriots to ask him to take a salary reduction or release him? Despite his touchdown production, his overall production has really dropped off this year. Watching the Jaguars game, Dillon really only had two decent runs. By cutting him, or reducing his salary, perhaps the Patriots could re-sign Givens, and/or give Seymour and other key players extensions.Chris Brownlee

Unofficially, if Dillon is cut he will cost the Patriots just over $5 million next year. It's really hard to say right now what the team will do with Dillon in the future. If you want my opinion, he's close to being finished. Running backs like Dillon hit the wall and they hit it fast. He's a big back that's taken a lot of punishment over the years and he doesn't seem to have the speed or quickness that he had just last season. All you need to do is look at Eddie George. The guy is in tremendous shape and still has the heart to play football but he just can't get through the holes anymore. It's that simple. I think the Patriots may ask Dillon to take a pay cut in the offseason and if they do, I don't imagine it will go over well. I don't think you have to worry about Seymour going anywhere. The Patriots brass is too smart to let that happen. Givens, on the other hand, I'm a little more concerned about. I'm hoping they'll re-sign him but I'm afraid he will be able to command more money on the open market. One more comment on Dillon. Those who think he's injured, did he look hurt against Buffalo? I don't think so. I think against a bad defense like the Bills, he can still do some damage but every time he's played against a good team, he's done nothing. I'm sorry but we all have eyes. We all see it. There has to be something to it if every single Patriots fan on the planet is noticing the same thing. Dillon's future with the Patriots will be a hot topic this offseason. That much I'm sure of.
-Tom Casale

Are there any current players that wore the original uniform when they started with the Patriots? (The red shirt with the white helmet)Shaune Reardon

The only player this applies to would be Doug Flutie during his first stint in New England. No other current Patriots player has worn those uniforms except for the one time when all the NFL teams wore throwback uniforms a few years ago. It's a shame too. I have always loved those uniforms. I know a lot of people hate them – even though more and more people are now getting nostalgic for them – but I always loved the red jerseys with the white helmets. Unfortunately, there are no plans to bring back the uniforms any time soon so I guess they will just have to live in our memory.
-Tom Casale

I suggested to you about 11 months ago to hire people to take notes on how the coaches coach and prepare the players and document every day specific players routines, based on their player position. The Krafts don't want to lose all of the training knowledge; suffer from year to year from the rest of the NFL picking off the coaches. If Eric Mangini leaves, he'll take at least one other assistant coach with him. Every player position drill and their reps should be archived and documented so Krafts don't lose the knowledge on how to train these players, based on coverage, based on system, strength training, speed drills, defensive system, etc. I hope that you listened to my suggestion because there may be yet another coach gone. Other teams will want to interview Mangini; they just haven't got around to it yet. Archive player's drills, their strength and conditioning programs, their training schedules for each day AM to PM; lock it in a safe. Every 2-3 days, have the person taking notes submit a paper copy, to the Krafts. This way a new coach can step in and come up to speed on the overall system and training program right away; the methods do not leave when the coach leaves the Patriots organization. Playbooks should be archived as well.Vinnie

No comment. I just posted this for your viewing pleasure. Sometimes we need a good laugh during the day and I hope this helped.
-Tom Casale

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