What do you guys think the chances of the Patriots retaining Asante Samuel are? It seems that Samuel is just as important to the defense as Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour are.
I think Samuel a solid young cornerback and those aren't easy to find. He's gotten better each year since he was drafted back in 2003. The Patriots have obviously invested a lot of time into his development and to watch him walk as a free agent after this season would be disappointing. But it also wouldn't be wise to just open the checkbook and pay him whatever he wants and I don't think the Patriots will do that. Cornerbacks, even average ones, can make big bucks on the open market. Guys like Ken Lucas and Anthony Henry received double-digit signing bonuses when they signed as free agents over the past couple of seasons. Samuel is at least on par with players like that so unless you're willing to offer significant money you might have to make a tough choice and let him go. In other words, I want Samuel back and believe he's a solid corner but I'm not willing to do that at any cost.
It was great to see Asante Samuel come up with three picks against the Bears. We all love turnovers. However, on the website after the game, it was noted that this was the first three interception game for a Patriot since 1983. Now I know for sure that Ty Law had three picks against Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship game a few years ago. Maybe postseason stats are different. But I also seem to remember Jimmy Hitchcock picking off Dan Marino three times in a game, and this must have been in the regular season. Can you guys check this out?
You're right about Law's three interceptions coming in the playoffs so it doesn't apply to this record. But Jimmy Hitchcock never had three interceptions in one game against Dan Marino. I'm assuming you're remembering a game from 1997 when the Patriots picked off Marino three times and returned two of them for touchdowns. But Hitchcock only had one of those while Larry Whigham made the other two. Samuel was the sixth Patriot to record three picks in a regular-season game and Roland James was the last to do it according to the Patriots media guide.
Shortly after the end of last season I warned that Asante Samuel was a young, underrated player on the rise and that the Patriots should re-sign him before his value went up and he hit the open market. Despite having plenty of cap space to get an extension done for this cap year, we stood pat. Well, now the price has gone up. I think losing Samuel next year would as big or bigger loss than any of Givens, McGinest, Vinatieri or even Branch. Do you think there's much of a chance now that the Patriots will offer him the huge contract he'll be asking for at the end of the season?Robbie Mitchnick
I remember when you said that and I told Scott Pioli but evidently he didn't listen. In all seriousness, we don't if the Patriots did try to re-sign him before now and Samuel simply didn't want to do that. It would certainly be understandable for Samuel to want to wait until he became an unrestricted free agent before signing in order to maximize his value. You're right in saying his price has gone up. But Samuel knew that too and that's why he probably didn't want to re-sign before the season. So it might be tough for the team but assuming Samuel remains healthy he'll be in line for more money than he would have gotten had he signed in the offseason.
There was 3:26 left in the game, the Pats had the ball and were up 17-13. Brady hits Caldwell for 22 yards and Caldwell runs for the sideline. I know he was trying for more yards, but you've got to know the situation and know when to get down and run out the clock. That play took eight seconds. It could have forced the Bears to use a timeout (not likely, since it got a first down) or, even better, run another 30 seconds or so off the clock. Against a good team, plays like that can mean the difference between winning and losing. I was yelling at the TV more on that play than on any of the pass interference calls.Eric Theall
If it's true that play made you more upset than any other during the game then I suggest you switch to decaf. I understand your point and it's a good one. Caldwell would have been better off simply falling to the ground rather than venturing toward the sideline. But with the way the ball was coming loose in that game how could you blame anyone for playing it safe? The important thing was picking up the yardage that resulted in a first down and allowed the Patriots to keep the ball away from Chicago. If Corey Dillon had run out of bounds instead of fumbling, then Chicago never would have had a chance to win at the end. At the very least the Patriots should have been lining up for a field goal that would have given them a touchdown lead.
Did any journalists actually watch the Pats game? It doesn't seem like they saw the play that Junior Seau was hurt. On the TV it looked fairly horrific (his arm flexing where it's clearly not meant to), I hope that it isn't the end of his career but fear it may be. Would he get a ring if the Pats won the Super Bowl?Richard Evans
I'm not sure which journalists you're talking about with regard to Seau's injury. As soon as it happened everyone in the press box immediately deemed him gone for the season. I know I personally wrote that it was serious and the outlook was not good. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald did so as well. I didn't see anyone write that it wasn't a significant injury. But to answer your question, Seau would absolutely would be eligible to receive a ring if the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
No sacks given up to the "best defense" by the Pats offensive line? That's stellar. Do you guys think that we have possibly the best offensive line in the league? Every year we seem to have a rookie lineman and somehow we still keep Brady off the grass. Whose our line coach? He needs to get a long contract extension.
The Patriots offensive line did a great job against Chicago, but the Bears aren't known for having a strong pass rush. They entered the game with just 25 sacks on the year. That puts the Bears in the middle of the pack (they rank 15th in sacks per pass play in the NFL). That doesn't mean the Patriots offensive line was excellent in the game. They gave Brady plenty of time to throw and that was a huge part of the offense's success. As for the line's coach, that would be Dante Scarnecchia and there's no need to tie him up long term because he's spent all but two of his 20-plus NFL seasons here in New England. He does a great job and is one of the most respected coaches in the league.
How do you think James Sanders has been playing? To me, he looks a lot like Tebucky Jones out there, which as we know can be either pretty good or pretty bad.
I think Sanders has been steady in his two starts the last couple of weeks. I thought he did a really good job tackling as the last line of defense on a number of occasions. Safeties have to be sure tacklers and Sanders certainly appears to be just that. Earlier in the season I thought the Broncos took advantage of his lack of experience and picked on him a bit. I haven't seen teams getting away with that the last two weeks so that's a good sign that he is learning. Overall I'm, pretty encouraged by his performance – but I'm still hoping Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson can get back out there soon.
I thought the Pats did really well in getting a first-round pick for Deion Branch. With the 49ers surging and the Seahawks injured do you think that the Seahawks may finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs (well in the NFC 8-8 may make it) and give the Pats a much lower than anticipated first-round pick?
I think the pick will already be better than we anticipated because of Seattle's devastating injuries. Not too many teams can overcome the long-term loss of it NFL MVP running back and Pro Bowl quarterback. But the Seahawks managed to stay afloat and at 7-4 I'd say it would nearly impossible for them to finish 8-8. I also think there close to a lock to make the playoffs as the NFC West winners so the best the pick would be is around 20 or so. Still, given how well they played last year that's better than the Patriots could have hoped – unless they get hot and make it to the Super Bowl again.
In your opinion, would another coach have achieved the same results with Tom Brady as quarterback, as Coach Belichick would have achieved with another quarterback? In other words, does Belichick's system make Brady or does Brady make the system work?Eric M.
Interesting that the head coach of the Jets – Eric M. – would be wondering just how good Brady and Belichick are. Anyway, I think this is one of the greatest potential sports debates in New England history. There are indisputable numbers at work here that would support the Brady side. Belichick was a head coach for six years plus two games before Brady started a game. In that time he had a record of 41-57 and had won just one playoff game. Since Brady took over things have improved slightly – OK, dramatically. With Brady as his quarterback Belichick's record is 76-24, including 10-1 in the postseason. But I personally think Belichick has had a lot to do with Brady's success, too. That's what makes this question such a fascinating debate. If Brady went to a team with a different coach that didn't utilize his strengths as well as Belichick has perhaps he wouldn't be as successful. For example, if Brady was constantly asked to stretch the field and go deep all the time and not encouraged to go underneath and take what the defense gave him, perhaps his success rate wouldn't be as high. But Brady's great decision-making and all-around understanding of the game make him a cut above virtually everyone, so I could see him succeeding in almost any situation. Too tough to call but I'm going to lean toward Belichick's system having more to do with Brady's success than Brady making Belichick's system.
I have written in before about a variety of "bad" Patriots managing decisions but the pickup of Ken Walter tops it all. I understand he has played in crappy conditions and a couple Super Bowls but this guy is horrid. To this day when I play football with my friends and I kick a crappy punt, which by the way could potentially surpass any punt Ken could kick, I refer to myself as Ken Walter. Why bring in this guy when he has been gone for a while and has proven nothing?Jeff Thomson
What exactly is Josh Miller's season ending injury? Ken "Cringe" Walter as punter is a scary prospect so why not at least try the guy on the practice squad?
Not much love for Ken Walter – but I can actually understand why. Walter simply did not punt well for most of his time in a Patriots uniform. In 2001 he was very good but in 2002 and 2003 that was not the case. Things really bottomed out in 2003 to the point where he was let go for a week before Belichick brought him back. To the best of my knowledge from listening to Belichick, the reason he's here has more to do with his holding than his punting. I'm not sure I agree with that but that was the reason given. Personally I've never seen a holder consistently having trouble doing his job to the point where it would be an issue. So even if Walter was the best at that job, how much difference would there be between him and say, Matt Cassel, who is the Patriots backup holder? My guess would be not much but thankfully I'm not the one making those decisions.
What do you think are the chances of Benjamin Watson making the Pro Bowl? I know the touchdowns are low but what are the chances in your opinion?
I'd say there's a chance Watson could make it but he'd have to really pick it up down the stretch. He's behind four tight ends in terms of receptions and three of those guys – Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Todd Heap – have all been to Pro Bowls before. We both know that Pro Bowl voting can be about as much as reputation as anything else so knocking an established guy out is tough without overwhelming numbers. Kellen Winslow is actually leading the AFC in receptions by a tight end with 66 and I don't believe he is a lock to pass the aforementioned group. Watson has 44 catches for 599 yards with three touchdowns. His yardage is impressive compared to Winslow (13.3 per catch to 9.8). Still, Watson might have to do it again next year before he receives serious consideration. Personally, I'd take Gonzalez and Gates over anyone at that position.
During the Bears game, Brady's first INT didn't seem like an INT. Benjamin Watson caught the pass and had possession of it probably for a good second or two. Then it got hit by a Bears defender and it was forced out of his grasp. Why was Brady charged an interception? Shouldn't it have been called a fumble?John Harnois
There's no question that had the ball hit the ground it would have been called an incomplete pass because Watson was hit immediately after catching the ball. We've seen countless plays this year where receivers have made the catch and turned to run a couple of strides before losing the ball and they've been called incomplete. This one wasn't even close. Todd Johnson put his helmet right on the football and knocked it in the air. If Charles Tillman wasn't there to catch it, it would have been an incomplete pass. But now that I think of it, what difference does it make whether the turnover was considered a fumble or an interception? Either way the result was the same – the Patriots lost the ball and a chance to score.