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Ask PFW: Stretch run

Dear PFW: Every week we see the stat that the Patriots have now won 37 consecutive games in which they entered the fourth quarter with a lead and have won 30 consecutive games in which they have led at halftime. But in what game were the Pats last defeated when leading at the half? When leading at the start of the fourth quarter? My guess for the last time the Pats lost when leading at the half would be against the Broncos in 2001 when Brady threw 4 INTs in the fourth quarter. I have no guess for the other record. Thanks for helping solve the confusion.
Mark Damiano

Mark, your guess is correct. The last time the Pats blew a halftime lead was at Denver on Oct. 28, 2001. They led the Broncos 17-10 at the half, but Tom Brady threw four picks in the fourth quarter and they lost 31-20.
The last time the Pats lost a game where they led entering the fourth quarter was in the 2000 season finale against Miami at Foxboro on Dec. 24, 2000. The Pats led 24-17 going into the fourth, but the Fins came back to win 27-24. That was also the bizarre game where the teams came back from the locker rooms to play the final three seconds.
With the two current streaks the Patriots have set a post NFL/AFL merger record for consecutive wins when leading entering the fourth quarter and have tied the post-merger record for consecutive wins when leading at the half.
Andy Hart

How is it that Corey Dillon has a throw back jersey in the Pro Shop, but Tedy Bruschi doesn't? The guy is an icon for the Patriots D and I think he clearly deserves one. Tell the higher ups to get cracking on it. Oh and the site is great. Go PatsMike Kowalczyk

Settle down, Mike. Both players have throwback jerseys in the Pro Shop. Bruschi's is actually the biggest seller and is sold out right now. That's why you didn't see it. While Bruschi may not get the respect he deserves nationally, he does get it around here.
Andy Hart

What ever happened to the Patriots third round pick Guss Scott, I haven't heard anything about him?? Is he on injured reserved? And also how come the Pats haven't brought back seventh round pick Christian Morton when all these injuries happened, was he that bad in the preseason? And one final question, if the season ended today would the Pats have to go through the Colts and the Steelers to make it back to the big dance??Eric Buckley

So many questions. First Guss Scott is on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in the preseason. As for Morton, he clearly did not impress the coaches here during the preseason. After being cut at the end of camp he was signed to the team's practice squad. He was then released from there on Sept. 22. He later spent time on Cleveland's practice squad but was released there as well. With all the injuries that the Patriots have had and the fact that the rookie draft pick had some experience in the system, the fact that he wasn't brought back speaks to how little the team thought of him and his abilities. And finally, if the season ended today the Patriots would be the number two seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh would be number one and the Colts would be fourth. Pittsburgh would hold home field throughout the postseason.
Andy Hart

I know Richard Seymour is widely considered not only our best, but also one of the league's best defensive lineman. But am I wrong in saying that THIS year, Ty Warren has had a better year? It seems like every game he makes numerous plays and is always in the backfield. Any Pro Bowl talk for Warren? Second question: If Troy Brown was just a defensive back, how would you rate his play this year? I know its been "pretty good for a receiver turned cornerback", but how is he doing as compared to regular DBs? Also, do you think his career might be lengthened (hopefully with the Pats) by being a 4th receiver and 4th DB for the next 2-3 years?Ian

I think Ty Warren is having a very good season, but I don't think he has reached a Pro Bowl level just yet. Let's remember that while Warren may be putting up similar numbers to Seymour, he benefits greatly from playing opposite an All-Pro. Other team's game plan to stop Seymour, Warren hasn't reached that level yet. Enjoy the development of another young, first round pick defensive lineman, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. If things for both Seymour and Warren can continue to be so positive all I can say to opposing offensive lines is good luck.
My feelings on Brown's play at corner are similar. I think what he has been able to do has been unbelievably remarkable. But I also think Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel have done a good job in not asking Brown to do too much. They basically ask him to cover opposing slot receivers and run with them all over the field. He has done a very good job at that and I think that should be rewarded by the team. If Brown wants to be back here next year, he should be. I don't care about the contract numbers or anything like that. He's done everything this team has asked, laying his body on the line, and that is admirable. I know team's get in trouble when they let emotions come into play on business decisions, but make an exception here. Brown is everything a coach could ask for in a player and an example to his teammates.
Andy Hart

Hey Ask PFW,I remember just 5 weeks ago the sky was falling when the Patriots lost to Pittsburgh. Now 5 blowouts in a row except maybe the Monday Night game against Kansas City and things look a little bit different, don't they? I remember people saying the Patriots can't stop the run. Now five weeks later I looked up the stats and the Patriots are 5th in the league against the run. I believe Vince Wilfork is hands down the rookie of the year. He is playing the toughest position in football and nobody is talking about this guy. Do you agree with that?Wince Fork

I do not agree. Wilfork doesn't even start for this defense and if you are talking about the best rookie in the game have you heard of a guy by the name of Ben Roethlisberger? The rookie quarterback has led the Steelers to an 11-1 record and hasn't lost as a starter while completing 67-percent of his passes with 14 TDs and 6 INTs. And considering that the ROY awards are offensive and defensive there are number of other rookie defenders that are having better years including Michael Boulware, Jonathan Vilma and Sean Taylor. Wilfork is playing well at a very tough position and his early success says a lot for his future at nose tackle, especially since young defensive linemen generally make huge strides in year-two. But he isn't a real rookie of the year candidate. And as far as the run defense goes, they have done a better job lately although it has come against some questionable competition. Kansas City was without Priest Holmes and Baltimore was without Jamal Lewis. In my opinion the key to the ground success is the resurgence of middle linebacker Ted Johnson. The 10-year veteran is playing like it's the late '90s again and that has made the middle of the defense much stronger. But the unit has been better as a whole and that should go a long way in making this team a very formidable defensive force down the stretch and heading into the postseason.
Andy Hart

Hey Guys I'm very pleased about many things, the website being one, of them. I dig the radio shows! It makes me feel like I'm back home in Ole Melrose, MA! The WEEI feed is great and so is PFW email show ! The PATS are going to the Super Bowl! I can feel it, and taste it.......PATS VS EAGLES. What a game! I have not checked the last few weeks Q&A so if this has been covers sorry. Here is my question If at the end of the season lets say the Pats and Steelers have the same record and they meet in the play-offs how does the tie breaking work? Is it in favor of the CHAMPS because the "pits" (ya as in arm pits) lost to one of there division teams (Baltimore)? If not how's it work ? Second a second question is not that important but I have always wondered what are those skinny little elbow bands that some players wear suppose to do? Are they for looks cause they can't be protective I don't remember seeing any PATS wearing them so what's up with them? Keep On Keepin on
Hammerin Hank

If the Steelers and Patriots end with the same record, say at this point 15-1, the Steelers win the tie breaker because they defeated the Patriots in their only head-to-head meeting. There is a long way to go before that happens though, either or both teams could lose games between now and the end of the season. In terms of the elbow pads, I actually think you are referring to neoprene sleeves that a lot of players wear, especially those who play on artificial turf. The sleeves can have two purposes; one is to compress the joint to help alleviate any pain or swelling and the other can be to protect the elbows from turf cuts and burns. They aren't really used for padding.
Andy Hart

A fellow Patriot fan and I were watching a game recently when we observed the following typical strategy: The offensive team is at fourth down and around the 35-40 defensive yard line and has all intentions of punting the ball. Before the ball is hiked, however, the offensive team intentionally incurs a delay of game. (in attempting to give the punter more room between him and the end zone.) The defense of course can accept or decline the penalty and actually in my recollections (for this specific case only) generally decline it. So my friend and I started discussing other penalties that an offensive team could use to give their punter more room and the false start penalty came into mind. So my questions are as follows: 1. Can the defense decline a false start? (as all my friends including my fellow Patriot's fan think they can not) 2. If the answer to 1. is that the false start can not be declined, why have not more teams intentionally used this tactic to give the punter more room? And finally 3. When a delay of game penalty occurs and is accepted, is it recorded against the quarterback? Thank you for your timeDave Ober

According to the 2004 NFL rule book (Rule 14, section 6) – "Penalties for all fouls, unless otherwise expressly provided for, may be declined by the Captain of the offended team, in which case play proceeds as thought no foul had been committed. Note: The yardage distance for any penalty may be declined, even though the penalty is accepted." So yes, the defense can decline the penalties. And yes the delay of game penalty is called against the quarterback. Nothing like some good ol' rule talk to keep the mail bag going.
Andy Hart

Bet you haven't been asked this one! After a game like last week'sRavens@Patriots, what happens to the mud-caked uniforms and shoes? Do they somehow get cleaned and reused or what? Just curious... It's the "mom" in me asking...
Mary Benisek

Not only have I never had this question before, I didn't know anyone really cared. But we all have varied interests, I guess. The uniforms are cared for and laundered by team equipment manager Don Brocher, assistant equipment manager John Hillebrand and equipment assistant John Jastremski. And before those with varied interests like yourself email to ask, I have no idea what sort of detergent they use. As for the shoes, the players go through them pretty quickly anyway so I doubt that ones that get really wet and muddy are used more than once.
Andy Hart

When a player goes on the IR list, is any CAP relief given by the league so that the team will have CAP room to replace him?Otis Hill

No. The NFL uses what is essentially a hard salary cap. When a player is placed on injured reserve the team must either have enough cap space to sign a replacement or do some creative accounting with other players under contract to create space for such a move.
Andy Hart

I was watching an Eagles game from 1952 on NFL network, and noticed their punter was Babe Parilli the Patriots QB back in the 60's. I was wondering when he came into the NFL and how old was he when he came to the Pats.Charles Kieser

Parilli did play in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers in 1952 and '53 as both a quarterback and punter. He didn't play again until he was with Cleveland in 1956. He was back in Green Bay for 1957-58 before moving to Oakland of the AFL in 1960 and then to the Patriots in 1961. He was 31 years old when he joined the Boston Patriots in 1961 where he remained until he finished out his career with the Jets in 1968 and 1969. After punting 65 times in 1952 for the Packers and 19 times in 1953 Parilli was primarily a quarterback for the remainder of his career with his only punts (5) coming in emergency duty with Boston in 1964. And now you know a little more about the Vito "Babe" Parilli story.
Andy Hart

Why don't the Pats throw David Givens more balls? Over the past couple of years he seems to be emerging as a big time play maker. He makes people miss and is also capable of getting physical. I think the Patriots would benefit greatly from getting the ball in his hands more often. It seems David Patten gets a lot of balls thrown his way when it appears to me at least that he is very inconsistent. He will make a tough catch or grab a deep ball but has a tendency to drop key passes. Also if there is any contact he hardly ever catches the ball. What is your take on these players? Would the Pats benefit from Givens getting the ball more than Patten?Kyle Hutchins

I think that one of the things that makes the New England passing game so difficult to defend, aside from Brady's incredible decision-making skills, is the fact that defenses can't key on any one target. The Patriots have a handful of guys who can hurt you on any given day and that is hard to counter. Givens and Deion Branch have developed into the top receivers, and Givens leads the team with 52 receptions for 780 yards this season. But Patten, Troy Brown, Bethel Johnson and tight end Daniel Graham can also all do a lot of damage. I think Givens is in the spot he should be as the team's top receiver, but I don't think he is yet worthy of the team changing its strategy and throwing to any one guy for 100 or more receptions a year. Givens is the best in a diverse corps of receiving options and that's the way it should be.
Andy Hart

It's ironic that the Patriots are again vulnerable in the secondary, after they went hard after secondary help this off season, following the near debacle in the Super Bowl a year ago with game and season-ending injuries to Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson. While it seems both Gus Scott and Dexter Reid will be keepers and are being groomed to eventually replace Rodney Harrison, the Patriots are still awfully thin at corner, especially with the possibility of losing Ty Law next year and Tyrone Poole's advancing age. The most logical 1st round pick for us next year (assuming we don't bring on two quality FA CB's) would be at cornerback. It looks like (thus far) that there are roughly 4 first round prospects available at corner in the 2005 draft. Would you go after one of those guys? We're certainly not spending a first round pick on QB, RB, TE, DT, S, or OG. Maybe we'll go after an inside linebacker or Offensive tackle? What are your thoughts?Craig Natale

Craig I completely agree with your top three positions of need for the Patriots. I think that the offensive line and linebacking corps are the two areas that need to greatest injection of youth moving forward in the next few years. Neither spot has a true young talent that the team might be able to build around in the near future. Since I have yet to do much research on the draft it is hard to say if a worthy CB, ILB or OT will be available when the Patriots pick near the end of the first round. But I would be shocked if the team drafts a spot other than one of those three. And since ILB is generally not a first-round value, unless you are talking about top-10 type can't-miss guys, I would guess that either a tackle or corner would be the most likely target areas for this team next April. But that is a long way away and a lot could happen between now and then.
Andy Hart

After watching many Patriots games, I wonder what happens if something happens to Brady. I am not familiar with Rohan Davey's qualifications as a back-up QB. I know that was once said about Tom Brady. But my gut tells me that TB's are not a dime a dozen.
Patricia Lupien

As of right now the Patriots don't have a proven commodity behind Brady. Davey is a young, strong-armed passer who still seems to be a bit unpolished and has no real game experience (with his most significant playing time coming this past Sunday in mop-up duty in Cleveland). Next on the depth chart is veteran Jim Miller. Miller is now healthy and throwing the ball and has the greatest experience of the two having played in 37 games with 27 starts in his 10-year career. But neither player is proven in the New England system and the drop off from Brady would clearly be a huge hit to this franchise, although Corey Dillon's ground efforts combined with solid defense has formed a 2004 team that might be able to get by such a loss in the short term. For the long term though, the Patriots will likely go only as far as Brady can guide them.
Andy Hart

Following up on the questions about Romeo and Charlie having problems getting head coaching jobs, what do you think the chances of them leaving the pro's for the college ranks? If I remember correctly, Charlie showed some late interest in the University of Washington job last time around.

Weis did show interest in the Washington job and there are now rumors that he may be on Notre Dame's short list to return to takeover his alma mater. If Weis can't get a head job in the pro's I think there is a good chance he would take a college job in the "right situation." I think Crennel on the other hand will only leave New England for a head coaching job in the NFL. I think there is a good chance he gets one this offseason, but if he doesn't the Patriots will once again luck out and retain one of the best defensive coordinators in all of football.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, love the column (obligatory kowtowing out of the way). I have a question about the salary cap and Ty Law's future with the team. My understanding is that his contract expires after the 2005-06 season, which has led to questions about whether he will be released next year if he doesn't rework his deal. Here is my question: if the Pats cannot re-sign Law, are the salary cap implications for the '05 season the same if they release him or keep him? For example, assume Law is scheduled to earn $100 in salary in '05, and $50 for his pro-rated signing bonus, making his cap number $150. Is there a way to reduce the cap hit for '05 if he is released (based on the timing of his release, perhaps) or would he count $150 against the cap regardless of whether he is on the team or not? Based on the speculations I hear, I assume there is a way to release him in the offseason without incurring the entire cap hit in '05, but I don't know how that works. If his entire number counts against the cap either way, it seems like the Pats have to keep him for '05. Am I missing something? Thanks, and keep up the great work.Sean C.

Because Law is heading into the final year of his deal the Patriots are on the hook for the remaining portion of his bonus money on the 2005 cap regardless of when they cut him, either before June 1, after June 1 or right before the season. With Law due to earn an $8.75 million salary for 2005 that number is the big factor. If they cut Law, regardless of when, the team would only carry the remaining bonus money (reportedly close to $4 million) on the cap for 2005. Keeping Law for the season under his current deal would require the team to carry a number of more than $12 million for their Pro Bowl corner. It will be an interesting story to monitor this offseason.
Andy Hart

In the past few games, I've noticed the linebackers, etc hitting their helmets with closed fists. What is this..sort of a "play smart" gesture to the secondary, or is it some type of signal of another type?Greg Mowery

That is signal the players, mostly linebackers, use to say that the tight end is stepping off the line of scrimmage, generally preparing to go in motion. It is just one of a ton of similar signals that the Patriots, and every team for that matter, use for in-game communication and adjustments.
Andy Hart

Okay, I constantly argue about Tom Brady being the one of if not the best quarterback in football. Everyone always looks at the stats and pick Manning, McNabb or Vick. If stats where the only thing to judge a quarterbacks greatness, Brady would be in the middle of the pack. I think that winning games and leadership also have to play a big role in the decision. Also, performance in the clutch in big games needs to be taken into account. Let's face some facts...the Patriots offense for the last three years has been one of the most often injured offenses in the league. Brady is the glue that held together decimated offensive lines, depleted receiving corps, and an average at best running game. Until Cory Dillon this year, it's hard to find anyone that has any sort of Pro-Bowl numbers. Yes, our defense is great, but how many times has Brady engineered the fourth quarter drive for the win. I always end by saying Manning=Marino and Brady=Montana. I'll take Montana any day. Do you guys think I have a case here?Dominic Lucente

At this point I think your comparison is fair. Brady has won and Manning hasn't. Personally though, I think Manning would win just as much as Brady, maybe more, with the defense Brady has to work with. They are both great quarterbacks. They are both likely on their way to the Hall of Fame. But they are also very different. I just think that Manning gets a bad wrap for not winning. I just wonder what kind of pressure it puts on a quarterback to have absolutely no defense and to know you have to score virtually every time you have the football. That has to be tough and that's what Manning deals with. He hasn't won a thing yet, but does that mean if he wins he suddenly becomes better than he is? Let's give him credit for what he is, a great quarterback, just as we do the same for Brady.
Andy Hart

Is it my imagination or is the Patriots schedule until the end of the year one of the easiest? Ok, so nothings easy and every team plays hard (to quote BB) even those with losing records. But compared to the schedules of Indy, Pittsburgh, and others I think we have a great shot at home field advantage. (God I love this team, and the way they think as a team)Mark Richardson

I will be shocked if the Patriots don't run the table to finish at 15-1. The toughest game of the remaining four is a meeting with the Jets in New York, a team that always plays the Patriots well. But New England is just playing too well right now for me to think they will lose that game. The Patriots have the easiest remaining schedule and should end up with home field advantage in the playoffs when all is said and done. The bye and forcing teams to come to Gillette should give the defending champs the momentum they need to make a run at another title.
Andy Hart

Do you think Ty Law will be a patriot next season? I know we have done fine without him but he is still the best corner in the league and losing him would really be a blow both on the field and in the locker room.George Basta

Yes I think Law will be in New England. I think there is a good chance they end up doing a new contract, but even if they can't I think the team will find a way to keep the All-Pro corner around for one more championship run before the team has to face such future large-contract issues as Brady and Seymour. But this is just my guess I really don't have much to go by here. As we saw this past offseason this could be a very explosive and interesting issue to follow once again this spring and summer.
Andy Hart

Just would like to remind all Patriots fans, that the Pro Bowl voting is going on now and to vote for your favorite Patriot players. EVERY VOTE COUNTS! I noticed that there are quite a few Patriot players listed, on both defense and offense. Adam V was listed for a kicker.Linda Bastille

Go to it Patriots Nation, show your computer literacy and power. Don't send us your emails to complain once the Pro Bowl teams are announced if you don't cast your votes now.
Andy Hart

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