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Patriots Replay Fri May 29 | 12:00 AM - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: Tag-team effort

As well as the offense looked, the D once again played a "bend but don't break" style that they have patented over the last six weeks or so. I don't understand the game plan in this game. I checked the play-by-play report and most of David Garrard's completions were short passes in the middle of the field where the LBs were not even in the screen. Why let them eat up the clock with 5-10-yard passes? The Jags took away Randy Moss because he is a deep threat. That I understand. The Pats were concerned with Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones getting deep? That I don't. Can you help explain what the Pats were trying to do defensively in this game?
Shane C.

Well I can't really say I disagree with your concern about the defense overall, I don't think the game plan called for allowing the Jags to control the ball and the clock and play "bend but don't break" as you referred to it. The Patriots have had some occasional trouble defending the pass this year and that has been particularly evident when the opposing quarterback has had even a little time to throw. In the second half last week, Garrard was still effective despite not getting much time at all. Coverage is an issue and probably will continue to be in the future. But with the way the offense has performed, it makes sense to me that the Patriots coaches would be willing to allow the underneath stuff and guard against the big plays that can keep an opponent in the game. I understand your point about Wilford and Jones but from the coaches' perspective they'd rather make the offense execute all the way down the field rather than hitting one big play.
Paul Perillo

Am I the only one worried about the Bolts? Chargers have the talent, and they are playing with great enthusiasm. We need to play not only hard, but match their intensity or they'll beat us.
Bob T.

Obviously any team can beat you if you're not playing with the proper intensity, but are you really worried about that in an AFC title game. The Patriots have won their share of playoff games over the years and they understand what it takes to prepare at this time of year. The Chargers are a dangerous team because they're talented and playing somewhat with house money at this point. Their banged up and will have to travel across the country, but stranger things have happened. I don't think playing hard will be an issue for the Patriots at this point so close to a perfect season. If someone is going to beat them, they'll have to earn it. It won't be because the Patriots were looking ahead.
Paul Perillo

Hi! I'm trying to find where it shows the Patriots and the other teams' 2008 opponents. I know this is already determined, but I can't find it anywhere, not on nfl.com or any other sites. Can you help?
Parker Knox

Sure we can help, that's what we strive to do here at PFW. You can find the 2008 schedule for New England on Patriots.com. On the home page click on the schedule tab near the top middle of the screen. Once you are on the 2007 schedule page there is a link on the top right to see the 2008-2009 opponents. New England will face the Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Rams and Steelers at Gillette Stadium. The team will take to the road to take on the Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Chargers, Colts, 49ers, Raiders and Seahawks. In terms of a list of all teams' opponents for next year, I don't know that there is an official site that has that information available to the public in one spot, but thanks to a quick Google search, that information can be found here.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I asked this question last week and was willing to let it go when you were not able to get to it but after his big game against the jags I have to ask again, what do you guys think about the last few games for Brandon Meriweather? He saw a lot of playing time in the playoff game. Was that because someone is hurt or was he playing because he has hit his stride and learned our scheme? I have been all about this kid since the combine and can't wait to see him blow up next season when he has a better chance at a starting job. He has made some great hits, he is always around the ball (like the ball hawk I know he is) and he has had a few picks hit him in the hands, if he had caught those picks no one would question his smarts or his skills, what do you guys think is he becoming the real deal....I think so. Sorry for how long this was but hey its the playoffs.
Kenny Tasney

There is no question Meriweather saw increased playing time against the Jags. But I don't share you playmaking optimism his play. While this isn't the most scientific measure, I can't remember him making a single play. I'm sure he did, but it's a little early to label him a ball hawk. I will say it's a positive for him that he's passed Eugene Wilson on the depth chart, which is apparently the case at least for last weekend when Wilson was a healthy scratch against Jacksonville. The fact that Meriweather is playing shows that -- as he and his defensive coaches have said in recent weeks -- he's becoming more comfortable with the defense and they're becoming more comfortable putting him on the field. You're right, with the free-agent status of Wilson and questions about Rodney Harrison's future and age, Meriweather may have a shot at a starting job next fall. I'm just not quite as sure as you are that he's ready for that role or even the one he's in right now in New England's sub packages. And not even he can defend his hands on the missed picks. He's even earned himself a reputation within his positional group. "We joke as DBs about who has the worst hands. I didn't want to take the place of Brandon Meriweather," Rodney Harrison joked of holding on to his fourth-quarter interception in Saturday night's win over Jacksonville.
Andy Hart

I was very pleased with the Patriots defense this week. They held Jones-Drew and Taylor to a combined 66 yards. Sure we gave up yards in the passing game to Garrard, but I assume Coach Belichick wanted to put the game on the shoulders of Garrard. As for my question; how serious is Ellis Hobbs' injury? I noticed him in on some packages on Saturday, but Randall Gay was starting instead.
Michael Maxey

I couldn't disagree with you more. I thought the defense struggled against the Jags. The only thing that really kept Jacksonville from matching the Patriots score for score was a couple dropped touchdowns by Dennis Northcutt and Matt Jones. The pass defense really had a tough night. They put the game on Garrard's shoulders and if he had any decent receivers he may have been able to pull the huge upset. He didn't.
Hobbs is dealing with a groin injury. Clearly it's not of the severe nature as he played in sub defenses on Saturday night, especially in the second half. Gay played the entire game at Hobbs usual starting cornerback spot. Gay struggled at times, as did the rest of the secondary. At the very least I expect that Hobbs will be able to at least play the same role against the Chargers on Sunday. I also think there is a chance you could see him return to his starting role. The only problem is the holes in the New England secondary over the last few months have done deeper than Hobbs'.
Andy Hart

Can you explain Asante Samuel's shift from his usual no-pass zone right side to his man coverage against the Jaguars? When I watch the game I know that no quarterback will throw it to the right side because that's Asante's side, but this game he was all over the field and Gerard was able to throw everywhere. Good plan or not?
Ben Crawford

Samuel played his usual role as New England's starting left cornerback against the Jags. He did not play all over the field or play man coverage all night. While I'm not going to pretend to really know how much zone/man he played Saturday night (or all season for that matter), I didn't see a dramatic difference in the way the secondary played against Jacksonville. Clearly the defense worked to the run away. The unit did that holding Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a combined 66 yards on 19 carries. And they probably were daring Garrard to beat them. The problem is, he almost did. Samuel had a tough night, maybe his worst game in more than a year. But I don't think it was due to any schematic design.
Andy Hart

Bill Belichick is right, the Chargers are a different team, and so are we. The last time we played Chargers, Rosevelt Colvin played well on the outside, and Adalius Thomas on the inside. Now he is at OLB, and not playing the way he needs to. And on the inside, there is now a void in coverage. Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss is not going to burn the Bolts as in the first game. So, right coach, many things changed, and I am worried.
Ted R.

Every team improves as the season goes along and even though it may not look that way, the Patriots have as well. At the time Thomas was playing in just his second game as a Patriot. Even though he made a huge play that night on the interception, he knows the system much better today than he did at that time. Missing Colvin obviously has hurt the team's depth at linebacker and in that specific instance the team is weaker today than it was then. But overall the Patriots have improved in a number of ways just as the Chargers have. It's not supposed to be easy at this time of year and San Diego won't likely roll over and die like it did back in September. And if Brady can't hit Moss effectively this time there's no reason to believe he won't find someone else, just like he did against Jacksonville.
Paul Perillo

Paul I think you guys as a whole at patriots.com are very, very good. But as I listen to WEEI (Glenn Ordway) and others I am constantly amused as to the hits the young guys take - especially Laurence Maroney. Do we have to have All-Pros everywhere? All of the Patriots runners have done everything asked of them. And running is a clear second in this offense. I get frustrated with all of those who want LT numbers (but then again LT's playoff numbers stink). One is never going to see Brady's numbers of 2007 and 1,800-yard runners in the same season. Can't we just enjoy the experience of seeing young kids grow? I think Maroney can be better than Joseph Addai and a lot of others.
B. Timbie

We've been critical of Maroney for parts of this season but down the stretch he has performed and therefore drawn praise. That's how it works. This has nothing to with numbers. For much of the season Maroney was either not playing due to injury and not very effective when he was in there. Over the past few weeks the numbers haven't always been there (I thought he ran extremely well against the Giants but yet averaged less than 3 yards a carry and finished with less than 50 yards) but he's been solid. No one is expecting 1,800 yards from him on this offense. But is it reasonable to expect something like he's done over the last month over the course of the year? Again, throw away the numbers. I just feel that he should be able to pop a few big runs in occasionally against defenses that are designed to stop the pass. That's what he's faced all season long but only now is he finally beating that. Let's hope that continues for the next two games. One final note – I don't know what good numbers are to you, but heading into this year LaDainian Tomlinson was averaging 101.5 yards rushing in his two playoff games, including 123 against the Patriots last season. He got hurt against Indy and only got seven carries, although Tennessee did shut him down fairly well in the wild card round.
*Paul Perillo *

Am I the only Pats fan that is upset with Asante Samuel and his agent Mr. Shavers? Last year about this time Samuel gave an interview to the Globe insisting he wanted the money. It came as the Pats were preparing for the playoffs. Now this year when the team should be concentrating on preparing for San Diego, we have to be distracted by his agent's report that Samuel is seeking big bucks next year. Personally I am fed up with Samuel's greed. If he would put in as much time preparing for his teams next opponent as he does worrying about his big pay day maybe he would not have been burnt as badly as he has been in the last two games. If I were a decision maker on the Pats I would inform Mr. Shavers that we are not interested in bidding for his client's services because he no longer cares about the team, but is more interested in himself. I am sorry but I do not think the Patriots need the distraction of this player. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest.
Lee

Well, you asked if you were the only one who felt that way and I can't answer what everyone else is thinking. But I can tell you that wholeheartedly disagree with your characterization of the entire chain of events. Last year in that article you referenced much was made of a tattoo that Samuel had that supposedly read "Get Paid" and many felt he was being selfish as a result. But it turns out that's not what it said at all. It actually read "Get Rich To This" and had nothing to do with salary or anything like that. It was from a Goodie Mob rap song he liked in college and never was meant to indicate anything about his salary. So you might think he's a selfish player but I've seen a guy who came in as a fourth-round draft pick and done nothing but improve every year he's been here. And in this latest piece that you're referencing, Shavers stated quite clearly that Samuel wants to stay in New England. He wants to get paid market value for his services, like everyone else does. That's not selfish in my eyes.
Paul Perillo

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