Adding insult to injury
Boston Globe football writer Nick Cafardo answers your questions about the Patriots every Thursday. Click here to submit a question for next week ...
Nick, listening and reading all that is being said about the upcoming game with Indianapolis, you'd think that Indianapolis is going to score on every possession against the Patriots. We should remember a few things. (1) The Ravens and the Chargers were able to blunt the Indy offense, in Indy. It can be done. Even with a nicked up secondary, the Patriots have a better defense than the Ravens or the Chargers. (2) The Patriots offense has had good success against the Indy defense, and the Patriots offense has gotten much better than they were in the opening game of the season. (3) The Patriots have a record of not crumbling when under pressure; the Colts do not have such a record. I see a close game that the Patriots will win late in the 4th quarter. Am I off base here?
-- Tim Curran, Wethersfield, CT
A: Not off base at all. In fact I think we see it unfolding the same way. I respect Indianapolis' team a great deal. I love watching Peyton Manning. I thought Dan Marino was the best pure passer I'd ever seen until I saw Manning this year. You're right about the Ravens' defensive game plan. Ravens' D-coordinator Mike Nolan, who I think is going to be a terrific head coach, did a nice job mixing different looks so Manning couldn't really get comfortable in his surroundings and I think the Patriots will approach it the same way. It's really all about disrupting Manning, just as the Colts defense will have to disrupt Brady. There are game plans both teams can draw upon. The Colts, I'm sure, are looking at the Miami game, the Pittsburgh game, maybe even the Cincinnati game as a way to attack the Patriots. I think there's going to be a great chess match going on with the coordinators - Tom Moore, the offensive coordinator for the Colts - and Romeo Crennel. And I agree, the Patriots have a history of coming up big in big games. Until they prove otherwise, I have no choice but to pick them and believe they'll pull this one out. I'm not very confident about that because I think Mike Vanderjagt is right when he says the Patriots are ripe for the picking. We'll see.
Nick, I understand the Patriots philosophy on not talking about injured players but I don't understand why they must keep quiet after a player is out for the year. For example, did Ty Law re-injure his foot trying to comeback or was the diagnosis incorrect from he beginning? He's done for the year so what is the big deal coming clean now?
-- Dick Stetson, South Portland, Maine
A: I agree. It makes no sense. There are new HPPA rules in place where the player has to sign off on any injury information that's released. But that's easy to do. The Red Sox, for instance, have the player sign off almost immediately and then the doctor or the trainer is made available so the media can get accurate information on a player's injury. Most baseball and football teams are very cooperative with the media on medical issues.
Nick, I'm confused about something. Certain members of the Boston media have taken shots the last few years at Bill Belichick for not allowing the media access to his assistant coaches, even though Bill Parcells followed the same practice and was widely praised for his approach. But I read that that Charlie Weis, now that he's in charge at ND will not be allowing his assistant coaches to speak to reporters without his permission. Isn't it obvious that these coaches find some value in forbidding their assistants to talk to the media? Do you still have a problem with this policy? Charlie did get the long-awaited head-coaching job you've been asking for after all. If Weis was so badly injured by the policy, as you have argued repeatedly over the course of the last four years, why is he instituting the same policy?
-- Steve Salhany, Brunswick, ME
A: I keep getting e-mails that fans who tell me they don't care about this issue, yet I also get ones from folks like you Steve who seem intrigued by it. For the most part it's a media issue, though as a reader I'd love for a positional coach like Ivan Fears to be able to comment on Corey Dillon, or Eric Mangini to talk about how he's managing to keep his secondary from getting scorched. Nobody knows the players better than positional coaches. They're very interesting people. I spoke to Charlie about his media policy at Notre Dame. Yes, he will give final permission for his assistants to speak, but he told me he'd make all of his assistants available every week. Each assistant - coordinators and positional coaches - will have a certain day assigned to them. That's far different than making coordinators available three times a year or when a reporter asks permission to speak to one of them or a positional coach, he's denied. Charlie will have control over the situation, but he'll allow his assistants to gain exposure. Parcells' policy was similar but far more liberal. If you saw a Charlie Weis in the hallway, you didn't have to walk by him and pretend you didn't see him. You could stop and chit-chat. You could phone the assistants and talk to them off-the-record as long as you didn't quote them. Think about it. You're allowing 23, 24-year-old players to speak, but not 50-year-old assistant coaches? What sense does that make? As a media person I will always have a problem with the policy and I'll always fight it. It's my business; it's how I make my living, so I'll always fight for more access. The more information available to you, the better you can do your job. I believe that would apply in all professions. You can ask the people interviewing coaching candidates what they're looking for. The guy who has never been in front of the camera is at a distinct disadvantage. Romeo Crennel should have been a head coach long ago. He said that because he came from programs that didn't allow him to interact with the media, he spent most of the interviews having to tell people whom he was. Compare that to a Jim Mora Jr., or all of the great assistant coaches who have come from Baltimore (Marvin Lewis is a great example). They've been able to explain their defenses or offenses on a weekly or even daily basis, sometimes immediately after games in the heat of the moment. That's invaluable experience for someone who wants to be a head coach. I asked the Atlanta people about Mora Jr. and there was no doubt that Mora Jr. was way ahead of Crennel on their list because the defensive knowledge was a wash and then you're projecting which guy can handle all phases of the job, Mora had great experience as a spokesman.
Hey Nick, I know its early in the week, BUT why is all the talk about how good the Colts "O" vs. the Pats "D"? You gotta think that Belichick has a couple aces up his sleeve in regards to out "D"? I guess what is upsetting me the most is that there has been no talk about the patriots offence! I am seeing a higher scoring game than last years AFC championship, but I see the Pats again getting off to the strong start and holding off the Colts at the end again. Wouldn't be great to see Manning demoralized again?!?
-- JJ Redington, Burlington, VT
A: I think you're right. Crennel is going to come up with something to foil Manning. Don't forget this is a big stage for Crennel because if he stuffs Manning, the folks in Cleveland or San Francisco are going to demand that Crennel becomes their head coach. You're also right about the Patriots offense. All week they've played second fiddle to the Colts and you can understand why. Manning is off the charts. He's exciting. He puts on quite a show.
Hello from mudslide country, Nick! Couple of quick questions for you.
1) Audibles vs. Decibles: How loud must the Razor get to disrupt some of those Manning audibles or might this not even factor in?
2) The Pats go and sign a guy who's been cut by several teams the past couple of seasons AND has the same last name as that Chris Rock movie (Ooops, that was "Pooteytang"). How much playing time will BB give him?
-- Adam J. Roth, Pasadena, CA
A: I don't think The Razor is the loudest place in the league. The noise tends to escape because the stadium is so open. I don't see Manning having too much trouble with his audibles. On Hank Poteat, your guess is as good as mine. They worked him out about a month ago and didn't sign him until this week. I'm guessing he won't be much of a factor.
Nick, what do you think about this? Instead of going wacko this week trying to devise a game plan that tries to contain Manning and the offense, Coach B. and the guys acknowledge that the Colts will get 30-40 points. Instead, spend the week figuring out how to score 45-55 points. Contain them, try to stop them, but outscore them. How crazy am I?
-- Pitt Warner, Winter Park, FL
A: I've seen crazy, and you're not crazy, Pitt. I believe that you can't stop Manning cold, but you can slow him down. Then it becomes a game of needing to outscore him. So I agree you have find ways to score points. There's the school of thought that you run Dillon as much as possible to control the clock and keep Manning off the field, though it usually doesn't take Manning long to score. I wish I knew how this thing was going to unfold. I think scoring a lot of points might be good strategy.
Nick, what benefit did the Patriots get for putting Law on the IR? Why not make him inactive instead. Who knows what could happen in a month.
A: Beats me. I guess they just wanted to get their players ready and not leave that doubt in the players' heads that Law would have a chance of returning. The real head-scratcher for me was Tyrone Poole. They put him on IR pretty fast and with a lot of the season left to play.
Nick, you and Kevin Mannix both used the "Holy crap!" quote from Raymond today in your leads--what are the odds?
A: Two great minds. I told him to stop stealing my leads. The funny thing is I was in Indianapolis and he was in Boston, but we were thinking the same thing while watching Manning. How are the Patriots going to stop this guy? Being big fans of "Everybody Loves Raymond" I guess the first thing I said to myself was 'Holy crap!' It's actually happened a few other times over the last 27 years. Kevin is one of the best. A real pro.
-- Chris Dauer, New York, NY
The defensive backfield that Peyton is about to face is probably the worst he's faced all year. Even the strong points (i.e.: Rodney Harrison) can't play their usual role because they have to cover for the weaknesses... meaning Rodney is being taken away from his role.
With this said, I think it's clear the only way the Pats stick in this game is with inclement weather. let's pray hard for a storm, or some freezing rain, some hard winds....something! If this is a game of short passing and running, I'll feel a lot better than I will if they start doing 4-5 receiver sets. Do you agree?
-- Ty Murphy, Toronto
A: Looks like about 30 degrees, clear skies. I don't see the weather or field conditions being much of a factor. The Colts won't be as good as they were last week because they're playing the Patriots, who are a potential dynasty, and because they're away from the Dome. I think the Colts can beat you so many different ways. We forget about Edgerrin James and 1500-plus yards. Who says they can't or won't do what the Patriots hope to do and control the game on the ground?
Regarding the Mawae hit on Seymour: That hit looked intentional-he did a shoulder roll over a prostrate Vrabel right into Seymour's knee. Even though there was no penalty called, would that be reviewable by the league given Mawae's reputation (e.g. Ted Washington's leg, etc.)? He could have easily ended Seymour's career.
-- Mark Ierardo, Easton
A: As a reporter, you usually you hear rumblings from the players if they felt it was dirty. You certainly heard it on the Mawae-Washington situation, but I have heard nothing about this one so I think Richard and the rest of the team must have felt there was no foul play. I saw the play a few times. Once I thought, 'OK, maybe it was intentional,' but as I kept watching it, I felt less and less that way.
Hi Nick. The Pats problems and lack of depth in the secondary have been well-documented. But one thing I can't really understand is the lack of using regular DBs as fill-ins. Ok, they had this guy Lowe on the roster for a brief time, but I think he was cut. I can sorta see that because of his lack of experience in the system. But why not give Jerod Cherry some meaningful snaps on defense? I know this guy isn't Ronnie Lott at Safety, but surely he can do as well as say Earthwind Moreland, LBs and WRs. Why does Billy B have no faith in a guy that has been with him a few years now?
-- Stephen Higgs, The Bahamas
A: Well, I've discussed Je'Rod Cherry with a few people, and the feeling is, if they're not using him back there, they must feel he can't play as a safety at this stage of his career. The Don Davis situation isn't as much of a reach as you think. He's a very small linebacker and can easily be considered an over-sized safety. He's pretty fast so having him play free-safety doesn't hurt you that much because of his speed.
Although I've lived in Santa Monica, CA and now Brooklyn, NY I've always been a hard-core Patriots fan. I grew up in Wellesley, MA and I remember going to the Christmas Cotillion Party, it was snowing out, and all of us were around the TV during the infamous Ben Dreith call. We were outraged! My question: It seems no one is worried about our secondary. Not Boston Beat writers, HBO analysts etc. Everyone's attitude is "Belichick will find a way to get it done". I don't know, Nick, but are we crazy, arrogant, or simply a team that plays on a different playing field when it comes to psyche and intelligence? Or is it coaching? I am worried about what the Colts passing offense might do to our secondary. Big-time. Thanks.
-- Mike Maccini, Brooklyn, NY
A: Mike, I think if you were around here, you'd see, hear and feel that the majority of people are quite concerned about the secondary. That could be the biggest issue of the game. I think the media or fans that aren't concerned are wearing the rose-colored glasses and waving pom-poms, which happen a lot where the Patriots are concerned. I think there is a belief that Belichick will find a way even against all odds. There's a lot of trust in Belichick being able to find a way to stuff the league MVP. He loves those challenges. But if you're looking at it objectively, there's reason for concern.
Hi Nick! Love your mailbag! Somehow, it feels as though it strengthens the spirit of Patriot Nation. My question revolves around the Pittsburgh running game that the Patriots were unable to stop last time. Do you think Bill Belichick has the personnel to do better next time? Is this where we are missing Ted Washington? The threat of Corey Dillon will hopefully allow Brady more time to throw but the inability to stop their running attack really concerns me should the two teams meet.
-- Ted Santiago, Princeton, NJ
A: Ted, I think Pittsburgh is the most complete team in the league. I'm not sure if the Patriots could scheme to stop the way they play football, which is smash-mouth and straight ahead. They are very physical and their receivers provide horrible match-ups for the Patriots defensive backs. Dillon should help, but the Steelers can stop the elite backs as well. I think you should hope for a Jets upset.
Nick: I think we have all been a little spoiled by the decent success the Patriots have had with our very young players, particularly in situations where they have to step-up and cover for injured veterans. However, one player, with whom there was a bit of controversy this past off-season regarding his drawn-out signing negotiations, was Ben Watson. We saw him very early in the season but not really since then. Is he injured, in the doghouse or just not making the grade enough to crack an already-stacked TE position? (By the way, where did Weaver and his clutch TE catches come from all of a sudden?). Thanks!
-- Richard Andrade, Somerville
A: Richard, Ben Watson has been on injured reserve all season. He had surgery on his knee and he's not eligible for the playoffs. The Patriots are very high on him, though. He's an excellent athlete for a tight end. Maybe he can become the next Ben Coates or something.