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Mike Reiss and Jerome Solomon Patriots chat transcript

Thurs. Jan. 12, 2006
Mike_Reiss:Down at the stadium, just back from practice. Sort of a wrap-up type of feeling down here at the stadium today. Bill Belichick held his final press conference of the week, seemed to be in good spirits, and the team had its practice outside. Everyone was present for the media access portion of practice, including Tedy Bruschi. Couple of things that stand out with this Patriots-Broncos matchup: Denver has the NFL's second-ranked rushing offense (158.7) and will be going up against the Patriots' eighth-ranked rush defense (98.8). Also, Denver has the NFL's second-ranked rush defense, surrendering just 85.2 yards per game. So the Broncos are strong across the board when it comes to the running game.
patriots_fan:Q: Tedy Bruschi is not in the injury report this week. Does it means he will definitely play on Saturday?
Mike_Reiss:Nothing is definite when it comes to the Patriots and injuries. But my guess is that he plays in some capacity.
pats06:Q: Why has the Jets intention to interview Mangini this week got so little press in Boston, it is all over the place here in NY.
Mike_Reiss:Interesting question. I had similar thoughts. Pretty big deal when the defensive coordinator could be a top candidate for a head coaching job with a division rival ...One reason it might not have gotten much attention is that Mangini isn't available to speak, and Bill Belichick did his best Corey Dillon stiff-arm to all Mangini-related questions.
Flat_Top_Johnny:Q: Do you think Dillon is still showing the effects of being injured, or is it an offensive line issue?
Mike_Reiss:Probably the biggest mystery right now. My feeling is that Dillon hasn't lost it. I've heard some say he's done. I don't believe that to be the case.
Forest_Guy:Q: Are we just being "homers" about the Pats chances this weekend or do they have a legit shot at beating Denver?
Mike_Reiss:Tom Brady: 10-0 in the playoffs. That's one big reason they have a chance.
Condor57:Q: Do you think the Pats offense will start the game with a spread formation and throw a lot in their first possession? We all know the Broncos are very good at getting the lead in the first half.
Jerome_Solomon:They'll probably throw plenty in the first drive, but don't expect the spread or no-huddle early on. Short possessions would get the Denver corwd into too much of a frnzy.
Mike_Reiss:I'm projecting the opposite, that they start with a power package with tight ends Daniel Graham, Christian Fauria and Tom Ashworth as a fullback. The idea will be to establish some form of running game.
skinny_in_nyc:Q: I've heard Daniel Graham is one of the best blocking tight ends (if not the best). If he's in fact that good could his absence be a major reason the pats are struggling to run the ball?
Jerome_Solomon:His absence hasn't helped, that's for sure. But the overall blocking has been lacking, not just from the tight end position.
Mike_Reiss:More than that, I think having a rookie left tackle, rookie left guard and a center who is starting at that position for the first time has contributed to the running game's struggles. Not pinning it on them, but it's a factor.
matt:Q: Since the Jaguars employ a zone blocking running game will the Patriots after stopping it have an easier time recognizing the cutback lanes against the Broncos and stopping theirs as well?
Jerome_Solomon:The Broncos are the best in the business at it; their backs are better and their line is better.
Mike_Reiss:Definitely some carryover there, according to Bill Belichick, but Denver's running game (158 yards per game) is at a higher level than the Jaguars (122 yards per game).
Jerome_Solomon:No fair, looking up stats, Stat Boy!
1986celtics:Q: Can Assante Samuel cover Rod Smith? Can the Pats stop the deep threat against the Broncos?
Mike_Reiss:'86 Celtics...Samuel can't cover Smith consistently, man-to-man, which is why forcing the Broncos into obvious passing situations and then scheming on those plays will be a key.
Jerome_Solomon:No and yes. Samuel can handle Smith on mid and short routes, but no corner can matchup on deep crossing patterns that Smith runs so well. Pressure on the quarterback will be key to stopping those.
Spazz:Q: Everyone talks about the Broncos running game vs. the Pats D, what about the Pats passing game vs. The Broncos 29th ranked pass defense, isn't this the real story in the game?
Jerome_Solomon:The Broncos' pass defense is better than the numbers. Remember, they have the lead so often that teams are forced to throw to try to catch up.
Mike_Reiss:Definitely a big part of it. But I'm not in the camp that says the Patriots can exclusively go in and air it out and expect to win. I think they need to run it, because if they're in third-and-longs, Denver's speed on defense becomes that much more of a factor.
nick:Q: hey guys... help me understand the Bruschi situation, how does he go from questionable and not playing on Saturday to off the injury report entirely? thanks
Jerome_Solomon:Magic dust from the Patriots' medical staff. It's gamesmanship from the master, Bill Belichick.
Mike_Reiss:The Patriots don't think much of the way the NFL has teams report injuries, and I think that's what you're seeing there. Technically, they are within the rules.
kavery:Q: Is the Denver air really a factor? We hear a lot about it, but if it was really significant, wouldn't the Pats spend more time practicing in Denver?
Mike_Reiss:I think it's a factor, although you won't hear the players or coaches say it.
Jerome_Solomon:It is a factor if you let yourself believe it is a factor. Most players can adjust after a half hour of warming up. That's when you really feel it.
chuck:Q: How does the o/line match up against Denver d/line?
Jerome_Solomon:The Patriots are young up front, but strong. The Denver line is quick. This is a battle the Patriots should win.
Mike_Reiss:Whoever matches up against Trevor Pryce has their hands full; he's the Broncos' best lineman. Also, Belichick mentioned today that Denver rotates eight players in, so they are always fresh.
Jerome_Solomon:And I'll take Logan Mankins going low on Ekuban every time.
vapatsfan:Q: Is Troy Brown expected to play some defense this weekend?
Jerome_Solomon:He'll almost certainly get some time there. The Patriots don't have enough cornerbacks.
Mike_Reiss:Troy should be in the team's dime package. They have Samuel, Hobbs and Poteat at corner, then Brown. So if the team is in situations that call for four CBs on the field, Brown should be there.
JimNance:Q: Mike - how do you think the Patriots secondary will fare against Jake Plummer? Will he pick them apart as Leftwich seem to do in the 2nd quarter in the Jacksonville game?
Mike_Reiss:Hi JimNance...are you calling the game this week? I think the secondary will play well, but it's all a trickle-down effect with how the men up front stop the run.
Jerome_Solomon:The secondary is the weakest part of the defense. So the front-7 has to stop the run and pressure quarterback. Hobbs will be tested, and Artrell Hawkins will be key in keeping plays from going long.
Nighthawk:Q: Belichick stated earlier this week in one of his press conferences that Denver had the ability to substitute eight men on defense to give the offense a totally different look. Do you foresee the Pats going mostly no huddle this game?
Jerome_Solomon:Not going to happen. It is rare to no-huddle in a hostile environment. The Denver rotation isn't play-to-play, as much as it is series to series. They basically play two groups, so no advantage to the no-huddle.
Mike_Reiss:This is a big test for the offensive linemen, going into a hostile environment, and I think no-huddle makes the challenge that much greater. I think they start without it, and only use it in an emergency.
TonyE11:Q: Two words - screen pass. How important do you think Kevin Faulk is in this matchup?
Jerome_Solomon:"Hostile environment?" quit copying me
Mike_Reiss:It's getting hostile here at the stadium.
Jerome_Solomon:Patrick Pass had a huge game last time against the Broncos, when Faulk was out. If you read today's Globe, you know from Reiss' fine piece that Faulk is a weapon.
Mike_Reiss:My play of the year was the tight end screen by Daniel Graham, against the Falcons. Big advocate of at least one of two screens, but it's rare to see more than that because it's really a counter-punch type of play.
vinnie_vegas:Q: Is the Pat's offense better w/ Faulk and 3 WR or Dillon and 2 TEs?
Jerome_Solomon:And if they catch the Broncos in a blitz, it would be nice to screen then.
Mike_Reiss:Depends on the matchup. In this game, I think the Dillon plus two tight ends is the way to go, because I see Denver's defense as fast, and think the Patriots' best chance is to try to overpower them on early downs.
Jerome_Solomon:Depends on the opponent. I like the Faulk, three wides, because it spreads the field and leaves more of the game in the hands of the best player on the team - Tom Brady. Anytime Brady has the options, you have to feel comfortable as a Patriots fan. When they run the ball, he has no choice in the matter.
HutHut:Q: Defense is going to be the key to Saturday's game - where do you see the weakness being?
Jerome_Solomon:fast typist
sb:Q: What will the secondary do to stop the Plummer roll out and deep balls to Lele and Smith?
Mike_Reiss:First, not let Lelie or Smith get behind them. Second, hope that the pressure up front gets to Plummer before he has time to survey the field. Third, use their ball skills, as Hobbs has seemingly had the knack for, to break up the play when it comes their way.
Jerome_Solomon:They key there might be Rosevelt Colvin and Willie McGinest, the outside linebackers. When they spot Plummer heading wide, they have to force him to the inside and not allow him to step into those throws. If he gets time to play around back there, the secondary is in trouble.
OldTimer:Q: Hey guys, is Ellis really as good as some say? And Asante, he seems to have slipped this year. Any sense of how Denver will be viewing these two?
Jerome_Solomon:Denver will look at them as touchdowns waiting to happen, but neither is as weak as his worst play. Samuel has improved from his early-season play and is now making plays - three interceptions in the last three games (plus a quarter against the Jets). Hobbs is a playmaker in knocking down balls. They are a solid combo at this point in their careers.
Mike_Reiss:All you can judge Hobbs by is what you see, and I've been impressed. Then you hear Richard Seymour say something to the effect that the defense can do more with Hobbs in there, and it magnifies it even more. I think Asante has been better in recent weeks. More than anything, what has been reinforced to me this year, is that almost every cornerback needs pressure up front to be effective.
bwatson84:Q: Has anyone shut down Denver's rushing attack this year?
Mike_Reiss:Stat boy fails. I don't have all their game sheets, only that they're second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (158).
Jerome_Solomon:We'll get back to you on that one. But their running game can and has been stopped.
bwatson84:Q: Seems to me that Denver has mental lapses examples (vs. Ravens a few weeks ago and Dolphins to start season) Do you think Belichick can get into their heads?
Jerome_Solomon:Not possible. Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the league. His team will be ready.
Mike_Reiss:Agree with Jerome on that ...
rjb:Q: Who pulls out the first absurd trick offensive play, Shanahan or Belichick?
Mike_Reiss:Back to Denver's rushing offense, the fewest rushing they had in a game this year was 70, in the opener against Miami. The next fewest was 96, against the Ravens on Dec. 11. The next fewest was 98 against the Chargers on Sept. 18. As you can see, not many teams hold them under 100. They're tough.
Mike_Reiss:I don't see trick plays being much of a factor in this game.
kevin:Q: Do you believe that Ben Watson is going to have as big a part in this game as last game?
Mike_Reiss:I think this could be more of a Daniel Graham game. Because Denver leads the league in time of possession, I think the Patriots will try to use Graham and more of the running game in an attempt to control some clock.
Eddie_2:Q: Will Champ Bailey be assigned to try and shut down one guy (if so, then who?), or will he play one side? If he is to play a side, then who will the Pats run at him?
Mike_Reiss:Stumped me on that one, Eddie. I believe Bailey stays on one side. Patriots won't alter much in terms of staying away from him, so look for all their weapons to run at Bailey -- Branch, Givens etc.
buckner:Q: Is everyone one healthy or which players are still looking banged up?
Mike_Reiss:Bailey: 8 interceptions on the year. Hard to tell, Buckner, but I heard Belichick say last week that he felt everyone could play if needed. Since I didn't see any major injuries against the Jaguars, I don't see anything changing this week.
Nomahtah:Q: Will Belichick go with tons of blitzes to try to stop the deep pass?
Mike_Reiss:No, I don't think blitzing is the best idea. As has been his style over the years, Belichick doesn't often employ too many risky schemes, but instead, picks his spots.
patsr1:Q: Does Denver play more man or zone? And how will this impact B. Watson? Would a LB cover him in man? In zone, would a LB cover until the deep zone where Lynch would be?
Jerome_Solomon: Denver plays a combo of those, with Champ Bailey often locking up on a man. Watson is not likely to be as open as he was against Jacksonville because the Broncos are a faster defense.
Mike_Reiss:If he ever gets locked on by Lynch, though he could explode.
Berj:Q: What are your predictions for the final score?
Mike_Reiss:24-21 Patriots. Jerome: 27-20 Patriots.
PatsFanBob:Q: If either of you were forced to choose, do you think the Broncos running game, or the Pats run defense has the best chance of succeeding against the other on Saturday night?
Jerome_Solomon: I like the way the Patriots defense is playing, but they have never really stopped the Broncos' rushing attack. This week it should be a wash.
big_mike:Q: Where are the Broncos most vulnerable - spread passing game, rushing up the middle, trying to run side-to-side?
Jerome_Solomon:Power runs works against Denver. They are too quick to take outside (and the Patriots don't run well outside anyway). The spread passing game, with short throws is effective against them because it kills their pass rush.
Kurb:Q: New Englander living in Denver here. Jakes Achilles heel is making him a drop back passer. Assuming they control the run against two mid level backs, Jake cannot win a game by dropping back and not rolling out. That's the #1 goal! Agree or disagree?
Jerome_Solomon: Agree in general. To do that, the patriots have to stop the run, and force the Broncos into third-and-long situations, then pressure Plummer from the outside to kill his bootlegs.
Mike_Reiss:Plummer doesn't appear to be the same quarterback I remember him as in Arizona, so I'm not as convinced that he can't win a game by simply dropping back. ...That said, the No. 1 priority has to be stopping the run.
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