Mike Reiss Patriots chat transcript

Monday Jan. 28, 2008
Mike_ReissGreetings from Arizona. It's early yet, but I can feel the excitement building here. Large murals of Tom Brady and Michael Strahan appear on the outside of one of the media hotels in downtown Phoenix. I thought the Patriots' arrival was one of the great days of the season. Players and coach Bill Belichick seemed genuinely touched by the rally at Gillette Stadium. Bill Belichick called the scene, with the snow at the rally, "romantic." Never thought I'd hear him use that word. Then upon arrival, I sensed a Patriots group that was loose and excited. Looking forward to the chat. Thanks for joining in...
Nyc_PatsFan__Guest_Mike, besides bootgate......What adjustments will our O-line make to protect Brady since the last matchup vs the Giants?
Mike_ReissThe first thing I'd say is that the right side of the line will be different. Russ Hochstein (guard) and Ryan O'Callaghan (tackle) started the finale, and I expect Stephen Neal (guard) and Nick Kaczur (tackle) -- the regular starters -- to be in the Super Bowl lineup. As we know, the Giants like to blitz by overloading a side and simply out-manning you. So I expect heavy pressure from the Giants in that regard and it will be up to the Patriots to get the ball out quickly. That would be the big adjustment I see.
Jimbo57__Guest_Hey there Mike. In this copycat league, I am sure Coughlin has watched how teams have limited Moss's production. Do you think the Patriots will devise a plan to move him around, use picks, or even put him in the slot in an attempt to force the Giants to adjust their coverages? I figure even if they double him up, they'll at least have to think about who is covering who, and that could leave someone else open.
Mike_ReissHi Jimbo57. I've noticed that there have been two distinct approaches against Moss in the last 2 weeks. The Jaguars simply said "you're not going to beat us" and rolled all coverage in his direction, and the Patriots were pleased to take the openings in other areas of the field. The Chargers matched up a bit more 1-on-1 and simply won more matchups. I think the Giants will take a little bit of both approaches in the Super Bowl, but ...
Mike_Reiss... for all the talk about Moss, don't be surprised if the true focus of the Giants' plan is Wes Welker. The Giants like to blitz. When a team blitzes, the offense usually relies on its "hot" receiver. There are few better "hot" receivers than Welker. So I would propose the thought that Welker will be more of the Giants' focus than Moss.
MIchael_C___Guest_Hi Mike. Great job on NFL Network last night. Two questions. Was it just me or did TB appear to be walking gingerly when he disembarked the plane in Phoenix? Also, did he appear to be somewhat wounded/irritated during his press conference in answering questions about the press coverage of his trip to NYC last week? I felt bad for him and his comment that he can no longer find refuge in places where he once could. Your comments?
Mike_ReissThanks for watching on NFL Network Michael_C. One back story to that appearance, which was fun. I was standing on a chair and it was somewhat wobbly. The whole time I was just thinking about keeping my balance. As for Brady, I didn't pick up on any limp or agitation. I thought he was typical Brady -- smooth and responsive to questions.
estreet__Guest_Will Troy Brown and Chad jackson play in the SB?
Mike_ReissJackson no. Brown, I'm going to say yes.
Braintree_Ed__Guest_Hey Mike, half the media says Brady's has only a slight injury or that its all better and half talk about him limping noticeably. What's your take given he barely practiced for the biggest game of the year, and if it's more serious, how it's going to affect him with the tremendous rush of the Giants?
Mike_ReissI'd take the first point of view, Braintree_Ed. I think it was significant enough that he missed practice. Anyone that knows Tom Brady realizes it has to be significant for him to miss a workout. But in the big picture, when you consider the reasons for him sitting out, it makes sense to me. It's a mild high ankle sprain. A week of rest limits the possibility it gets aggravated in the Super Bowl. I just think it's smart. And from what I understand, he told WEEI in Boston today, on the Dennis & Callahan Show, that he's practicing today. I also subscribe to the theory that if he was truly hurt, he wouldn't have been in New York early last week.
JC22__Guest_Hi Mike -- love your blog, keep up the great work. You're probably going to get a ton of questions about Brady's injury today. Assuming the unthinkable happens and he can't start -- or even if he needs to take a few plays off -- is Cassell the backup? It seems as thought Gutierrez has been the first guy off the bench during the (very few) times this season when Brady came out.
Mike_ReissCassel would get the call, JC22. He's the clear No. 2 quarterback. Even though Gutierrez has come on to take a knee at times, he remains the No. 3 quarterback.
Fredo__Guest_Mike, Randy Moss has been pretty quiet as far as interviews in the post season, is he happy with the amount of action he has seen?
Mike_ReissI wonder about this myself, Fredo. I think the fact Moss wasn't on the field for the AFC Championship celebration was a bit curious. If I had to lean one way or the other, I'd say he's fine with the action he's received. But I have to admit, it's a question I've wondered about.
fendawgMike, what is up with Moss, did he travel to AZ or FL? Wasn't his hearing today or am I behind on my updates?
Mike_ReissMoss traveled to Arizona with the team. He does not have to appear at the hearing, fendawg.
Mike_ReissP.S. -- Moss did an interview with Brady and a local Boston TV station last night. Brady was raving about Moss in the piece.
Dave__Guest_Mike, do you buy into the notion that the Patriots' all-business approach gives them an advantage over the Giants, many of whom spent the last week signing autographs, making public appearances, etc.?
Mike_ReissNot necessarily, Dave. I do think the experience can help, but ultimately I'm not as much a believer into the whole trash-talk/business-like approach stuff affecting this game. Like it often does, I think it will come down to who executes best once the ball is in the air.
UndefeatedChampions__leonardo0110_with what do you expect the patriots to attack the giants, with a spread formation or establishing the running game?
Mike_ReissI see the Giants' secondary as vulnerable, so I believe the Patriots will want to put pressure on them down the field with 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB packages. The key will be if the protection holds up against the Giants' pressure. Naturally, we can also expect some screens to keep the Giants ferocious rush from pinning its ears back. So ultimately, I think the key will be more of the passing game in spread formations, than the running game.
MAR_SAR__Guest_Mike, Is it possible that the whole Brady's ankle injury story is a carefully crafted ploy to deflect some attention from the Randy Moss story?
Mike_ReissThat question was posed to me this morning, and I just can't buy it, MAR_SAR. Being around the Patriots, they take practice so seriously and I just can't envision they would take diversion tactics that far as to have their starting QB miss a week of practice just to shift attention elsewhere.
Kenneth_Sims__Guest_To what degree has the weather dictated what type of offense the Pats have run over the past few weeks? Do you expect that in a warmer climate and zero wind to translate to more vertical passing or do you expect the Giants' D will be the primary influence?
Mike_ReissGood to see the old school Patriots checking in Kenneth_Sims. I do think the weather affected the downfield passing game a bit against the Chargers. With the elements not going to be a factor in the Super Bowl, I do think it will translate into more production in the vertical passing game, assuming the protection holds up.
Luke__Guest_I thought Coach Belichick seemed very loose during the press conference last night. Was that your impression as well?
Mike_ReissGreat observation, Luke. If not for Tom Brady's ankle being the story of the night, I felt that Belichick's engaging, humorous press conference would have had everyone talking. That was a topic we wrote about in today's Boston Globe, that if the Patriots were to take a cue from Belichick this week, it would be a loose/relaxed approach based on what we saw Sunday night.
dave12__Guest_who would you consider the x factor for this game. offensively and/or defensively
Mike_ReissNick Kaczur/Matt Light would be my X factors for the Patriots' offense. Look for the Giants to overload sides of the field and simply outman the Patriots. How the two tackles hold up -- with help from tight ends and running backs -- will be key. Defensively, Mike Vrabel is my X factor. In the season finale, the Patriots didn't get consistent pressure with a four-man rush. If Vrabel has a big game, and creates pressure with a four-man rush, it will open up so many more possibilities to the defense.
angelo__Guest_Hello Mike - Is there much time devoted to practice this week, with everything else going on there?
Mike_ReissYes, the Patriots are practicing today at 2 p.m. EST, at Arizona State University. I think every player was looking forward to practice, except for Tedy Bruschi. As a University of Arizona alum, he didn't seem too psyched about practicing on the Sun Devils campus. This is what he said Sunday night: "It was our arch rival in college. We referred to them as the ‘Scum Devils,’ and they had names for us also. Being here on this campus is ironic to me. When coach (Bill) Belichick told us we were practicing at the Arizona State facility, it gave me a little chill."
Mike_ReissP.S. -- The Patriots will also practice on at least three of the days later in the week.
Tommy_C__Guest_Mike-Can we finally put an end to the talk about Brady's foot?
Mike_ReissWell, I don't think so just yet, Tommy_C. I think it's still a story, because there is still some question as to how he is moving on it. The Chicago Tribune's Don Pompei is the AFC pool reporter for the Super Bowl and he'll be at today's practice. I know I'm anxious to see his report on how Brady moves. Pompei is one of the best in our business and I will trust what he says.
VTPatPatriot__Guest_Watching Junior at the rally made me realize what kind of talks he might give to his teammates before games. Does he always speak to team before games? Any chance he takes up coaching, or sticks around for another year?
Mike_ReissTo steal a line from Junior Seau himself, there is a chance he sticks around. He loves the game enough and is still playing at a high enough level, so why not? But I haven't talked to him about it to have a good feeling on what he is thinking. As for the talks before games, Seau, I'm told, is a regular speaker. It's not always on game day, but sometimes in the days leading up to it, I believe.
GoBam___Guest_Any sense on who will be returning kickoffs?
Mike_ReissHobbs/Andrews, with Maroney mixed in, would be my hunch. But that's only a hunch, not based on any concrete information.
mike__Guest_do you think the giants really got the Pats best effort in week 17? Or did they catch the Pats off guard by actually playing that game to win?
Mike_ReissI think the Giants got the Patriots' best effort, but with a twist. The Patriots expected a playoff-like atmosphere that night, so I don't think it was a catch-them-off-guard situation. But I do think the Patriots were careful in what they utilized in that game -- both playbook-wise and personnel wise.
Bill_Laffey__Guest_Hey Mike, hope you had a nice trip to Arizona. What do you think is the weakest spot of the NYG secondary, and one, the Pats will continue to take advantage with the right matchups?
Mike_ReissI don't feel too comfortable speaking with authority on this one, because I'm still studying the Giants, but my early thoughts are the safety spots, with Butler/Wilson.
PatsFanNYC__Guest_Can you give an update on the Pats OL? Are the right side starts back to full time status. They were both out for the last game against the G-men.
Mike_ReissThey're back, PatsFanNYC.
AnthonySmith27__Guest_Mike - why do you think Moss didn't address the crowd at the rally yesterday?
Mike_ReissNot sure, AnthonySmith27. Maybe it was a situation where since this is his first time, he felt more comfortable letting the experienced guys step in.
stan__Guest_Mike, Is the "no respect" card enough to propel the Giants pass the Patriots? Doesn't seem that too many people are giving them a chance (see 2001 Patriots).
Mike_ReissI don't think so, stan, but I do think it can lead to an increased focus in practice/meetings. In the end, though, I am a firm believer that it will come down to execution once the ball is in the air. While the no-respect stuff will help out us newspaper scribes looking for things to write, I don't see it a factor in determining the outcome.
Dano_in_Jersey__Guest_This is off the topic of the Pats in Arizona just for a minute. Bill Parcells in Miami is building his staff out of former Dallas assistants. Do you have a comment as to whether he is trying to build his AFC-East team to combat the Patriots and what in the Dallas style of play is he going to capitalize on? Will Dallas be left with a shell on defense next year?
Mike_ReissJust was speaking with a Dolphins player down here at the Super Bowl, and he talked about the first team meeting with Parcells. Said it was amazing the attention he commanded. Everyone sat up straight. The room was quiet. That, to me, is an indication that things are changing in Miami. He is certainly trying to build his team to combat the Patriots and I think he knows the first key is sorting out the QB position. In terms of style of play, he'll focus on big, physical, smart players who are passionate about the game. Just like the Patriots. I see Dallas on the decline.
MAR_SAR__Guest_Do you really feel there is a big difference between a healthy Stephen Neal and Russ Hochstein? I kinda see them as almost the same level of player.
Mike_ReissI see a significant difference, MAR_SAR. Watch Neal when he pulls as a lead blocker. He's had an excellent two-game stretch in the playoffs. Hochstein is a solid backup, but to me, Neal takes it to a whole new level.
UndefeatedChampions__leonardo0110_Alot has been made of the Giants " Close Game " against the Patriots, but in my opinion I don't think it was a close game even though the score tells us a different story, what's your take on this?
Mike_ReissOne e-mailer last week pointed out the final statistics and asked the same question, noting that the Patriots had an advantage in most of them. I thought it was a case where stats were a bit misleading and that it was, indeed, a close game.
Woody__Guest_Does the Giants secondary resemble either Jacksonville or San Diego?
Mike_ReissThat's a good question, Woody. I think they probably have some similarities to both. If forced to pick one, I'd say Jacksonville, because I thought the Chargers' corners were athletic and strong enough to match up one on one, and I don't see that as much from the Giants' corners. Also, you have two rookies -- Jacksonville safety Reggie Nelson and Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. So I'll say Jacksonville.
GoBam___Guest_The Patriots seem to be coming into the game pretty healthy (save Brady's ankle)...are there any injuries we should be aware of that might spring up?
Mike_ReissRyan O'Callaghan, a reserve offensive tackle, has been battling an illness. And Rodney Harrison has been managing a thigh situation but it won't keep him out of the lineup. Otherwise, I am not aware of anything.
ToddP__Guest_Is there a big advantage for Brady having gone through this week of Super Bowl hype over Eli, who has never done it? Can you explain a little about how they could be being pulled in 100 different directions and if it's a distraction for either of them?
Mike_ReissI do think experience can't hurt, as it's a circus here. But in the end, I'm going to stick on the idea that the game won't be decided by any of that off-field stuff. I think Eli Manning has a strong connection he can dial up when it comes to distractions, his brother Peyton, who was here last year.
desmond_howard__Guest_Mike, do you think the offense will call a lot of runs and screen passes to help with the pass rush, or do you think they'll spread 'em out and go 4 wide?
Mike_Reiss4-wide seems a bit dangerous, desmond_howard. Considering the Patriots did not run one 4-wide grouping in the season finale, I tend to think it won't be a big part of the plan. The concern is that if you put four receivers on the field, that leaves you with a maximum of six to protect. Against a heavy blitzing team like the Giants, that can be dangerous. That's why tight end Benjamin Watson can be a key -- in personnel groupings, he is technically a tight end. Yet he has skills to morph into a receiver split out wide, or play in tight on the line. So I expect more 3-wide than 4-wide. I do see at least a few screens being part of the plan.
Cheez__Guest_Hi Mike, great reporting as usual. How effective would a two back set of Maroney and Faulk be and is there any history of this set this year?
Mike_ReissCheez...I had them utilizing a two-RB set with either Maroney/Faulk or Morris/Faulk on 5 plays this year. One was an interception against the Bengals. I'd have to go back and look at the other four. I can see this as something that could help in pass protection, but based on the uneven results to this point, it seems to me there would be some risk involved in employing it.
Belichamp__Guest_Will Ben Watson be more involved in the passing game? I think he could have a huge game
Mike_ReissI do think Watson will have a regular presence on the field. He played in all but two snaps against the Giants, and I think that is because the Patriots like his flexibility to serve in either a receiver-like role or tight end capacity. Watson was on for 54 of 65 plays against the Chargers in the AFC Championship, and 22 of 58 against the Jaguars. So you can see the numbers are all dictated based on the game-plan. I expect the game-plan to feature plenty of Watson in the Super Bowl.
Chuck_Worc__Guest_Well, he can't "dial up" his brother's brain onto the field when he needs to make a quick choice on a receiver, now can he?
Mike_ReissYou're right, Chuck_Worc, when you're talking about Eli Manning. But I believe the question was about distractions leading into the game, not during the game.
Noah__Guest_I have heard some analysts say that Eli Manning is at his worst when there is pressure up the middle. Do you see the Patriots rushing their 4th man from the inside and maybe adding an extra insde rusher more than they have in past games? I would love to see the "Old Eli" throwing off of his back foot.
Mike_ReissThe scouting report that I heard is that defenses would like to move Manning to his left, so it's pressure coming from the Mike Vrabel/Ty Warren side that would seem to be the key in that scenario. The Giants' o-line is perhaps a bit underrated, so I think it's going to be tough to get pressure with four. That's why I like Vrabel as one X factor.
TobiasFunke__Guest_On the radio today, Tom Brady said that he believes Randy will be a bigger part of the game than he was receiving-wise in the last two games. Do you think he is speaking seriously, as if he expects the Giants to have difficulties covering him, or if he is just saying that to make sure they focus on him?
Mike_ReissBrady obviously knows more than I do, but I don't know how he can say that with authority without knowing what the Giants are going to do defensively. If the Giants play the way the Jaguars did, and basically double-cover Moss every play, there is no sense throwing him the ball when the other areas are so open. My hunch is that Brady is referring to the idea that the Patriots will put in a few plays for Moss, only to be utilized depending on the coverage.
Mike_ReissGoing to answer a few more here, before heading off...
fendawgHave you picked a final score or holding off on that?
Mike_ReissPatriots 34, Giants 13.
Brady_s_Boot__Guest_Hey Mike...love your work! If the Giants key on Welker as the hot receiver when they blitz, how do the Pats counteract it? Another out receiver or pray that the protection holds up and go deep to Moss?
Mike_ReissAs another chatter pointed out, the Giants double-covered Welker on the record-breaking TD pass to Moss in the season finale. So the way to combat it, I believe, is my providing Brady enough time to find his other options. That's why I think the protection/offensive line is so key in this game.
rick__Guest_HI, Mike, I just noticed that you give Giant 13, and last time, they did 35. how come?
Mike_ReissI think the Patriots' defense will be better in the red zone (Giants were 4 of 4 in the finale). I also think the Patriots will pressure better than they did in the finale, when it wasn't until a second-half adjustment that they started to get to Eli Manning.
going_for_4__Guest_Do you see Eli playing like he has the past 4 or 5 weeks or do you think he will go back to playing like a below average quarterback?
Mike_ReissI see as contingent on the Patriots' ability to get pressure. If the Patriots get pressure, I would predict at least one critical mistake from Manning, the type of mistake that Tom Brady generally is able to avoid.