as is getting common with New York bloggers, they routinely get in touch with me to do Q&A exchanges. Below is the first of one such exchange with Madison Square Garden's Game On. Enjoy.
It's fairly obvious to me that Bill Belichick is a genius, as if he was Professor X wearing a hoodie. Can you give us some insight as to how he's pulling off a playoff run this year?
"Patriots All Access" is a show put on by one of our local TV stations and they do a segment called "The Belestrator". Belichick runs through some plays and, about halfway through, it starts sounding like martian to me. ;-)
The real masterminds behind this team are both Belichick and VP of player personnel, Scott Pioli. Combined, they are very savvy at structuring a football team to win AND, most importantly, finding guys who will fit into the system, young or old. Take, for example, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. An undrafted free agent, he was assigned to the practice squad where we thought he would wallow in obscurity. Whoodah thunk we'd lose our top 3 running backs Maroney, Morris, and Jordan. Aarrgghh!! Suddenly, he's starting and doing well.
The key to Belichick's success is finding guys that many other teams overlook. Wes Welker anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Is it safe to call Matt Cassell a poor man's Chad Pennington? I do not mean this as an insult, as I like Chad's play a lot. He seems to be well equipped to "manage" games despite having the same amount of picks as he has TD throws. What should we expect to see out of Cassell on Thursday?
The mistake many make is comparing the 2008 Cassel to the 2007 Brady. That standard is WAY too high and unachieveble by all but a handful of QBs in the league. Look at Brady's 2001 numbers after he was elevated from clipboard to under center with Drew Bledsoe's injury. Very, very similar.
Sure, he's not throwing a lot of TDs. I've been concerned for a while he doesn't have the long ball with Moss, such a deadly weapon, but I did see flashes of it in the Colts' game (Jabar Gaffney drop) and with the Bills (Wes Welker, believe it or not!), but the key is playing to Matt's strengths. Most assuredly, you can sense the coaching staff guiding him and giving more control as he's gotten more comfortable. 6-3-1 is the sack count for the last 3 games. That shows 2 things: the O line is stepping up and, more importantly, Matt's more comfortable in the pocket.
You will see a lot of slants and options to Wes Welker and RB Kevin Faulk to move the chains. You will see gobs of running from RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. You will see Moss turned inside. And, you may see a long ball to Moss or Gaffney.
New England seems to be challenging the Giants for the lead league in most running backs used in a single game. How as the running back-by-committee style of play gone for you? What are the styles of each runner? Any glaring weaknesses?
Prior to all of the injuries, I was stoked. Starter Laurence Maroney is a bit tentative at the line, but warms up as the season progresses. Sammy Morris is decisive, for good or for worse, and slices through. LaMont Jordan, at 5-10 230 lbs, is a power back best utilized in the second half when defenses are tired. He blasts through holes and will make a DB pay for hitting him. Kevin Faulk is our perennial "everything man" and is one of the most dangerous third down backs in the league. And then... Maroney was IR'd with a shoulder injury and Morris and Jordan have been out for the past 3 or so games. In comes rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis along with an expanded role for Faulk.
Thank goodness these guys have turned out to be a strong unit because it's given Cassel some time to develop a relationship with his receivers. Chastised in 2007 for having no running game, I'm glad the Patriots have such depth in this area because it's proven to be a godsend given all of the injuries.
With a bunch of injuries, you'd expect the defense to be a little more like the Raiders and a little less like the Titans. But the Pats have one of the better defenses in the AFC. What's happened to keep that side of the ball so good?
I won't lie - having one of the easiest schedules in the NFL has helped. But, the team is certainly structured for success. Anchoring our 3-4, you have a pro bowl defensive line in Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and Richard Seymour. OLBs Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel have been awesome at creating pressure and shutting down the corners. That is, until Thomas was IR'd with broken arm. ILBs Tedy Bruschi and rookie Jerod Mayo are doing well holding down the middle with some team leading numbers from Mayo.
It's the DBs that worry me. I hate to say it, but I miss Asante Samuel (FA, gone to the Eagles in 2008). The CBs have been very inconsistent, in my mind. And with the loss of IR'd vet SS Rodney Harrison, our safety situation is weakened as well. We've been doing ok, as evidenced by the Bills' game, but I'd like to see us have a strong DB presence in addition to the pressure we're generating in the backfield.
Do you enjoy rooting for evil? Why or why not?
Rooting for evil...ahh, the NY vs. NE think comes out, ehh? Born and raised in NE, I've lived here all of my life. The thought of rooting for anyone other than the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins is about as foreign to me as Manhattan Clam Chowder (btw: tomatoes in clam chowder is the true definition of evil).
2007 was a great year and a difficult one for us Patriots fans. A historic season (well, except for that one game) with lots of controversy, they'll be plenty of homers who will dismiss Spygate and support their team with blinders on. I'm somewhat in that category (hey, I'm a fan!), but I do recognize how rival fans could rally around these issues and use them to fuel their hatred.
So, to answer your question about rooting for evil, that's a perception. It's hard to root for something that's not there.