Welcome to our weekly Q and A, with fans reflecting on the Patriots' win over the Broncos on Sunday. Join my weekly chat every Monday at 11 a.m. ET to have your question considered. Here we go ...
Q. The defense appears to be just good enough to win combined with the potent offense of the Patriots. They are opportunistic, pretty disciplined holding their lanes well and usually stop the run. My hope is that Patrick Chung and Brandon Spikes can provide some additional "glue" to give this defense a bit of stability. It was nice to see Mark Anderson and Brandon Deaderick step up when Andre Carter went down. What do you think of the D? -- Eric (Massachusetts)
A. After 14 games, we know what this defense is. This defense gives up yardage hands over fist. They do stiffen in the red zone at times. But for this defense to be successful, it must force turnovers. The more opportunities you give Tom Brady and the offense, the better. This is a dangerous way to play football, to hope for those turnovers. The Packers also live that way -- they didn't [force any turnovers] against the Chiefs, and lost. If the Patriots' D continues to force turnovers they should be OK. Getting Spikes and Chung back would be a big plus.
Q. Do you see a big difference between the 1 and 2 seed in the AFC? Apart from home field, of course. -- Ian B. (Ottawa)
Getting the bye is most important. I can't tell you if it will benefit the Patriots to play at home, judging by the past two playoff losses, which were at home. Matchups are also important in the playoffs. If Pittsburgh is the 1 or 2 seed, and Baltimore ends up the 5 -- and the Patriots get the bye -- they could possibly play Ravens/Steelers in consecutive weeks (that would be tough). There are many scenarios.
Tedy, the loss of Andre Carter is huge. He was a real presence on passing downs. Anderson stepped in well yesterday, creating some havoc in the pass rush, but he doesn't look big enough to play every down. How does the Patriots' rotation on the defensive line change without Carter? -- Neil X. (Rozzie)
This Patriots defense lacks depth in the first place. You've got two receivers playing in the secondary. Andre Carter was one guy you could count on, knowing he was going to apply pressure to the opposing quarterback. This is a huge loss with possible end-of-season ramifications.
Q. Do you think Chad Ochocinco can continue to contribute for the rest of the year? -- Sam (Nashua, N.H.)
Yeah, I do. It's taken him long enough, but he did contribute in a big way against the Broncos. I'd like to see more consistency from him, though. After the touchdown, you still noticed that he's not seeing defenses the way Tom Brady sees them. He cut off a route when Tom threw deep. That's a sign of miscommunication.
Q. Favorite hat and T shirt moment? -- VictorM (Massachusetts)
Division champion hat and T-shirts are always nice. But you hope for three sets during the year -- division championship, conference championship and world championship. You wear each hat and T-shirt with pride, but always with caution because if you don't get the whole set the first two are worthless.
Q. Tedy, hoping you can describe the defensive adjustments made by the Pats. In his post-game report, Mike Reiss mentioned a switch in base alignment, and how it affected "bubbles." What are the bubbles and how did they slow down Denver's running game? -- Dave (Portland, Maine)
Let's start with a 3-4 defense. The bubble is over the guard, because the guard is uncovered. The guard has a free pass to the linebacker. When an offensive lineman is uncovered, it usually signifies where the bubble is.
Tedy, a little scary that the Patriots' D was that unprepared for the Broncos in the beginning, but encouraging that they were able to rebound so effectively. Will the Patriots' habit of slow starting be the cause of their downfall in the playoffs? So close to the post-season, what's something you believe this Patriots team needs to improve on before they reach Game 1? -- George (Denver)
The weakness going into the playoffs is their lack of depth defensively. I think two things need to be accomplished with these next two games -- 1.) Solidifying a first-round bye; 2.) Getting the team to as close to full strength as possible. I think a slow start by the Patriots' offense can be damaging if they're going up against a team that puts up a quick 14 points on them.
Q. How about Romeo Crennel getting a big win in KC? Any chance they just pull his interim tag? -- Mike (D.C.)
A. Romeo should definitely be considered for the head-coaching job. I have great respect for him as a coach, and when I watched Chiefs players dump Gatorade on him at the end of the victory, I was very happy for him. I hope he gets another chance.
Q. How pumped are you that your boy Jerod Mayo will be involved in the Patriots defense of the future? -- Douglas K. (Saugus, Mass.)
Very excited about that. Jerod is perfect for this system. He's developed into one of the best linebackers in the game and what makes him so valuable to Bill Belichick is that he can provide a high level of play from that LB position in the 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
Q. My biggest takeaway from yesterday is that we showed the rest of the NFL that if they want to game plan around Rob Gronkowski by dropping a safety over him, and dedicate a guy to Wes Welker, we'll beat you with Aaron Hernandez and burn you deep with Ocho/Underwood/insert fourth-string WR here. And if you drop back, we've got a guy named Stevan Ridley who will chew you up. What was your biggest message taken from the game yesterday? --
grandjordanian (San Diego)
A. That's a great observation. Offensively, I loved the way they used Hernandez ... to put on film the production of Hernandez makes defenses even more nervous about facing this offense. Chad Ochocinco's touchdown was huge, but going forward, it can't just be one-catch-and-done. In the playoffs, count on this: Defenses will take away Gronkowski and Welker. So Ochocinco and Hernandez will have to deliver.
Q. Tedy, care to elaborate on the mindset of a Belichick-coached team after a division-clinching "hat and T-shirt" game? During the next few games, what are some team goals this late in the season? Full-throttle or ease up? -- Ethan (Boston)
Depending on the season, you have different philosophies. If you're 14-0 at this point, you go full throttle and try to make history. If you have a couple of losses on your record, you want to solidify position. Once you've done that, then you take care of some of your guys who are banged up. When we played the 49ers in the last game of the 2004 season, we were 13-2 and knew we had the bye. But we wanted to finish strong and played hard that entire game. Your health situation has a lot to do with it.
I thought Tim Tebow played well but overall I'm not sure a QB like him can take a team to the playoffs and championship because he is an inaccurate passer. He just can't be counted on to win with his arm and we all know that an offense needs to be versatile to win. Once the option is adjusted to by the opposing defense, Denver is in trouble. Good player to have on your team but ultimately not someone I'd draft a team around. Your thoughts? -- E (Weymouth)
You can win with Tebow. He may take the Broncos to the playoffs this year. Minus those three turnovers, it couldn't have been a closer game. When you play the clock-management game, you can't have those mistakes. Those three turnovers led to 13 points. For a team that can't score at will, that's the ballgame.
Q. OK, here's the question, knowing it won't happen this season, but in the offseason how does this defense get better? -- Jason (Montpelier)
I think it's time for Coach Belichick to make some noise in the draft. It looks like he'll have two lower first-round picks. If there is an impact player to go for, there is no high-rookie-salary excuse. I'd like to see them make some noise, trading up instead of trading down.
Q. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but how do you think the Pats match up with a Green Bay or New Orleans? -- Steve (Atlanta)
That would be a scoring frenzy. Whatever defense would force the most turnovers wins because you can move the ball on all three defenses.
Q. Tedy, how realistic is the Patriots secondary greatly improving upon Chung's (hopeful) return? I believe a lot of Devin McCourty's struggles this season are due to injury plus technique, but I can't help but think he'll stabilize things back there. -- Bryan (New York, N.Y.)
What do you mean by stabilize? I think they still give up their share of yardage but Chung brings more ability to make big plays.
Q. Tedy, what was your favorite defensive scheme/play to run during your time with the Patriots? -- Roberto (Medfield)
Our defenses loved getting offenses into third-and-long, because that's when Coach Belichick came up with his most creative schemes. Within those schemes, players had the freedom to make their own calls. In third-and-long, that's when you can disguise and confuse opposing offenses.
Q. I wasn't going to let this team fool me this year. I was ready for the playoff meltdown. Now, with the Denver game and most recent opponents all winning, maybe we're better than I thought. Is thinking this going to bite me where the sun doesn't shine in January? -- Dan (Leominster)
A. I said this back when we were covering the draft. This Patriots team is a proven regular-season team. But they have a lot to prove in the playoffs, where they have failed miserably the past two years. It's not about the regular season for me. Just like I said in April, it's about showing they can win in the playoffs.
Tedy, what are your thoughts as a former defensive player on the Patriots starting offensive players (other than special teams) Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman regularly? Personally, I like Slater and Edelman and think they've played pretty decent over the last two weeks, but they're not natural defensive players/backs. Seeing Sterling Moore and Phillip Adams cut so those two can play D just baffles my mind. Don't get me wrong, I love the story and I don't think Moore or Adams are all-stars by any means, but thinking about this logically, Edelman and Slater are playing out of position so they will be more likely to make mistakes. I don't agree with these moves and would rather someone play their natural position. -- E-Man (Weymouth)
It's happened before. I remember when Troy Brown played defense. You look at him in the huddle and you know that when you see a receiver on defense, your depth is thin. Having two receivers out there, you know you're hurting.
Q. What teams do you fear the most in postseason? I only fear Pittsburgh. The Ravens' defense is overrated based on Sunday night, and the Texans don't have consistent QB play. -- Mark (Boston)
All teams that make the playoffs should be feared by the Patriots, because what I fear the most for the Patriots is them playing the way they've played the past two years in the postseason. So it's not about who they play, it's about them showing up.