Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.
Q. Hi Tedy. Incredible win last night. Really showed the team's mental toughness to bounce back from MNF at KC. Can you please comment on the "tension" that sources are claiming exists between the coaching staff and TB12? It feels to me like it's a bunch of smoke. -- Gary (Boston)
A. Gary, what I'll say is this: When a player starts to enter the tail end of his career -- two years left, three years left -- he starts to feel increased pressure about wanting to win a championship and doing things that benefit the team at that moment. Veteran players don't look three or four years down the road at the state of the franchise. (For example, when Jerod Mayo was drafted 10th overall, I knew the writing was on the wall with my time there.) They want everything right now to win a championship, and if you don't feel like what's being done, there is going to be tension. That's everywhere. With Tom Brady, if there is anything directly, if there is any tension, it's just about wanting to win right now. In terms of personal relationships, there was never any problem with him and any of the coaches.
Q. Tedy, please talk about the crowd. Was that one of the loudest regular-season crowds at Foxborough in a while? -- John (Salem, New Hampshire)
A. There are times when you're a player and you can feel that the team and the fans are on the same page -- in terms of knowing the situation facing the team, the effort that is needed and the adversity the team is going through. I thought that connection was evident last night. So, good job to all of you out there.
Q. Tedy, you wrote last week that we need to "lower expectations" in regards to the Patriots. Given last night's performance, was THAT the team that could compete for a Super Bowl this winter? Could that team stop Denver? Beat Seattle? -- Brady (Morristown, New Jersey)
A. If this team continues to improve, I think that's where you can start to slowly raise expectations based on what you saw Sunday night. But I still want to see the offensive line play that way against a front that will challenge it. It may be next week if Kyle Williams gets healthy for the Bills -- with Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams. That team just played well and got a hard-fought win against the Lions. I'd be more excited now if I had seen more fight out of the Bengals. But I think we all know we didn't see much of that Sunday night.
Q. Hey Tedy, great game last night from my view. Was really impressed with how the team responded. From your perspective and based on last night's game, what are some areas that the Patriots need to continue to improve at most? Thanks! -- John D. (Amherst, Massachusetts)
A. The improvement still needs to be the offensive line. With all the credit the offensive line will probably get this week, it faced an uninspired Cincinnati defensive front. Domata Peko won't really get upfield on you. He'll take on blocks and hold the line of scrimmage, and Sunday night he didn't do a good job of that. Devon Still, the story is tremendous, in terms of the adversity he is facing with his daughter. But he didn't provide much of a challenge for the interior offensive line, either. When Geno Atkins was in there, he had some plays when he created disruption, and it affected Tom Brady a bit. But he's still not where he wants to be. While watching the game I recognized the great work the O-line was doing while also realizing how bad the Bengals were playing on the D-line.
Q. Tedy, I knew that the Patriots would bounce back and get a win because they always seem to perform well after a loss, but I didn't see THAT coming. This team looked very different. They were actually having fun out there. I know you've experienced what they just experienced, coming up with a huge win after a terrible loss. What does that do for the team in the locker room? Can it create momentum and confidence for the rest of the season or does the energy come on a week-by-week basis? Thanks. -- Tyler (Minneapolis)
A. Seeing the first and second drives Sunday night, I immediately texted Mike Reiss, my partner in crime. The one thing I texted him was, "NOW they're over Mankins!" You have to understand when players say, "A football team is like their second family." That's the truth, and when a member of your family is taken away and you know he won't be there the entire season, it affects you mentally and emotionally. How long it takes you to get over that depends on what type of team you are. I think back to Lawyer Milloy, who was released just before the 2003 season; we turned it around in Week 2 in Philadelphia. That was a step where we cut the cord with our relationship with Lawyer as a teammate, and we realized we had to move on. I think Sunday was that type of game for them. They haven't shown that type of fire all year, and I think the Logan Mankins trade had something to do with that. This is a very emotional game. You care deeply about every player you play with, and it can affect a team, especially that close to the season. That's the emotional aspect to it.
Q. Hello Tedy, this was obviously a great win for New England. I have two quick questions for you: Do you think they have found the offensive line combination that they can carry forward or is it still just game to game? -- G.W. (Houston)
A. I always wondered why Ryan Wendell wasn't in there after Mankins was released. He battled in there as a center, and I thought he was a tone-setter after Mankins. Last night they had him at right guard. They had Bryan Stork at center and Dan Connolly at left guard. I believe that's the way it has to be for the near future. I think you'll still see some struggles in there. I saw a little bit of improvement from Stork at center; he seemed a little more comfortable. I do think, once again, the challenge wasn't as great as it'll be down the road. Then you have Nate Solder at left tackle, Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle, with Marcus Cannon rotating in. That's the way it should be going forward.
Q. Tedy, D-line question: Even though they only recorded one sack, it seemed Chandler Jones NOT being a starter changed the look in a positive way. They were stout against the run. Do you think a bigger front 4 helps this team more? -- Mike (Providence, Rhode Island)
A. No, I don't, Mike. Chandler Jones needs to be on the field as much as possible at that DE position as long as his health allows. He was limited with a right shoulder injury, and they put him on a snap count.
Q. Tedy, love your insight on the Pats. Last night looked like a whole new team and I hope this team stays! One concern I have though is the lack of an apparent pass rush. It took three quarters just to get a sack on Andy Dalton last night, and other than that it looked like he had a lot of time in the pocket. Were the Pats purposefully playing coverage more or are we just not getting to the QB? Or is the Bengals O-line that good? -- Zach (Providence, Rhode Island)
A. Dalton is always good at getting the ball out quickly. I will say this: Chris Jones seems to be getting better and better. He had the one sack Sunday night, and it wasn't a coverage sack, it wasn't an F.O.P. (aka fall on pile) -- it was get off the ball, swipe hands, get skinny and get to the QB. I've also seen him get better against the run, getting his hands inside, pressing the blocker, disengaging and making the play. That's the one thing to think about with the D-line. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure the quarterback, and I thought Vince Wilfork was getting upfield, too. This pass rush can easily be productive this season.
Q. Can we keep Darrelle Revis nearly exclusively in press man coverage? -- Mike (Los Angeles)
A. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia like to be multiple with the defenses they call. If the plan is best when Revis is locked on an outside WR and he can play press man, then yes, you do that. I don't think you want to do that all day long, though. You have to change it up. It puts a lot of stress on him as a player as well.
Q. Obviously during last night's game Revis reminded everyone he's still a Top 5 corner (at least), but when he got injured they immediately attacked Logan Ryan -- with success. Is Brandon Browner the missing piece to this Patriots' defense? I think bringing him in opposite Revis is going to not only shut down receivers but give the line more time to collapse the pocket. What do you think Browner's immediate impact will be? -- Rob (University of Delaware)
A. First of all, having a cornerback that size who can be that physical opposite Revis is only going to bring good things. Now you have a defensive backfield with Revis, Browner, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard and Ryan, and each has his own size and skill set. You can mix and match with them based on game plan. But probably the most impressive thing I saw last night were a couple plays from Revis -- the first was when he got the interception but was called for the penalty. They tried to run the same route a couple of plays later, and no penalty was called and Revis ran the route for A.J. Green. This is where Revis is truly great -- it's not just his ability, it's his intelligence. On the play he got the penalty, he initially pressed Green off the line of scrimmage with his right hand. As Green tried the double move, Revis then took his left hand and contacted Green, which drew the penalty before Revis flipped his hips and moved upfield. On the next double move they tried to run on Revis, instead of the extra jam with the left hand, Revis still jammed with the right hand at the start, but instead of the second jam, he stacked Green after flipping his hips so Green had to run up his back. That was an in-series adjustment that Revis made. It was the same official watching the same play, but he called it differently because it was played differently. Very impressed by that adjustment that Revis made.
Q. Tedy, I never thought I'd say that I think Ryan Wendell should get the game ball. I thought he was great keeping Brady clean and moving people from in front of him. I was impressed. -- Eric (Massachusetts)
A. I feel the same way, Eric. If you saw Wendell walking down the street, you would never guess he played for the Patriots -- not that tall, not that big. He looks like a plumber. But he's tough, he'll fight out there, he's a scrapper. He's a tone-setter. So if you want to give him a game ball, I agree. Go ahead. If you're looking for others who aren't named Brady or Revis, try James Develin, the fullback who I thought set a physical tone, especially with Stevan Ridley's first touchdown. So if you're talking unsung heroes, let's go with Wendell and Develin.
Thanks for the questions. We'll do it again next week.