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Patriots pound home a message

Join my chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.

Q. Tedy, is it me or did we luck out with not getting touchdowns called back on Gronk pushing Sergio Brown into a camera and Julian Edelman shoving Mike Adams while he was already down following Gray's fourth TD run? Seems like those were slightly more egregious penalties than offensive holding. -- Tony (Boston)

A. I know this is a league that is stressing player safety now, but this is still football, Tony. A lot of times in football, it's about sending messages. The message the New England Patriots sent on prime-time TV Sunday night, to the entire league, is: "We're not a bunch of pretty boys. You better buckle up when you play us because we will push you when you're down and pick you up and throw you into a TV camera on national TV." I said this when I played: "We don't talk, we play. But if you want to talk, we have plenty for you." On Sunday night, these guys played their hearts out and took the heart out of the Colts, and it's still lying there on the field where that camera was.

Q. Hey Tedy, big Pats fan here in Norway. My question is about the penalty Rob Gronkowski got for his block on Sergio Brown, after Jonas Gray scored. What are your feelings regarding that penalty? Did you think it was a stupid penalty? Because I thought it was a great block, it sent a message to his team and teammates and to their opponent. Also it didn't cost Pats the score. -- Daniel (Oslo, Norway)

A. I agree with you 100 percent, Daniel. It's about sending a message and shutting someone's mouth. Sometimes you have to do that. I've seen some good tight ends in my time, but I think Rob Gronkowski is the best I've ever seen. Tony Gonzalez was special. But the toughness of Gronkowski puts him a cut above. To see how Gronkowski has come back once again to establish himself as the best in the game has been great to watch.

Q. Tedy, what a game [Sunday] night. This time of year and these big games are what Patriots football is all about. My question: Why did you pick against the Pats? You of all people should know this time of year belongs to the Pats! still love you. Happy holidays to you and your family! -- Angel (Florida)

A. Thanks Angel. Love you too. I try to give all the readers of ESPN Boston my honest opinion every week. Having said that, I can count the number of times, over the last six years, that I've picked against the Patriots on one hand. I did feel there was a possibility for trouble in this game. Brady struggled but was picked up by his team. I think I overestimated Andrew Luck and overestimated the overall fight of the Colts. After two tough losses to the Patriots in Foxborough, I thought the Colts would come out swinging. Boy, was I wrong. What was most impressive about it was that the Colts attempted to fight back, but the Patriots had more fight than the Colts could handle, led by what's turning out to be a very tough offensive line and stout run defense. You have the mentalities of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman on offense, and the overall skill of the defensive backfield. And I didn't even bring up the great play of linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins. Now, Angel, I can pick the Patriots every week and feel great about it. But you wouldn't want that, would you?

Q. Hey Bru, as a linebacker you obviously have to love what you are seeing from Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins. For being such young players, are you surprised at the level they are playing at? And where do you rank them in the NFL? -- Jesse (Cape Cod)

A. I want to address this first -- I think a lot of you realize what my nickname was in the locker room. As I told a chatter last week, only my friends can call me "Bru." So Jesse, I don't know you, so I can't call you a friend. But I'm going to make an exception for all you chat participants out there; if you have a question, start it with, "What's up, Bru." LOL.

This is a good question because I took a moment Sunday night to reflect on what these guys are doing. It's not just the production they have, but the multiplicity of their games. They're doing everything you'd want from a linebacker -- stopping the run, rushing the passer, and getting it done in the coverage aspect. What's impressive is that I don't see them as true linebackers given the way the Pats are using them. They are both hybrid players. Bill Belichick does best with hybrid players. When I say multiplicity, they can rush the passer from inside or outside on the line of scrimmage; they can beat linemen, running backs and tight ends. Pre-snap, they're starting to get comfortable with their disguise. So mentally, it seems to me they are taking their game to another level, knowing this system inside and out. Very similar to the way Mike Vrabel and I used to play games on the line against opposing blocking schemes and protections and then laugh about it when we got to the sideline.

Q. Tedy, one game in November means nothing in January, but I must say it was great to see that performance [Sunday] night from the offensive line. Brought back memories of Pats power backs of the past.. And with colder weather approaching, do you think Jonas Gray is for real and can the Pats continue to effectively run the ball? Granted 199 yard games are few and far between, but in watching Gray run I like the way he's just one cut hit the hole and lower the pads type of runner.

A. Scott, I saw Jonas Gray running Sunday night and thought to myself, "Who is this guy, Corey Dillon?" Maybe that should be his nickname -- Baby Dillon.

Q. In the playoffs last year, the Patriots ran on Indy with LeGarrette Blount and now with Jonas Gray. How does Bill keep finding ways to expose their run defense? -- Brandon W. (Dayton, Ohio)

A. Run defense -- a big part of it is winning one-on-one matchups, and the Colts had no chance Sunday night. With Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Fleming setting the edge the way they did, and with the interior winning one-on-ones, Colts inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman were overmatched at the second level. It was just a butt-kicking. Let's not go overboard with scheme here. This was about the Patriots beating up on the Colts' run defense.

Q. Is Jonas Gray for real or was the Colts' run defense just extremely poor? -- Arjuna (Derry, New Hampshire)

A. It might be the best night of Jonas Gray's career when all is said and done. I don't know if he will ever have a day like that again. It was great to see and he earned every single yard. I want to see more of a sample size before saying, "He's for real." What I kept telling myself Sunday night was that if they keep giving him the ball, he might wear down and give it up. But it didn't happen, and that was most impressive to me. He had 38 carries, he didn't wear down, and he maintained ball security.

Q. Hi Tedy , what's your biggest area of concern about the Pats going forward? -- Misha (via mobile)

A. Wow, Misha, you sure like to nitpick. That was an outstanding performance Sunday night. But I can nitpick too, and what I'd like to see is more of a commitment from the OL to sell play-action. I thought that for the two INTs Brady threw (which were off play-action), pressure came from the interior gaps of the OL. What's said to the OL throughout practice, ever since training camp, is: "Sell it!" Bill Parcells used to pound that into the OL. Belichick too. "Sell it!" You have to sell play-action for it to work. Those were two examples -- where if you block like it's a run play, you might not have had that interior penetration. You can't let up when it's play-action. That's my only nitpick in this chat!

Q. Hi Mr. Bruschi. A technique question for you. I saw over and over again defenders giving Gray an extra 5 plus yards as they tried to punch the ball out rather than trying to take him down. Often that was enough for the first down. I see this all over the NFL as well. What is your opinion on this? Turnovers are great, but so are stops and punts. -- Tony (Boston)

A. This can be a sign of just trying to get the ball out of a young player, testing his ball security. As the game went on, and you continued to notice this, that can be a sign of players taking the easy way out. It's easier to attempt to punch the ball out than put your face on the thigh of a 230-pound running back. That's another sign of the Colts' lack of fight.

Q. Good win, on to the next one though right? Week to week! -- Gil (Maine)

A. That's right, Gil. "We're on to Cincinnati." LOL.

Q. Tedy, is the Patriots' run game really that good, or did the Colts just game plan for the pass and get blindsided? -- Ralph (via mobile)

A. This is the thing, Ralph. The Patriots' run game was really that good Sunday night. What's special about this offense is that if the run game isn't that good next week, they can succeed in other aspects of offensive football. As the first quarter plays out, and you realize what's working, that's what you stay with. That's the philosophy of Bill Belichick. Why throw the ball when you can hand it off for 5, 6, 7 yards a pop?

Q. Tedy, my question involves the poor decision by Tom Brady near the end of the first half [Sunday] night when he essentially reacted to the pass rush and just threw the ball up for grabs. How does Belichick handle that kind of thing with an accomplished vet like Brady? Is there actually something said, or does BB know that Brady is probably his own worst critic and leave it alone? -- Brian (West Virginia)

A. This is a good question, Brian, because people wonder why with 55 seconds left, and with three timeouts before the half, why didn't they attempt to move the ball downfield? This is Bill Belichick understanding the flow of the game, just as he decided to continue to run the ball because the Colts couldn't stop it. He sensed the wheels were falling off and wanted to stop the bleeding right away. There was a lot of bad football in that short stretch from the Patriots. Being in the early-season team meetings when I was playing, Bill said one of his goals was "EBFB." That stands for Eliminate Bad Football. He would say it was his crusade to eliminate bad football for his team. One of his goals. So once he saw it, he put a stop to it right away, and he knew halftime (plus getting the ball to start the second half) was a chance to regroup.

Q. What's up, Bru. -- Rusian (South Carolina)

A. Now you're getting it!

Q. Does this version of the Patriots remind you of any version that you were a part of in your time as a Patriot? -- Adamante (Toronto)

A. Sunday night's game reminded me of championship teams. I have to say that. The way they were able to run the ball. I saw Baby Dillon out there. Then, seeing the domination on defense, it also reminded me of championship teams. What was so special about Sunday night was that they won without Tom Brady. Brady was average, guys. But he was picked up by the team around him. To know this can happen, it gives you an incredible amount of confidence going forward. But I will say this: As effectively as they are playing now, and you know Tom will play better, the rest of the season will be a test of professionalism, maturity and team consistency. The sample size is big enough now. You know how good they can be. Now it's all about maintaining what you've built.

Q. Hi Tedy, awesome running game [Sunday], reminiscent of your teams with Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon. Do you see that game plan and production specific to the Colts D or can the Pats have the same success against the Lions and Packers? Not looking past a tough Lions team, but that kind of run production and clock control seems critical for the Pats to limit Aaron Rogers at Lambeau. -- MainerMIke (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

A. I've thrown out the Dillon name and I'm glad you brought up Antowain Smith because those were big backs who helped us win a lot of games. We're putting a lot on Gray, and I don't want to jump the gun. Like I said, he might never have a game like again.

Q. How do you think the Patriots are going to play against the Packers after this big win? -- Franklin M. (Fort Wayne, Indiana)

A. We're on to Cincinnati, Franklin.

Q. Hi Tedy, first off I' m not going to let you forget that you picked the Colts to win [Sunday] night! My question is do you think that Jamie Collins has gotten away from his early-season woes? He looked darn good [Sunday] night and it seems as though he has fully recovered from that thigh injury. Thanks. -- Tyler (Bentley University)

A. All right, Tyler, would you take me seriously if I picked the Patriots every week? I'm not going to lie to you, I was high-fiving my sons when Gronk threw Sergio Brown into the camera. But as for Jamie Collins, the sky is the limit for him. I see a little Roman Phifer in him, I see a little Mike Vrabel in him, and then I see things that neither of those players could do athletically. I don't know how much bigger of a compliment I could give him. Those are two of the best LBs in Patriots history.

Q. The Cards have the record, but the Packers look unstoppable. GB the best in the NFC now? -- Rob (Naples, Forida)

A. I have to agree. Although I respect the next-man-up mentality of Bruce Arians and the Cardinals, Drew Stanton made some bad throws Sunday, and until I get more confidence in him ... he threw two INTs and some teams can take advantage of that. Right now, the Packers are tough to beat. Records don't mean anything right now. You get into the tournament and it's all about how you're playing. No one is going to care that Green Bay lost two of its first three.

Q. Tedy, I appreciate your willingness to pick against your former team. It is very difficult for analysts to do that. What surprised you most about the Patriots' dominating performance? -- Rodney (Preston, Connecticut)

A. Thanks, Rodney. It is difficult, but I'll tell you what: At ESPNBoston.com, Mike Reiss and I take our jobs seriously. Everyone should know my heart is with this team every week. What surprised me most about the Patriots' dominating performance? I didn't know this offensive line had it in them. I knew Gronkowski was a beast. I knew that the defense is legit. But I didn't think the O-line could dominate a game that way running the football.