Chat with Mike Reiss and Tedy Bruschi
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPNBoston.com will host a chat to take your questions on the New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game this Sunday (1 ET).
Blogger Mike Reiss (noon-1 p.m. ET) and former Patriot Tedy Bruschi (1-1:30 p.m. ET) will be on hand to take your queries.
Send your questions now and join the chat Thursday at noon ET!
Mike Reiss (12:01 PM)
Good afternoon all. Thanks for stopping into the Patriots chat. Just getting a few things together here and we will get started in a few.
Mike Reiss (12:02 PM)
Just received word that Tedy Bruschi is stopping by at 1 to join the chat. So I'll go until 1, then Tedy comes in.
David Miodowski (Walnutport, Pennsylvania)
Hey Mike (Reiss) I myself am a native New Englander, I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, anyway how do you see the Patriots fairing this weekend with using Sammy Morris at Halfback, and possibly over-using Randy Moss?
Mike Reiss (12:05 PM)
Good stuff David. Made my way through Springfield often when I attended UMass. In terms of the Patriots' usage of Sammy Morris and Randy Moss, I don't see that as a major concern. They're going to need everyone. You figure the Ravens will double Moss, who usually plays every snap. I see Morris as part of a mix with the other backs.
Pat (New Jersey)
Hey Mike, With Welker being out now and the Patriots receiving corps being diminished further, do you see a resurgence of Ben Watson and the return of Tom Brady relying on the tight ends more like in the 2006 season? I personally think Ben Watson is one of the best tight ends in the league, just underutilized. I think using him more now could have a very positive effect.
Mike Reiss (12:07 PM)
This could be part of the plan, Pat, but I lean more toward the idea of heavy usage of the backs in the passing game. I could envision seeing Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney in the same backfield, with Brady in the shotgun, and using them on short passes with the hope of getting them in space against bigger linebackers.
Hey Mike, what do you think the chances are of the Patriots picking up Deion Branch this offseason? With the possibility of Welker being questionable at the start of next season would it make sense to bring in a veteran with knowledge of the Pats' offensive system?
Mike Reiss (12:08 PM)
I think it's a tremendous idea, Jeff. I was endorsing it back at the trading deadline this year. Branch is still under contract, so the Seahawks would have to release him or trade him. I could see Denver very interested as well, so there might be some competition.
Mike, if we win Sun, then win at SD, and if the Jets beat Cincy and then beat Indy, would we then host the AFC Championship against the Jets? If so, how crazy would that be?
Mike Reiss (12:09 PM)
Yes, Sully, that would be a dream scenario. Call me crazy but I think the matchups give the Jets a chance of pulling it off.
Space Banditoo (Orington, ME)
Can the Patriots run Defense Step up?
Mike Reiss (12:10 PM)
I'm going to say "yes" because I think that highly of Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren. I thikn their return will help the Patriots match the physicality of the Ravens. Ray Rice is a tough player to tackle -- he also leads the NFL in yards after the catch -- so this is a key part of the matchup.
Looking back at everything that went on during the season, is Kyle Arrington coming off the practice squad mid season to lead the team in special team tackles not the most impressive statistic?
Mike Reiss (12:13 PM)
It is one of my favorites, Amory. He ended up playing in 8 games, and tied for the team lead with 18 special teams tackles. Thirteen of them were solo, which was a team-high. That's a great lesson for young players on how success on special teams gets you on the field. Arrington has been deemed more valuable than Darius Butler and Terrence Wheatley on the 45-man game-day roster in recent weeks, even though he's not as polished at cornerback.
Kevin Maher (Carson City,Nv (b. Chelsea))
Mike in past years I have been fairly confident of pats teams. It seems this year of a new D, that like in the bowl against the Giants, our weaknesses were exposed and games lost in the final minutes. How can we over come, I think we will, but need to get back to the trickery and well hidden defensive schemes. what do you think we need to do to win?
Mike Reiss (12:15 PM)
I would boil it down to a simple thought: Win the critical situations. That has been a trademark of this team. A lot of games come down to 1, 2, 3 plays. The Patriots have traditionally risen to the challenge on those plays. Then you see a third-and-15 and third-and-12 against the Texans in the fourth quarter ... those plays on defense have to be made. If you are a championship defense, someone finds a way to step up. A pass rusher. A defensive back. I don't think it's about scheme as much as rising up at the key times.
Jonathan (Quincy, MA)
Hey Mike - Why do you think Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel aren't back with the Patriots? I understand the angle of wanting to right the ship in Kansas City in hopes of getting another head coaching position down the line, but why don't they realize that regaining their mojo with Belichick in New England could lead to more Super Bowl rings and the potential to be lauded along with Belichick has perhaps the greatest coaching treo of all time? Am I letting nostalgia cloud reality?
Mike Reiss (12:18 PM)
Tough one for me to answer, Jonathan, because I haven't talked to Weis or Crennel about it. For Weis, I'll just speculate that his stock can only go up if he turns that K.C. offense around. If he comes to New England and the team wins, people still might ask the question "Can Weis do it without Belichick?" So maybe he's thinking along those lines.
Do you think any of those WRs on the practice squad will play this weekend? Or more snaps for Stanback?
Mike Reiss (12:20 PM)
I don't think the practice squad WRs will play this weekend. That would be asking a lot. I could see Stanback getting a few snaps, but I also think this is a situation where you tap the versatility of your roster and use your backs more as pass-catchers.
Jonathan (Quincy, MA)
Hey Mike - It seems that the Patriots defensive struggles against the pass could be due to not having a strong man-to-man cover corner in the mold of Darrelle Revis. During the Ty Law or even Asante Samuel era, I would imagine they were more comfortable calling man-blitz schemes without deep safety help allowing the defense more flexibility to confuse an offense by alternating between man and zone looks. Smurf corners like Hobbs and Wilhite won't ever be Ty Law, so where can we get our hands on a 5'11", 200lb shut down corner? The Draft or Free Agency?
Mike Reiss (12:23 PM)
If we're talking about a Revis type, it would be the draft, Jonathan. Maybe on the more realistic side, I think retaining Leigh Bodden would be a step in the right direction. The Bodden/Springs pairing, to me, is the Patriots' best right now. Also, I still think Butler could develop into a top-flight corner.
Mike, why isnt Baker used much in the passing game? i thought he was brought in to help boost TE passing game?
Mike Reiss (12:25 PM)
He is more of an underneath type option, Alex. I never thought Baker would be a consistent TE option that threatened the deep parts of the field like Benjamin Watson. I thought he was brought in for his combination skills -- blocking/pass catching -- and it seems to me that the Patriots have utilized him more in the blocking role.
Hi Mike,how do you rank the Pats running backs as we head into the post-season? Between Taylor, Morris, and Mauroney, who is # 1 / 2 / 3? Also, does Vollmur get the start at RT over Kazur?ThanksNick
Mike Reiss (12:26 PM)
I'd rank them this way: 1. Faulk; 2. Morris; 3. Taylor; 4. Maroney. I'm thinking a lot of spread formations against the Ravens, which is why I put Faulk first. At right tackle, it's just a hunch, but I'm thinking Kaczur will get the nod.
How does the Wes Welker injury affect the organization going forward. Seems like this will have a trickle-down affect in that now it's another hole to fill.
Mike Reiss (12:28 PM)
I could see it maybe enticing them to add another WR, either in the draft, free agency or via trade. Also have to keep in mind that Moss will be entering the last year of his deal.
Chris (Brookline, NH)
Aside from that goal-line fumble, Maroney had been showing great improvement. Is there a place for him in this game, or has that label gone to Taylor now?
Mike Reiss (12:30 PM)
I think there should be a place for him, Chris, but I'm not sure there will be. Without Welker, I think this is a major challenge for Bill O'Brien to tap all parts of his offensive roster and tap the versatility of different players. When I think about Maroney in this game, I'm looking at him more as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He had one catch for 17 yards against the Ravens in the earlier meeting. If he doubles that production this time around, then you add in others like Kevin Faulk and Benjamin Watson, that is how you team up and try to replace Wes Welker in my view.
Bernard (Roxbury, MA)
Do you think if the Pats employ the strategy they used against the Colts When Ty Law had 3 Interceptions, an Pounded away with C.D. They have abandoned that strategy since acquiring Moss
Mike Reiss (12:31 PM)
I think it's going to be very tough to pound on this Ravens defense. They are first in the NFL in fewest average yards allowed per carry (3.4). To me, it's more about picking your spots in the running game to maintain balance, but to win, you're going to have to throw it successfully.
Hi Mike,Do you think the Patriots gave any thought to bringing Charlie Weiss back as offensive co-ordinator?
Mike Reiss (12:33 PM)
I do, Brady. I have to believe that Bill Belichick spoke with Charlie Weis and that Weis felt the Kansas City spot was better for him.
How do you see the Patriots attacking the Ravens defense? Spread em out and pick on their suspect nickel CBs or pound the ball and control the clock?
Mike Reiss (12:34 PM)
I think a mix, but more of the former -- spread them out, get the ball out quick, and use everyone.
Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, Florida)
Mike do you think the Patriots will place their franchise tag on Vince Wilfork in the offseason and make him play under the one year tender and do you think he would holdout?
Mike Reiss (12:35 PM)
Assuming there is no salary cap, it makes sense to think the Patriots would tag Wilfork. I would expect a holdout if that is the situation.
Richie Rich (Washington DC)
Mike, who takes the role of "Big fullback" Dan Connolly if he is out of the game Sunday? I love having a big pulling lineman as fullback. Is Ohrenberger up to that task or are we too thin at OL to continue with this formation?
Mike Reiss (12:36 PM)
I mentioned Ohrnberger the last few days, but I had overlooked that Ryan Wendell was also recently promoted to the roster. He'd be a solid candidate for that role.
Jeremy (Brattleboro, Vermont)
Any chance the play calling this week includes some trick/unique plays? Seems like they have had some success (flea flicker TD) and have some other possibilities given the promotion of Edelman (reverses/wildcat/etc)?
Mike Reiss (12:37 PM)
I could envision it, Jeremy, because this is the type of week that you lay it all on the line. There is no sense saving a play you think might work, because the next time you may be able to use it is next September. So let it rip.
Hi Mike...with Welker out, who is Brady's safety valve/quick read on the many blitzes we'll see Sunday?
Mike Reiss (12:39 PM)
The Ravens blitzed about 38 percent of the time this season. The Patriots actually had a higher blitz percentage. As for the safety valve, I think that will vary, but could envision the running backs being a big part of that.
First, I really enjoy your column. I was wondering since you have been following the team from an inside perspective, how the confidence level seems after Welker's injury. To me, I have heard almost a resurgence in confidence and identity this past week that has lacked a bit this season. Your thoughts? And have you seen this level of confidence and excitement throughout the season translate on sunday during the season?
Mike Reiss (12:40 PM)
I've actually been out of the locker room the last two days with a virus, so I can't answer this one with authority Jonathan. One thing I've noticed is that players seem to be speaking with an apreciation for the opportunity they have. That's always a good thing.
The Raven's secondary seems vulnerable at times, do you think the O-Line will be able to hold up long enough to exploit it?
Mike Reiss (12:42 PM)
At times, I think the line will hold up and create opportunities to attack that aspect of the matchup. I see that matchup as one that should be competitive.
Aiken's arm seems ok?
Mike Reiss (12:43 PM)
He was back at practice Wednesday with full participation. I was keeping an eye on that one Tyler, as I hadn't picked up on the fact it seemed like he hurt it late in the fourth quarter against the Texans on that Tom Brady interception.
Pat Reilly (Kennett Square PA)
I have been concerned that the Patriots offense has been too predictable this season, with Welker and Moss being targeted for the great majority of Brady's pass attempts. Do the Patriots have the talent (receiving and blocking) to spread the ball around to 5-6 targets with regularity?
Mike Reiss (12:46 PM)
I think they do, Pat. If you put a group of Moss, Edelman, Watson, Faulk and Maroney out there, I see no reason why each player couldn't finish with 4-5 catches apiece. Morris and Taylor could be included there as well. I think Baker is more of a blocker first here, but he could be a factor. So I think they have the weapons to spread it around and protect at the same time.
Mike Reiss (12:50 PM)
Sorry about that delay. Had to log back in...
Mike Reiss (12:50 PM)
Will go for another 10, and then Tedy comes in at 1 p.m.
Jorge Perez (Framingham MA)
Mike, Do you truly believe the patriots can make noise in the playoffs now that his supporting cast is just randy moss? also do u think the injury to welker will have an affect on the rest of the team?
Mike Reiss (12:52 PM)
The great thing about the playoffs, to me, is that it only matters what happens in those 60 minutes. Anything is possible. While I think the Patriots' road got a lot harder without Welker, I wouldn't count out a team quarterbacked by Brady or coached by Belichick. As for Welker, I sense that the devastation in the locker room Sunday has subsided. They'll be ready to play.
Jeremy (Brattleboro, Vermont)
Who starts in the defensive backfield this week? Who fills the sub roles? Seems like this has changed alot this year, and it is had to get a feel for where they see Butler at this point.
Mike Reiss (12:53 PM)
I think it's Springs, Bodden, Sanders, Meriweather, with Butler and McGowan the next in. Not sure about putting Wilhite back in there.
Sam Hill (Beverly, MA)
Do either of you think, we the re-emergence of a reliable running game, and a need to re-shift the focus in the offense with Welker gone, that this actually plays BETTER into the Pats hands than worse? The Ravens are going to be seeing a completely different offense than they saw earlier in the year, and a much sharper Brady.
Mike Reiss (12:55 PM)
I heard that line of thinking, Sam, but I look at it differently. My feeling is that the Patriots lost 123 catches and the heart and soul of their offense. That trumps the unpredictability factor in my view.
Squall (Balamb Garden)
How scared are the Patriots of pro bowler Ray Rice?
Mike Reiss (12:56 PM)
I think they respect him greatly. He led the NFL in yards after the catch, and is very good with the ball in his hands. How well they tackle early in the game will be a good barometer as to how the Patriots will fare.
Hey Mike, Do you think the Pats stray from their philosophy to build strictly with youth and sign some much needed veteran leadership and toughness in the offseason? Clearly, that lack of leadership this year has hurt them at crucial times this year. Also, do you see Pees leaving after this year to be a DC in college, perhaps Alabama with Seban?
Mike Reiss (12:58 PM)
I don't see the Patriots straying too far Kenny. I see another mix of veteran and young players added to the roster. As for Pees, it struck me once again how stressful these coaching jobs are last week with news that he left the game to go to the hospital. I haven't talked to Pees, so I'm not sure what he's thinking. A scare like that might make him consider stepping away altogether.
T-man (Belmont, MA)
Hi Mike: I'm extremely concerned that the Pats WR situation is on life support. Certainly, Moss is spectacular; but, the no 2 WR, a rookie who missed part of the season was a QB in college; the no 3 WR, Aiken is primarily a special teams player, and WR no 4., Stanback was a practice squad player who was a college QB. How can this, frankly "motley crew" inspire confidence, never mind get the better of a playoff, or even average NFL caliber secondary? It makes the Reche Caldwell "era" look good.
Mike Reiss (1:00 PM)
Fair point, T-man. I guess I'll fall back on that '06 example you used. The Patriots almost made it to the Super Bowl that year with a so-so group of WRs. It's a team game -- offense, defense, special teams. Everyone needs to grab part of the oar.
Mike Reiss (1:00 PM)
We've hit 1 p.m. and that means it's time to step aside for Tedy. Thanks to everyone for chatting. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, let's plan on doing it again next Thursday at noon.
Tedy Bruschi (1:02 PM)
Hey everybody, it's been a crazy day. I'm at Target, but I can still talk playoffs!
will the Patriot cornersplay man toman defense this week?
Tedy Bruschi (1:03 PM)
That's what they've been majoring in all year. I don't see that changing, Jason.
Sammy Morris had some terrific blocks last weekend - how important is he to our offense?
Tedy Bruschi (1:04 PM)
Sammy will be huge this week. If you remember the first game, he took on Ray Lewis and converted a third and one to a first down. He can bring that same physical presence on Sunday.
Lets get it out of the way early, whats your prediction Tedy?
Tedy Bruschi (1:04 PM)
Patriots survive this round and move on to San Diego.
Hey Tedy!Are you more concerned about stopping Ray Rice running or catching game?
Tedy Bruschi (1:05 PM)
To win? You've got to stop both. You've got to set the edge on Ray Rice and get pressure through the middle of the pocket on Flacco.
Does Maroney get a shot at redemption?
Tedy Bruschi (1:06 PM)
In order of RB importance in this week's gameplan, it's Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and then Laurence Maroney. When you carry the football, you hold the fate of the entire team in your hands. Right now, his ball security is a liability.
Gregg (Scottsdale, AZ)
Tedy, is it possible that there is a silver lining to Welker's injury since the Ravens defense doesn't really know who we will turn to in Welker's absence?
Tedy Bruschi (1:06 PM)
After Brady, you just lost your most valuable player on offense. There is no silver lining.
Tedy, I was wondering if the Patriots were going to be successful at applying pressure to Flacco this Sunday? They have seemed to have trouble forcing QB's to make bad decisions. I would like to see them mixing it up on the defensive front similar to that of a few weeks ago. And tell Adalius Thomas to take off the diaper and start playing like he used to.
Tedy Bruschi (1:08 PM)
I think BB will have to scheme some creative blitzes. They haven't been very successful in one on one pass rushing this year. Banta-Cain does have 10 sacks, but blitzes will need to be utilized on Flacco. Once you get him moving, he's not the same QB.
Tedy, what's the locker room atmosphere like before a playoff game?
Tedy Bruschi (1:09 PM)
You've come to the moment that you've fought for all year. There's a chance that your team is the Super Bowl champion. You're one of the 12 teams that possibly can finish the season with the title of world champion. It's exhilarating. Somebody's going to win it, why not you?
hey tedy, do you think it is even feisable that the pats would throw a curve ball with an eddleman wildcat play or to?
Tedy Bruschi (1:09 PM)
I wouldn't doubt that, especially knowing that Edleman was a QB at Kent State. I was there at training camp and the idea was toyed with, actually.
Tedy what is the main cause of the Patriots woes in the 2nd half of games? How do you cure that in the offseason?
Tedy Bruschi (1:10 PM)
That's a tough question. Maybe it's their youth. Having so much success in the past, sometimes you anticipate it rather than make the success happen yourself.
What do you think the offensive game plan will be? Run the ball and control the clock or spread the field and let Brady pick on their suspect nickelbacks?
Tedy Bruschi (1:11 PM)
I think spreading the field can be very effective this game, but the run game must be used to keep them honest.
tedy who do you think has more pressure, moss or eddleman. and who do you think will have a bigger impact?
Tedy Bruschi (1:12 PM)
When Moss lines up on the field, he will always have the biggest impact, even if he doesn't get the ball. He must be accounted for when calling defenses. But the pressure lies on the supporting cast this week without Wes. Don't forget about Kevin Faulk, he can do it all.
Larry (RAF Mildenhall England)
Teddy, who's your most valuable player on D for this year
Tedy Bruschi (1:13 PM)
I'll give you two LBs, Larry. Mayo, who's been quiet this year in the big play department, but he's been solid. And Banta-Cain. He might be the answer. 10 sacks from him have been huge.
Tedy, What's your thoughts on Crennell and Weis both rumored to go to KC? Are you close with them?
Tedy Bruschi (1:14 PM)
That makes them a much better team. I know how good those coaches are. Charlie Weis and Todd Haley both have strong personalities. We'll see how that works out.
do you think that the defence will play a bigger role this game with welker out??
Tedy Bruschi (1:15 PM)
Not only the defense, but special teams also. Special teams made a huge play in the Week 4 meeting by causing a fumble that led to points. They need to duplicate that and the defense needs turnovers.
Tedy! Nice chatting with you love the insight, does this team remind you of the 2001 championship team with the youth and the possibility for unlikely guys to step up big in the playoffs, especially since everyone is overlooking them?
Tedy Bruschi (1:16 PM)
It gave me shades of '01 in some parts of the regular season. The biggest difference are the mental errors I've notice, especially on defense. Players on that '01 team eventually became stallworths for this team for the next decade. Do you see any of those type of players out there? It's possible.
How does Meriweather look to your eyes? Because I see the big plays and think he's destined for greatness..
Tedy Bruschi (1:17 PM)
He had his ups and downs this year. He made big plays but he also took costly gambles that hurt the team. He'll get better with more experience. Remember, he's still young too.
Nathan (Carmichael, CA)
Hey Tedy. What's your #1 "key to the game" this Sunday? It would be great to see the Pats take on the Chargers again.
Tedy Bruschi (1:18 PM)
Be disciplined in everything you do as a team. The Ravens have shown that they will mess things up when the game is on the line. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. Be focused for four quarters. The Ravens have shown that with penalties or mistakes that they falter late in games this year.
Eric (Norton, MA)
Am I simply being a homer by thinking that Julian Edelman is underrated?
Tedy Bruschi (1:19 PM)
I don't think so. I also think that Edelman has the chance to be great. But that's a year or two down the line. Right now, there is a significant drop off with him and Welker. But he has tremendous upside.
Pat (New Jersey)
Tedy. First let me start by saying you are my favorite Patriot of all time, it's nuts "talking" to you. Do you see Ben Watson playing a bigger role now through the playoffs?
Tedy Bruschi (1:20 PM)
I hope so. They have to start targeting these other players with the loss of Welker. Faulk, Watson, Baker, Edelman. They will all be needed.
MIKE (KINGSTON NY)
ARE THE PATS HEALTHY ENOUGH FOR WIN THIS WEAKEND?
Tedy Bruschi (1:20 PM)
I definitely think they have what it takes to win this weekend. When they move on to San Diego next week, that's when they could possibly run into some problems.
Tedy, how would you grade the job Dean Pees has done this year as DC.
Tedy Bruschi (1:21 PM)
I think his performance has been solid. Remember, this is a revamped defense with a lot of new players and new leaders need to be established. That's a tough place to be in.
tedy, any idea how wilfork and warren are doing? are they healthy enough to have a big impact on the game?
Tedy Bruschi (1:22 PM)
I think they'll both do everything they can to play. You have to question their effectiveness and conditioning. When you get to over 300 pounds and you have a lower leg injury, you can't do your conditioning when hurt. They'll have to move them around and pick their spots to use them.
Jason (Denver, CO)
Tedy, it's always great to see you on here. When I watched the Jacksonville game, the thing that stood out most to me was the change in energy. How much danger is there of the Pats coming out flat after the loss of Welker?
Tedy Bruschi (1:23 PM)
They've had a week to get over it. I think their performance at home this year should relieve you of any doubt of their energy level. They're a different team when they play at home.
Why are you still in New England with us? It's winter time man, you should be sipping beverages with the Mrs on a beach somewhere
Tedy Bruschi (1:24 PM)
Man, I'm in the school supply section looking for some new pens. I'm been in New England for 14 years. It's not a bad place!
hey tedy which rb starts behind brady on sunday?
Tedy Bruschi (1:25 PM)
I think Sammy Morris starts. He's been there all year and Fred Taylor comes in off the bench. That's a good 1-2 punch, don't you think?
David (Plymouth, ma)
Tedy, with Welker out and the problem of third receiver nagging all year, will it be even harder this week to find the third receiver and if so will it be more of the same when it comes to Brady and very few weapons?
Tedy Bruschi (1:26 PM)
Their potential No. 3 WRs have had a year to develop. If they're not ready to go by now, you need to get rid of every one of them.
Eric (Norton, MA)
Do you guys think the culture of the locker room has changed since Tedy, Rodney and Junior have left? I know Seau is back now, but he wasn't in camp or at the start of the season.
Tedy Bruschi (1:27 PM)
A lockerroom is a very underrated component of a team's success. You have got to have policemen. There's a right way and wrong way to conduct yourself out of meetings and away from practice. These young players will eventually figure that out.
what player will be the biggest weapon on defence against the ravens?
Tedy Bruschi (1:28 PM)
Did I mention how the Patriots need turnovers? The biggest hitter on the defense is MacGowan and he brings a physical presence. I think he's your answer.
Tedy Bruschi (1:29 PM)
Thanks for joining me everybody. I predict a Patriots victory this week. Now I'm off to join my wife and son in the toy section.