Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September 2009 and is a native New Englander. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at 11 a.m. ET!
Mike (11:00 AM)
Good morning and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.
Mike (11:03 AM)
Short week with the quick turnaround from the Monday night game. Thought Monday night was the NFL at its best and worst all in one. Best up until the final picked-up flag as that was a real enjoyable game. But too bad to have an ending like that. That should take nothing away from the Panthers, who played great IMO. Just a bad way to end it.
Mike (11:04 AM)
So I'm open to anything you have on the table.
im still confused, according to the ref's explanation, the contact happened after the ball was thrown and it was uncatchable despie gronk being in a bear hug. according to this once the ball is thrown every defensive player can bear hug a receiver as long as the ball isnt being thrown to that receiver and then there is no flag, as well it would be good defensive play to prevent any receiver from coming back to the ball on a come back route
Mike (11:06 AM)
Alty, I just think they missed it by picking the flag up. There was a restriction and the flag should have stood.
trent (columbus, oh)
The Devin McCourty holding penalty got so overlooked in the Carolina game. Why no discussion on that? That wrongly called penalty impacted the game more.
Mike (11:07 AM)
Trent, haven't really gotten a good re-look at that one. Still playing catch-up with the short week.
Al (BEan town)
Should the NFl fire the refs from monday's nights game?
Mike (11:09 AM)
No, Al, Clete Blakeman is a good referee. I actually follow this stuff pretty closely and I think he is good at what he does. I do think he made a few errors on the final play and it's fair to expect more from him (and the NFL) in that situation. We all mistakes. I do too. I think the part that leaves me as a reporter and someone who really enjoys the game feeling a little let down is that there really was no accountability taken by anyone on the league level. I think Dean Blandino's explanation warrants scrutiny. I don't understand why he wouldn't just say, "Clete Blakeman is a good referee, his crew works hard, but in this case we would have preferred either no flag or sticking with the call." Because, to me, that's the truth of the situation. Once you throw that flag, you can't turn back IMO.
Mike (11:10 AM)
We see coaches have to stand up and take the heat. Players too. But the NFL sort of gets a free pass in situations like these.
Andrew (Apex, NC)
Mike - I went to the game on Monday. Arrington made an awful play on that last TD, which seems to happen every game. What do the coaches see in that guy? I thought he was a liability last year, but they signed him to a multi-year deal and let Welker and Woodhead go. I just don't get it.
Mike (11:12 AM)
Andrew, I'm going to come to Arrington's defense this week. I thought he played a very good game up to that point. I actually had him in my "up" column until he obviously misplayed the go-ahead touchdown. I think his groin injury could have been a factor. He was in and out of the game. I give him credit for trying to play through it, although in retrospect, that decision might have hurt the team more than helped it.
Ron (Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Mike: In reference to Trent previous comment, I thought the same thing myself?the referee's flag on this play set the standard, but then changed the standard on the last play of the game. Lastly and more importantly?if this is the way it is going to be in the NFL then the integrity of the game is at risk?if their is a void in integrity, then why waste my time or anyone's time to watch!
Mike (11:13 AM)
Similar thoughts here, Ron. Looks bad for the NFL.
Look - the refs picked up the flag because they talked themselves out of the peanlty. The situation and circumstance got to them. It is as simple as that. If there was no penalty on the play, the BJ never would've thrown the flag in the first place. It stinks for Pats fans because we were beat up for complaining about the timing and circumstances of the Jets game penalty. It was beaten into our heads that regardless of time or circumstance, if there is a penalty, it has to be called. Not mentioned: Just not against the home team. Moving on...
Mike (11:14 AM)
I see it much the same way in terms of the feeling that the officials talked themselves out of it based on the situation and environment. Didn't feel it was a clear-cut reversal type of situation. I think it's fair to expect more of the NFL.
The team lost it, i think ridley is a major disappointment. Also am so upset on offensive line - Logan mankins flat out lied on the 15 yard penalty in the postgame show that he is not aware what happened, solder always lets the player go once or twice in a game (so lucky brady is still upright). Injuries to defense is the last this team needs, I think this team is heading to playoffs but cannot beat any good team there.
Mike (11:15 AM)
As much as we talk about the officials and the final call, let's not overlook some of the critical mistakes the Patriots made -- Ridley fumble, Mankins' team-high 7th penalty of the season, OL breakdowns. They had their chances. I wouldn't count them out at this point. They are still a good team.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
There is a photo of Olson reaching around and holding McCourty's jersey back with his hand, and actually preventing McCourty from disengaging
Mike (11:15 AM)
Like I said, Tman, I didn't see it. But my sense of it live was that it was a crafty play by Olsen as there was initial contact.
Hi Mike, do you see Pats scheming to take away Demarius Thomas or Welker (assuming he is cleared) and do you think Pats can play aggressive and try and jam receivers off line to mess up rhythm for Manning or will they get torched
Mike (11:16 AM)
PJ, I'd project a plan similar to the Dolphins game when they focused on the middle of the field and made Ryan Tannehill throw more to the outside parts of the field.
Riders of Rohan Davey (Helms Deep)
Mike, What is you assessment of Donta Hightower at the this point? I would think the arrow is trending down. Is he a bust? Out of position? Every time a Panther runner/Newton got to the second level, it appeared to be through the hole that Hightower left open by over committing to another space. He is too slow to cover recievers. Should he be switched to the line?
Mike (11:18 AM)
I was actually just listening to 98.5 The Sports Hub (Gresh & Zo) before this chat and they were talking about Hightower. Thought they nailed it -- a bit up and down. Tedy Bruschi also previously made the point that he feels Hightower should be about 10 pounds lighter to help him in coverage. I think we've seen enough good things in flashes to make the call that there is a bright future ahead. The key for Hightower is consistency.
Do you think stopping the run will be an issue this week in the sub defense?
Mike (11:19 AM)
Could be, Austin, but it's pick your poison. Probably rather be lighter in the box and take chances vs. run.
marty (SD, CA)
Why not Justin Francis over Jake Bequette on the roster right now? I feel like Francis could contribute. I assume he is healthy since he tried out in early November. Bequette is a waste of space on the roster.
Mike (11:20 AM)
Marty, that third DE spot has been a little bit of a struggle. Like the thought here. We know they had Francis here for a workout recently.
Ted (New Jersey)
If the Patriots convert on third and 1 in the red zone instead of taking a field goal, this whole issue doesn't matter or come up. Red zone play-calling still a huge issue. They were running the ball effectively on that Panthers D. In my opinion, play-action passes in short yardage situations just seem so predictable in this age of the NFL. They either should have ran the ball or spread out the field (if they wanted to pass).
Mike (11:22 AM)
Ted, there is so much we don't know as reporters/fans on these play-calls. On the third-and-1 pass, that very well could have been called in by Josh McDaniels as a run/pass option. What that means is that Tom Brady has the freedom to check to a pass if he thinks they're running into a brick wall. So the intention might have been to run but they switch out based on the look. We can argue if that is the right thing to do, but I'd be almost certain that was the case on that play. Maybe it should have been a straight run. That's a good debate. But sometimes it's just about execution and you have to give the other team credit too.
Nick (Miami Fl )
Mike, Once again Ridley Fumbles in a bad situation. It appeared he had it high and tight. Hes so explosive when he gets going but everytime he touches the ball I have to look away. I think the Pats will be looking to draft a RB this year. Thoughts?
Mike (11:24 AM)
Nick, in 2014, they'll have Ridley and Vereen in the final year of their contracts. The team technically has Bolden through 2015. So makes sense that some future planning could be part of the thinking at that spot.
Mike...with 10 games into the season, is it a lost cause for this team to start "clicking"? It seems that they have not been able to put together any consistency on offense or defense.
Mike (11:24 AM)
Dave, I don't think it's a lost cause. I'd cite the Ravens last year as a prime example. Looked ugly into late November. Turned it on at the right time.
Time to move on from Ridley; too much at stake and he can't get it together.
Mike (11:25 AM)
Can't see them moving on this year, but definitely could see them reducing the workload to reduce the potential ball-security risk.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
How many picks do the Pats use on BIG guys next year, Mike? OL and DL are really the biggest holes at this point.
Mike (11:26 AM)
I think it's a "big" draft next year for them, just like you say, Brian. Just look at those spots in the last few drafts -- not a lot of picks up front.
Mike, can't we all just move on from last week. How many times did Carolina punt in the game? Going forward, with the CB situation, I think they will be luck to split the last 6 games and will be one and done in the playoffs. Pats turning into the Atlanta Braves of the NFL!
Mike (11:29 AM)
Rick, third-down defense a big issue. Carolina was 8 of 11. Has to be better than that going forward. On the Braves analogy, the whole idea is to be in the hunt, be healthy, and try to get hot when it counts. They're still in it. I think we generally trend negative here in New England, and if that's the choice you want to make, that's up to you. But look around the NFL and tell me who is a lock right now. Anything can happen. The Giants, for example, started 0-6 and they're coming on (4-6). Wouldn't be shocked if they are there at the end.
Rhett (Pittsburgh pa)
Mike I think what's being missed about Mondays game is the fact the Patriots didn't play their best but where still on position to win against a very good team on the road. This team can beat anyone.
Mike (11:29 AM)
I agree, Rhett. And to be fair, they can also lose to anyone. That's the NFL, right?
Mike, my fear this week is that Talib and Arrington get knocked out of the game due to injuries re-agrivating and then you are left with Cole and Rookie Ryan against Peyton Manning? Need to sign a vet corner
Mike (11:30 AM)
Or promote Justin Green from the practice squad. Agree that they might need an extra body. Tough to bring a vet in and expect him to get up to speed right away.
Jamie McClellan (Medford)
When talking about Aqib Talib's play and possible contract extension, why is there no discussion about his injury history? he has now had a hip injury which limited all last season and forced him out of the AFC championship game. Now the same problem has arisen this year, threatening our championship hopes again. thoughts?
Mike (11:30 AM)
All fair, Jamie. Tough to invest big in a player that has had trouble staying on the field.
Mike (11:31 AM)
One way to look at it: In the end, that could help the Patriots retain him at a more reasonable price in their mind.
Travis G. (Beverly)
I was glad to see Boyce back on kickoffs last week as I think he could possbily give the Pats a spark there and I'm prediciting will have a big return this week vs Denver. Why did it take the Pats so long to figure this out?
Mike (11:32 AM)
Good question, Travis. I think many of us were saying the same thing on the kickoff returns -- what do they see in LeGarrette Blount? Boyce gives them the possibility for more explosiveness. Give it a shot. Like the idea he could be a bigger factor Sunday night. Ball won't travel as far as it did in Charlotte.
Brian (Winchester) [via mobile]
The weather report shows Sunday will be windy with a low of 17. Is this still an advantage for Brady or now that Manning plays outdoors do you think he'll play better in bad weather?
Mike (11:32 AM)
Advantage: Patriots. Would think that's just what they would have ordered up if given the choice.
Dave (Elmira, NY)
Mike, There are a number of changes to the blog this season with many I don't agree with. But one reporting issue that throws a flag for me is when national reporters for ESPN write about an issue based on "sources close to the team." It would seem to me that, when it comes to the Pats, if there are reporters that have the connections it would be you and Field. It may be one thing when the national guys report on the NFL league offices and use that line, but I find it hard to believe that after all your years with the team (and I think there are others reporting on other teams like you) that any other reporter can scoop your knowledge of the team. Besides that, I don't recall you ever using such a mousy way of grabbing a headline. Can you comment on this?
Mike (11:34 AM)
Dave, there are a lot of good national reporters out there who have good sources with the Patriots. Some of them, such as ESPN's Adam Schefter, I work with and consider a teammate. There are many dynamics in play with covering a team and doing it fairly and with no agenda. That's what we strive for. Not sure that answers the question, but would be happy to get into in more depth in a different forum.
I hate to say this, but I am fed up with "Brady vs. Manning" kind of reports. Mike, aren't you ?
Mike (11:35 AM)
Love the matchup. Feel like I've read the story before, though.
Do you think with the injury thin secondary that the Patriots would ever consider signing Dowling off the Jets practice squad?
Mike (11:35 AM)
I think they've moved on from Dowling, Paul. Just a hunch.
Hi Mike, Thanks for all the great work on the Site. I had a question on Armond Armstead. Do we now close the chapter on his availability for this year now? Or would there still be a way he can help this team in the Post Season run?
Mike (11:36 AM)
As I understand it, we can now close the book. Nothing official, but I don't think he's eligible to play in 2013 as the deadline has passed. Ditto for WR Mark Harrison.
Matt (New Jersey)
As I predicted in this chat before the season, Wes Welker, when measured against his replacement, has dominated Amendola in catches, yards, YAC, TDs and first downs, not to mention games played.Question: Has anyone in the media had the temerity to ask Peyton Manning his thoughts on how the Patriots could possibly have let this perenial Pro-Bowler walk out of town?
Mike (11:38 AM)
Matt, think about that for a minute. What do you honestly think Peyton Manning would say to that on a week like this? Do you think he would really say, "Of course I was. They were so foolish. Thanks, Patriots." He's not going to feed that beast. Those close to the situation and the people involved understand completely what happened, why it happened, and the multiple dynamics in play.
Mike (11:38 AM)
From a big-picture standpoint, right now, it's fair to say that it doesn't look good for the Patriots.
Jim (Brisbane, Australia)
Mike - firstly, all to often Pats fans take for granted that we will be competitive year in year out. This time around regardless of dubious calls we shouldn't lose sight of the exceptional coaching job that has taken place given the injuries on defence and changes on offence. What's your view on the personnel at the safety position for the back end of the season and beyond?
Mike (11:39 AM)
Jim, I thought Duron Harmon played very well on Monday night. Maybe something overlooked a bit. Still thought Ed Reed could have helped them, but apparently Reed didn't exactly excel in his Jets debut.
Mike (11:40 AM)
Overall, don't think safety is a big issue for them. Also wouldn't be surprised to see them move McCourty to CB in this game.
Mike, it was good to see Matthew Slater out there for kick returns, I love the kid's effort each and every game. With him and Josh Boyce returning kicks, do you see a future for Leon Washington should he recover from injury? Thanks!
Mike (11:41 AM)
Will, tough to see it right now with Washington. Looking back on it, I think that's one they probably wish they had back -- Woodhead over Washington.
tim (durham, nh)
regret the loss of sudfeld?
Mike (11:44 AM)
Would have been a natural fill-in with Hoomanawanui out, Tim. But one thing I'll say, and I learned this with Greg Salas, is that sometimes those players at the end of the roster just get caught in circumstances and the short-term need trumps the long-term vision. The goal is to win games and you can sometimes put the team at risk if you sacrifice short-term needs for the long-term development. In Salas' case, they liked him but needed OL Markus Zusevics because they were dealing with injuries along the OL. They tried to sneak him through waivers but lost him. Same with Sudfeld, who surprised by flashing so early in camp then dipped pretty dramatically.
Mike (11:45 AM)
Can't win them all. No team does. That's just the dynamics you deal with when building a team.
Brad Yo (Outer Banks NC)
If Hooman is out this week, how do you believe they replace him?
Mike (11:45 AM)
Brad, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see Hoomanawanui again this year, but that's just speculation. Bumps Matthew Mulligan into the No. 2 spot, and I think we could also see more of FB James Develin and three-receiver sets.
Riders of Rohan Davey (Helms Deep)
Where is Jaime Collins?
Mike (11:46 AM)
Special teamer who needs more seasoning. Played 2 snaps the other day -- in short yardage and in the base when they tried something different on third-and-2. He'll be more of a factor next year, I feel confident about that.
Tim (Washington State)
Hi Mike, what has happened to Rob Ninkovich? It seemed like he started off the really playing exceptionally well but I haven't noticed him very much lately. Didn't even realize he was out there on the field against the Panthers. Do you think he can get back to his disruptive ways down the stretch?
Mike (11:47 AM)
Tim, Ninkovich had 9 tackles and 2 sacks on Monday night. I think he's one of the better defensive players. Yes, he missed Cam Newton on that terrific scramble. Sometimes the other guy wins too.
Mike, after this tough loss I was a little deflated and wasn't looking forward to the much anticipated Denver game as I was going into Monday night. The loss hurt, and some doubt crept in, thinking they had no chance against this high powered offense. Then, I read your article on how Belichick handled the situation with his tape of the Lions game and I have to say, I am now more excited then ever to watch these two face off. I couldn't imagine what those players felt if I was excited without the dialogue of what Bill had to say. Not a lot of people are going to pick us to win at home, and that's exactly when the Pats go out and shock the world!
Mike (11:49 AM)
I thought that was really interesting, Jim, and obviously I wasn't in the meeting room. But I'm always intrigued with Belichick's approach with his team. The one thing I'd say about this Patriots team -- they're going to give you an honest day's work. They might not be as talented in the end, but you want to feel good about who you're going into games with. This team has that. So you take your chances and see where the chips fall.
Mike,team with a banged up secondary, and no pass rush. how do the Pats even slow down Manning this week?
Mike (11:51 AM)
Mike, here is how I'd project they approach Manning: 1) Dime defense all game unless they are in heavy offensive personnel (which is only short yardage). 2) Move McCourty to CB and let Gregory and Harmon handle the back end; 3) Focus on up-the-middle pressure with lighter personnel up front and concede a bit on the ground; 4) Get physical with receivers and take away the middle of the field and make Manning work the edges like we saw in the second half of the Oct. 27 game against the Dolphins.
Mike (11:52 AM)
There is obviously a lot more to it, but those would be some foundation-type thoughts on what I think could work for them.
Kevin (New Jersey)
Good afternoon, Mike...Love the chat. Question on Talib's play last week and the perception that Smith got the better of the match-up. 4 catches for 62 yards by the #1 receiver isn't exactly a great day. Why was the media's perspective (and Smith's) so one-sided. Seems like he was held in check most of the game. What was your view of the match-up? I saw it as very even, you win a match-up and sometimes lose a match-up throughout the game... although the 42 yard pass was a big one.
Mike (11:53 AM)
Kevin, I thought Talib lost his cool. 2 penalties. The big pass play early was a tone-setter of sorts. He had some victories too, but overall, I did give the edge to Smith. Like you said, sometimes you have to give the other guy credit too.
Mike (11:53 AM)
Let's take a few more...
Hey Mike,In the 'holding-yourself-accountable' department...before the draft your main man was Markus Wheaton. Although it's still to early to make a full judgement, I think Dobson has certainly outperformed Wheaton. Thoughts? You may have missed your pre-draft man crush this year...but from previous years your amateur scouting has found studs in Brooks Reed and Ryan Kerrigan (2 for 3 ain't bad).
Mike (11:55 AM)
Chris, I think Wheaton has been dealing with a finger injury this year, so I don't want to close the book on that one just yet. But if we were to judge it right now, I couldn't argue that Wheaton would be better than Dobson. Let's call it a developing picture and revisit when there is a little more time to assess.
Jason, nyc [via mobile]
Mike, please tell me that Bill Belichick is able to control Talib and Mankins and that they won't repeat their stupid, unnecessary penalties that cost the Pats that game in Carolina. That was really hard to stomach. So selfish.
Mike (11:55 AM)
Had to be one of the disappointments for Belichick. Can't have that happen, especially from two veterans. Fair to expect more.
Mike, what are your thoughts on Dobson? Seems to be working out the kinks and turning into a reliable option. So far I'm impressed!
Mike (11:56 AM)
Yes, Henry, and I think overall the key is that they are no longer relying on all the rookies at once. The return of Amendola, Gronkowski and Vereen takes some pressure off the rookie WRs.
Hike: Thought we looked good on Monday, tough loss but good game. I have been looking forward to this next one all season, and really hope Wes plays. Can we win it?? If we don't the play off picture will look way different. what are our chances in this one Mike??
Mike (11:57 AM)
Corky, the Patriots have been in every game this season. So they absolutely can win this one. Not too many teams we can put in the same category.
what happened to TE killer Tavon Wilson?? what happened to his cover skills? where is he?
Mike (11:58 AM)
Eric, not working out for the 48th overall pick in the 2012 draft on defense. Looks like a swing and a miss in that respect.
Why so much faith in Mankins to turn things around? We've been waiting for him to straighten out for 10 weeks now. Seems to have had several weak performances.
Mike (11:59 AM)
Glenda, I understand some of the frustrations that are showing up in the mailbag regarding Mankins. Some of his mistakes have been noticeable, but in re-watching the games closely -- and I've watched every play this year on review up to the Carolina game -- he's still effective. Not perfect, but definitely still effective nad a player I'd want on the team.
Hi Mike,Manning seems to be better than ever in his pre-snap defensive reads. Is there realistically anything this relatively inexperienced Pats defense can show that could trip up such a wily veteran?
Mike (12:00 PM)
No pre-snap signaling this week. Minor nuance that probably should draw more attention. Sometimes something that simple can be the difference.
Hi Mike, why doesn't the NFL make the Referees have a press conference and discuss controversial calls? The MLB did it several times throughout the season including the playoffs and world series. Players and coaches have to face the music every week so why don't officials they are a part of the game as well. Also has an NFL official ever said after the game they got the call wrong? Just about everyone including former officials said it was a penalty, how does the NFL come out and say it was the right call? Other than trying to protect the sheild it makes no sense.
Mike (12:01 PM)
Good point, Jason. I've thought the same thing. Yes, they have admitted they have made wrong calls. We've seen it plenty of times before.
Going back to a question earlier about calling a run play, but TB has the option to call something different based on the look of the D. In general, if you asked TB or BB in a press conference about that, how much info do they give up in their answer - i.e., does TB admit that he made the wrong call? Or do they avoid the question, not wanting to reveal too much of the play-calling thought process? Thanks for these chats!
Mike (12:02 PM)
Let's end with this one, Dan. I think it depends on the situation and timing of the question. Brady has talked about it before. But if I asked Brady about it Wednesday of this week, I think he would have said 'I've moved on. Our focus is on Denver."
Mike (12:02 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Lots of good stuff. Enjoy the game Sunday night and we'll chat again next week.