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 (10:58 AM)
Good morning and welcome to our Patriots chat. We'll get started in a few. "Omaha!" Don't jump early or it might be a neutral zone infraction.
Mike (11:01 AM)
I wanted to lead off with a quick story from behind the scenes that I think ties in nicely to Wednesday's developments with Tom Brady being sent home with an illness and not practicing...
Mike (11:02 AM)
Prior to the Patriots-Broncos game on Nov. 24, on a very cold night, I noticed Brady come on to the field in the pre-game and spend a little time watching Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard go through a workout in front of the medical staff as they were game-time decisions. It caught my eye because it was out of the norm for Brady to be on the field at that time. ...
Mike (11:03 AM)
... A few weeks later, Dec. 15 in Miami, I noticed Brady come on to the field in the pre-game, wearing shorts and a winter hat. He sat on the bench for some time, gathering his thoughts. Again, this was out of the norm for him as he seldom comes out before the game.
Mike (11:05 AM)
... These are the types of things you notice when following a team so closely, so a few weeks later, I approached Brady in the locker room to ask him about it. His response was that both of the games were played in more extreme conditions -- very cold vs. Denver and very warm/humid vs. Miami -- and he wanted to just a feel for it beforehand. When I said, "OK, that's all it was. Just a minor thing", his response was quick. "Everything matters," he said.
Mike (11:05 AM)
Mike (11:07 AM)
That was what stood out to me Wednesday with news that Brady wasn't practicing. It's not the biggest deal, and it's important to keep that context. But it also shouldn't just be swept under the locker-room rug. Brady loves to practice. So this is a storyline we'll follow (Brady is back, practicing this morning, and scheduled to speak with reporters) this week to see if it has any impact on preparations/the outcome.
Mike (11:08 AM)
One more housecleaning note: Things might slow down slightly at around 11:15 a.m. in this chat as I have to take a quick interview call. Tried to move it around but wasn't able to, so I'll make up the time on the back end.
Mike (11:08 AM)
Ronnie (Philadelphia )
How much confidence does Jamie Collins' play against Coby Fleener impact your belief that he can contain Julius Thomas?
Mike (11:09 AM)
Ronnie, it's less about my confidence and more about Jamie Collins' confidence, and how could it not be rising after what we saw Saturday night. That was a big-time effort.
Sean (Houston, TX)
How confident should the Pats be knowing they have a relatively healthy secondary that matches up well with what the Broncos receivers offer?
Mike (11:09 AM)
Sean, this secondary is extremely confident. They feel they match up well with anyone in the NFL. I think they are as healthy and deep as they have been all season back there.
Troy (Birmingham, Mi)
Excited for Sunday and confident we'll win a tough game against the Broncos. My question for you is from a scale to 1-10 how much of a factor will Denver's losses on defense impact our chances of winning?
Mike (11:11 AM)
Troy, this is a real interesting question to me because I think if all things were equal, the Patriots would be airing things out more often in this game based on Denver's personnel losses (specifically CB Chris Harris). But here's the catch: I'm not sure how the Patriots view their own personnel to exploit that. The options are limited in the passing game, which might keep them grounded. So on a scale of 1-10, I'd put it at a 4.
Will (Delaware )
Good morning Mr. Mike Reiss can you tell me why this team is more equipped to beat Denver on the road Sunday as oppose to 2006 in Indy?
Mike (11:12 AM)
Will, when I think back to the '06 game, I remember Eric Alexander starting at linebacker. When I think to this game, it will be Jamie Collins. That's probably a good place to start as to why this picture looks better. I also think they are running the ball much better -- Blount/Ridley/Vereen > Maroney.
Floyd (Las Vegas)
Good morning Mike... Towards the end of the year you mentioned how the significance of the first round bye for New England wasn't that important to have, and if so do you still believe that to be true?
Mike (11:15 AM)
Floyd, I think the context of the remarks were that it's always nice to have the bye but given the runs made by the Ravens and Giants the last 2 years, I didn't think it was necessary. I still believe that to be true, but after Logan Mankins' ankle injury in the season finale, it ended up being more important to them specifically to give him more time to heal up.
Bijon (Detroit, Mi)
Good afternoon Mike I just wanted to ask how does deciding to travel to Denver on a Friday impact how the team prepares in these latest practices and does it give the coaches the belief that being pre exposed to the altitude contribute to that line of thinking?
Mike (11:16 AM)
Bijon, there is no impact. The Patriots will do everything they would normally do in the three practices leading up to a road game; they just push the schedule up on Friday a bit. It's less about altitude, in my opinion, and more about standard operating procedure when switching time zones and playing a 1 p.m. ET game that week.
Curtis (Chicago, IL)
Hi you doing Mike I just wanted to ask what is the significance of having D.J. Williams on the roster if he's not playing? And do you think Brandon Bolden get some love Sunday? Keep up the good work!!
Mike (11:17 AM)
Curtis, they obviously see something they like in Williams, but he would fall in spots 40-46 on the game-day roster based on his contributions. Because his special teams contributions aren't as signficant as others, he gets trumped. They could use him, no doubt, but it's just a numbers game. As for Bolden, I'd say mostly special teams Sunday.
Hi Mike,thank you Josh McDaniels for drafting Demarius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshown Moreno and thank you Bill Belichick for sending Wes Welker to Denver. The price is a loss in the AFC Title game. Joke aside, do you think we can hold pace with this juggernaut in "normal" weather? If we can dictate the tempo of the game with our running game maybe but otherwise it looks like 2006 against the Colts.
Mike (11:18 AM)
Yes, I think the Patriots can do enough to slow down the offense and keep the game in striking distance. Red-zone will be key. Broncos ranked first in the NFL in TD percentage. Patriots need to keep them at or below 50 percent in this game.
Mike (11:19 AM)
Denver in the red-zone this season: 51 touchdowns in 67 trips. Ridiculously efficient.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
A lot is being made here about the Broncos signing Marquice Cole...do you think this will impact anyway that the Pats prepare this week? Maybe they have to change hand signals on offense? I think this was a bit of gamesmanship by the Broncos...
Mike (11:22 AM)
Scott, the main thing with Cole is that he's in good shape, has practiced against the Patriots receivers, and can play in a pinch (slot) if needed. And on special teams. I don't think it's much more than that. Not gamesmanship as much as they had a need and he was atop their free-agent list.
Mike (11:23 AM)
Quick delay here for a brief interview...we'll make it up on the back end.
Mike - Earlier this week you theorized that Dobson was hanging around with the hope of playing in the SB (knocking on wood). Does a couple of limited practices so far this week give you any more optimism about his chances of suiting up against Denver?
Mike (11:27 AM)
Yes, Tim, his presence at practice alters the picture a bit, and makes me think an appearance in the AFC Championship Game is a possibility. I'm not sure how much he is doing at practice, but I wasn't expecting to see him.
Red Zone (End zone)
Mike they were 51 for 67 because they have real talent and not a bunch of system players.... Pretty simple mike...When you have real talent near the red zone, you can make things happen...Pats dont and can't.... It's a shame Bill put this could out there bc it wont win a sb...
Mike (11:28 AM)
Patriots were 5 of 6 in the red zone last week, relying on the power-running game with Blount and Ridley. Looked pretty good to me on that day. Obviously would help to have Gronkowski.
Hey Mikey, a lot of credit, deservedly so, is going to Blount for the run game. But I want to give a shout out to the offensive line, in particular Logan Mankins for playing extremely well. Have you noticed the same things during your film review? Also, I know it's hard for an OG to be clutch, but Logan Mankins tears it up in the playoffs. Profootballfocus says that his combined grade for the last 4 or 5 playoff games is a 13.4. Which is really well.
Mike (11:31 AM)
Absolutely Shaun. Playing very well and they pull quite a bit. Let's also not forget how he kicked out to left tackle when needed. Thought there were some ups and downs earlier in the season (vs. Jets, vs. Dolphins) but he has been extremely good when it counts.
Alex (Orlando FL)
Mike,A typical die hard Pats fan...I see this monster being too big to slay...and I am having a hard time seeing the running game continue to be such a success.Is this crazy?
Mike (11:32 AM)
Alex, you're not crazy. This is a tough matchup and there's a reason why the Patriots are underdogs. But as we know, even if another team might have a greater collection of talent, it's what they do with it in that 60 minutes of action.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Mike - are the Pats embracing the underdog role? It would seem to work in their favor considering all of the challenges they faced this year.
Mike (11:33 AM)
Yes, Harry, and Tom Brady set the tone early in the week by saying no one was probably picking them this week. When I heard that, I thought Rodney Harrison would be proud.
Mike (11:34 AM)
Rodney, of course, was the master of playing the no-respect/underdog card.
Mike seems people are quick to criticize BB about his team building and lack of receivers but they need to remember we were supposed to have 2 of the best TE's in the league when he was drafting. He surely couldn't have predicted AH behind bars when we were playing in the playoffs and Gronk on IR again.
Mike (11:38 AM)
Lonster, for anyone analyzing Belichick's building of a team, I think the key is to put it in the context of the entire NFL. Is he perfect? Absolutely not and he's not saying he is. No one is. We hear a lot about Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens being one of the best in the business, but what happened this year? How could they "let" Anquan Boldin go? Well, here's the truth: Newsome is great, but like everyone else, he's not perfect either. Building a team is hard. Belichick does a solid job and for anyone questioning it, or his approach, just look at the two players who are trending right now -- LeGarrette Blount and Jamie Collins. They were acquired in a 4-for-1 deal on draft day that was probably ripped by many because it was the same old, "WHY DOES HE ALWAYS TRADE BACK????" stuff. I think if all the critics were held to the same level of accountability as Belichick, it would be an ugly picture.
Chris (NE CT)
Hey, Mike. I haven't had a question answered here in a while, but that's understandable. You're a popular guy! I'd like to ask two, if I may. First, what are the chances Ryan Allen plays on Sunday? Second, what do you think the Pats have a better chance of exploiting: the Broncos' run defense or their pass defense?
Mike (11:41 AM)
Chris, Allen has a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder and the plan is taradol/tape and for him to give it a go. The concern is if he'll be able to lift his hands over his head to corral a high snap. Also, he might not hold. Allen has been at practice the last two days. On the second question, we touched on this a little bit earlier in the chat. I think if all things were equal, the more favorable matchups might be in the passing game. I'm just not sure how they view their own weapons to consistently exploit it, so I envision they might still remain grounded, where they could still have success.
Mike for the future do you have any news on Brandon Spikes? I know there was that whole deal that he was late to practices so he was put on IR, does that maybe indicate that Belichick may not resign him for next year?
Mike (11:41 AM)
Yes, Hudson, that's the way I see it unfolding. I think both sides probably feel it's best to move on.
Mike, with Bill being a great game plan coach, which of Denver's weapons do you think he focuses on? I know Demaryius Thomas seems like the no-brainer, but I think you could argue the tight end Julius Thomas. He seems to be trusted by Peyton a lot, and it seems to me like Peyton goes to him often on third downs. What are your thoughts?
Mike (11:44 AM)
Tom, I go to the "Tedy Bruschi School of Football", so there's really no need for me to reinvent the wheel here. When Tedy broke down the tape/game with me, he talked about how you probably defend Peyton Manning from the inside out. So my analysis, using Tedy's expertise as a foundation, is that you hope that Aqib Talib is competitive on Demaryius Thomas and Alfonzo Dennard is competitive on Eric Decker on the outside. Then you devote your surplus resources to the inside passing game and see if Peyton Manning can consistently beat you to the outside and down the field.
Mike, is Brady holding a press conference today, if so do you know what time? Thanks
Mike (11:44 AM)
12:45 for Brady, Derek.
Andrew (Whitman, MA)
Mike, I know the Patriots beat the Broncos not too long ago, however, Knowshan Moreno still had an awesome game. Now that we are with out Spikes, how well do you think the defsne will stop that running game? Do you think they will exploit that come Sunday?
Mike (11:46 AM)
Andrew, the Patriots were in their sub defense for all 90 snaps in that game, meaning they were light in the box against the run. As we remember, defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Chris Jones got powered off the ball consistently and the Broncos hurt them up the gut. A big change is the presence of Sealver Siliga, who is a bit bigger (6-2, 325) and has been playing with better technique. He's more of a run-stuffer. So I think he's a key player in this game. If he plays well, I think it increases the Patriots' chances to win.
Ryder John (Goffstown, NH)
Credit where credit is due, you were right Mike. All season I have been arguing that the trade down in the draft has left them without any high level talent again, but you repeatedly told me that Jamie Collins was the real deal and to be patient. Nice call. Also, is it wrong to be more excited about next years team than this one? I feel like this team is so young in several areas and is only going to get better with time. That, coupled with the return of injured players and their current salary cap has me thinking multiple championships. I know, too soon, or is it?
Mike (11:48 AM)
Ryder John, the future is bright. But I just think it's a shame to look ahead when your team is still in the final four. These opportunities might never come again, so I'd invest in the moment. We remember what happened in '08 when Brady went down on the 15th offensive play. What if that happens next year? The picture would change in an instant.
Alex (Canton, OH)
Mike, please tell me this team is nothing like the 2006 team and will get the job done. The similarities between that season and this year is interesting and SCARY!!!
Mike (11:49 AM)
Alex, there are indeed similarities between those teams. But I don't think that necessarily means the endings will be similar.
Dave (Williamsburg, VA)
Hey Mike,Can you clear up the proper pronunciation of Sealver Siliga's name please? TV play by play has pronounced it SiliNga and then I noticed you said SiliNga in your PAT piece. Why the "n" pronunciation? Thanks.
Mike (11:51 AM)
Dave, I had been saying Siliga, but Sealver said there is an "n" sound in there before the "g.". That's why you've noticed the change on TV, as Siliga himself has emerged.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Mike (11:51 AM)
He's a great story. Broncos wanted to sign him after Kevin Vickerson went down Nov. 24, and the Patriots blocked it by promoting him to the active roster. Siliga could have easily been on the other side of this game ...
Mike, excited as ever for this weekend. You touched on special teams earlier in the week and I think that may be where the game is won or lost for our Patriots (apart from maybe our DL vs their OL). If we can avoid giving Denver short fields to work with, cut out the frustrating penalties and play fundamental special teams coverage on Holliday, I think we have a good chance of making them work for every point.
Mike (11:52 AM)
Jim, the Broncos have also had some adventures on special teams of late. Something to consider. Patriots not coming off a strong performance themselves (3 block in the back penalties, bad snap on punt, near block on a punt), but they've generally been tight there.
Mike, you and I should remind people that half of the '06 Pats had the flu and they still almost won at Indy. If this team performs like that one, minus the flu, I feel ok about our chances.
Mike (11:53 AM)
Daniel, with some type of illness going around (Tom Brady/Danny Aiken missed practice Wednesday when they were sent home), this is something to keep an eye on. We saw the Patriots tire in the dome in the '06 AFC Championship Game. Will they tire in the altitude?
Landshark1214 (Dennis, MA)
Seems to me that Dennard matched up more often on Welker in the team's first meeting. You feel that he will have Decker this time around. Do you have confidence that Arrington can cover Welker well enough? Worries me...
Mike (11:55 AM)
Looking at my notes from that Nov. 24 game, it was more Arrington on Welker. He did a very solid job, with some help. I think that's the matchup again, unless Arrington's health (groin) is more of an issue and they turn to Logan Ryan/Dennard.
Mike, Why did the pats punt from the 26 yard line with 10 minutes left in the 4th against the Colts instead of go for the field goal? Please tell me it wasn't about "running up the score"?
Mike (11:56 AM)
Mark, the punt came with 2:41 remaining, not 10 minutes. Had it been 10 minutes, they are probably kicking that field goal.
Chris (NE CT)
What do you think the chances are the Pats let Talib go after the season and go with Ryan and Dennard as starting CBs next year?
Mike (11:58 AM)
Chris, I think they want Talib back. But as always, they will be disciplined in how far they extend. Personally, from a pure football perspective, I hope he's back because I haven't enjoyed watching such high CB-level play since Ty Law was here (1995-2004). And, to a lesser degree, he's a good interview. "Cash that check, baby!"
Guy Smith (America)
Hey Mike,I have been going back and fourth listening to Boston Sports Radio and Denver sports radio all week to get the different perspectives on the game. The Denver radio hosts are convinced that Denver is going to win by three touchdowns . Their main reasons were Denver has too much fire power, the weather won't be a factor, and the patriots three "elves" at receiver won't be able to produce. The hosts are also convinced Denver will be able to shout down Blount. What are your thoughts on this?
Mike (11:59 AM)
Guy, I do think the weather is a nice break for the Broncos. No arguments here. I also think the Broncos' firepower is the real deal. I'm less convinced the Broncos will be able to slow down the running game.
more on the Talib thing... how can we let our best personnel evaluator walk!??!?!
Mike (12:00 PM)
LOL, Shaun. You're on fire today.
Andrew (Whitman, MA)
Mike, I think Hooman is an underrated player, he can block, line up in the back field if needed, and catch. What expectations do you have for him in this match up?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Yes, Andrew, Hoomanawanui played every snap last week and I thought his blocking in the run game was particularly solid. Had the one breakdown in pass protection against Robert Mathis, but who doesn't?
Scott (Winchester, VA)
So what is the deal with Ryan Mallet and 2014, is he still going to be here?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Mallett is under contract and unless he is traded, he'll be here. My guess is that he is here.
Hi Mike, I dont see how this game will not be close (within at least 2 scores) in the 4th qtr. I expect a balanced (run/pass) offensive attack by both teams. I believe the Pats can win but would you comment about the difficulty of winning in Denver from a Patriots perspective? Isn't this the one place where Brady has a losing record? what is it about Denver that could particulalrly give this 2013-2014 Pats team a loss?
Mike (12:05 PM)
Tim, this is one of the best environments in football. When we were there in the 2005 playoffs, my seat was shaking and I was mildly concerned that the press box might collapse. It gets that loud and disruptive. Very, very tough place to play, especially in this spot. This is one of those situations where you come together as a team with the "this is all we have and this is all we need approach" because it's truly the case. That's why I put stock in what Tom Brady said earlier in the week, how if they win this game it will be as meaningful as any victory they've had in recent years.
Scott (Monroe CT)
Gut feel, will Aaron Dobson play Sunday, and if he does, is he a factor in the game?
Mike (12:06 PM)
I don't have a good feel on that one, Scott. The fact he's been at practice is encouraging but I still have some doubts.
Edge Wilkins (Roxbury)
All of our RB have something about them making then well above average. Who's getting cut next year?
Mike (12:07 PM)
The first thing to consider, Edge, is that LeGarrette Blount is a free agent. So I don't think there's a cut in play. The first priority is trying to bring him back.
Scott (Winchester, VA)
I can't recall a game where I have been more excitedly nervous about a potential matchup since the Pats played in their first Super Bowl in 86. Do you think they will utilize Vereen more, since the Broncos are expecting "Head-On Crash" Blount to be the main focus?
Mike (12:08 PM)
Scott, I think it's fair to say they need a bit more from Vereen, specifically as a pass-catcher. Has looked a little off to me in recent weeks, since his big performance against the Browns.
McCourty, is he healthy? he had a weak game last week and I'm also worried about them playing Steve Gregory in the deep passing game. Do we see Duron Harmon or Tavon Wilson in at Safety? hwo do they match up athletically with Gregory?
Mike (12:12 PM)
Mike, it will be McCourty and Gregory at safety. McCourty had the obvious breakdown on the TD catch, but I thought he had one of the underrated plays of the game -- second-and-3 from the New England 3, with a big fill in the run game to contribute to stopping Trent Richardson for no gain on a key play that ultimately forced the Colts to settle for a FG.
Mike, has the easing of Tavon Wilson back into some defensive duties been entirely matchup-based, or do you think the team has some cautious optimism that he's made progress as an all-around defender?
Mike (12:13 PM)
Matt, I think it's more that the 4-1-6 dime defense has struggled a bit (think of those long screen passes given up on third down) so they're trying something a bit different.
Mike (12:13 PM)
Let's take a few more...
Justin (Scottsdale, AZ)
Who do you expect to emerge as the Patriots' deep threat in this matchup? Perhaps a better question is this: Do the Patriots NEED to have a deep threat versus Denver? They proved last week (though against a lesser opponent) that it isn't necessary so long as the running game is dominant. Your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks!
Mike (12:14 PM)
Justin, this is going to be an unconventional answer, but it's the way I see it: The Patriots' best deep threat will be Play Action. He's not officially on the roster but you get my point. Danny Amendola's 53-yard catch last Saturday is the prime example.
Jacob (America )
Mike, speaking of the crowd noise at mile high, how do the pats prepare for something like that? We saw last week it really affected the chargers communication on offense.
Mike (12:16 PM)
A lot of loud music at practice, Jacob. And also some players leaning back on their experience from having played in these environments in the past.
How do the Pats prep for the high altitude? Is it as big a factor as I imagine? (When I've gone running in Denver, I've been amazed how much faster I get winded. Of course, I'm no pro athlete....)
Mike (12:17 PM)
Charlie, let's end on this one. I think it's more of a mental thing than anything. I asked DT Sealver Siliga about it Wednesday and he has experience from having played in Denver and echoed those thoughts. I don't think the altitude will be a huge factor.
I know its not friday for the predictions for the game Mike.. But I would like to know what your thoughts are (non bias) of course Haha but who will win this version of manning vs brady and whats the score?
Mike (12:18 PM)
David, I'm picking the Patriots. I'll explain why and give a score in this week's "Bruschi's Breakdown", which will be posted in the next 18-24 hours.
Mike (12:18 PM)
Thanks to all for chatting. We'll do it again next week -- win or lose.