Today on Season Ticket, guest host Joe Sullivan (@GlobeSullivan) welcomes NFL reporter Ben Volin to unpack a 27-20 Patriots loss in Miami on Monday night. Topics include the Dolphins' strategy to slow down the Patriots high-powered offense, whether Tom Brady is injured, and next Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers being a must-win game.
- Ben Volin (@BenVolin), National NFL Reporter, The Boston Globe
On the offensive struggles of the Patriots
Ben Volin: The Patriots offense was almost non-functional last night. Especially the wide receivers, completely shut down. And I think you have to look at the absence of Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots have done a good job over the years of getting by without Edelman when he broke his foot in 2015. They’ve gotten by without Gronkowski a few times; they even won the Super Bowl without Gronk last year; but they’ve never gotten by without both of those guys.
"That’s his act. He doesn’t want to answer questions about negative performances by his team, so he just gets all intimidating up there and tries to scare the reporters from asking too many questions. And it works."Ben Volin, on Bill Belichick's postgame press conferences
On Tom Brady’s health
Joe Sullivan: I think he’s hurt and he can’t admit it for several reasons. One, because the Patriots don’t admit injuries and [two], he can’t admit that someone under the ‘TB12 Method’ could actually get injured but I think there’s something wrong there.
Ben Volin: He’s on the injury report with an achilles and he’s on that management schedule now where he’s been missing the Wednesday practice the last three or four weeks. This week he missed Wednesday and Thursday and I do wonder if missing practice is catching up with him a little bit ... And it could be affecting some of his mechanics. That first interception to Brandin Cooks was way underthrown. Maybe his achilles injury factored into that. I certainly believe that. It’s not an excuse. It’s not anything we should really factor significantly unless it’s a real, major injury because this is a guy who’s made a career out of playing through these bumps and bruises that you pick up throughout the season—that’s the essence of Tom Brady. And he’s one of the toughest football players in the NFL. You’d have to cut his right arm off to have him come out of the game.
On Tom Brady's technique for taking sacks
Joe Sullivan: I guess he’s been good at this all the time but I notice it even more [now]—when he’s going to get sacked, he really is moving away from the contact and going down quickly so he doesn’t take the big shots. I think it happened a few times last night; rather than getting creamed, he just hits the ground quickly.
Ben Volin: Yeah, he bails on the play or he hits the ground quickly or he makes sure he lands on his left shoulder. That’s part of the savvy that comes with 18 years in the NFL.
On Bill Belichick scaring the media following Monday night’s loss
Joe Sullivan: After the game, Bill Belichick sounded even more ‘Bill Belichick’ than normal ... On TV, it looked like he had indigestion, like he just ate two pepperoni pizzas from Santarpio's. That was one of the worst press conferences we’ve seen from him, don’t you think?
Ben Volin: That was brutal. He deserves an Oscar. He’s a great actor because I was watching him all night and he was pretty cool and calm on the sideline. He doesn’t get too up or down during these games and he didn’t seem to be getting upset about the way of the game. And then all of a sudden he gets into the press conference room and he’s got steam shooting out of his nose. And that’s his act. He doesn’t want to answer questions about negative performances by his team, so he just gets all intimidating up there and tries to scare the reporters from asking too many questions. And it works. There’s so much awkward silence and it's intimidating to ask him some of these questions so it's a smart tactic by him.
"This is going to challenge them. Of course, the Patriots usually rise to challenges like this."Ben Volin, on the upcoming Steelers game
On Brandin Cooks not being a physical wide receiver
Ben Volin: When it’s a 50/50 ball and it’s him and the cornerback going for it, he’s shown time and again this year that he’s probably not going to come up with that ball ... He’s not a physical wide receiver ... One catch on eight passes thrown to him against the Dolphins. You never see that from Gronk or Julian Edelman—their catch rate is always in the 60-70% range at least.
On the Steelers game on Sunday becoming a must-win game
Ben Volin: This game suddenly looks a lot tougher for the Patriots. The schedule-makers did them no favors here—short week and coming back from a road game, now they have to go on the road again to Pittsburgh. This is going to challenge them. Of course, the Patriots usually rise to challenges like this. The tougher the situation, they often can overcome it ... If the Patriots get Gronk back, and then you factor in [that] Brady really has done a nice job against this [Steelers] defense over the years, it’ll be a tight game and I’m still going with the Patriots. But the short week and the road game and the defense with all these injuries—they’ve got to get guys healthy for the Steelers game.