Concerns About the New England Patriots Offense

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 3 ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed NFL Week 3 games with Suzy Kolber, analysts Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski and NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Some excerpts from the show:

On concerns about New England Patriots offense …

Jackson:  “Certainly you concern yourself when Brady is getting hit.  He’s been sacked five times in the first two games – so the offensive line is having a hard time giving him the time to release the football.  And then, there’s the (WR) Wes Welker issue.  It is the 550 balls that he caught in five years.  I can do the math, that’s 110 balls a year.  I don’t know how you phase that out of your program.  Sometimes, to be quite frank, you get marginalized if you go public with certain issues with the New England Patriots.  The Patriots way is very successful.  But for individual players who challenge them on certain issues, you find yourself in this position.”

Johnson:  “I think their problem is a little deeper than Wes Welker.  When you look at this offense as a whole, losing (Aaron) Hernandez is a big hurt.  (Quarterback) Tom Brady was getting hit in pre-season … Without Hernandez in the lineup, it’s a big no-no for them.”

Ditka:  “I always thought you play your best players.  One thing I thought about Welker, I thought he was one of their best players for this reason, he became a security blanket for Tom Brady.  He was kind of their go-to guy.  Now, it has become Rob Gronkowski.”

Carter:  “… As far as option in the slot, Wes (Welker) is the third best option in the slot behind Gronk and Hernandez.  Wes cannot play outside the numbers.  The amount of money he’s looking for a long-term contract, they would never put that value at the wide receiver position.  Long-term, Wes Welker has problems staying in New England.”

On the impact of losing (head coach) Sean Payton on Saints 0-2 start …

Johnson:  “He’s the glue that held that team together and put that organization in place where it was a year ago or a couple years ago …”

Carter:  “If an NFL team can play without its head coach, I’m going to tell you something – I don’t know nothing about the NFL, zero.”

On Bears Jay Cutler’s sideline antics against his offensive lineman …

Ditka:  “A house divided will fall.  If you have certain players siding with the quarterback and certain ones not siding with the quarterback, you’re going to come apart.”

Jackson:  “Leadership is about a lot more than yelling at players on the football field.  It is about leading by example.  It is about working with the guys that you have with you; and Jay Cutler, going all the way back to the Denver Broncos, great arm, has not exhibited great leadership with his football team.”

Carter:  “Does it remind you of anybody?  I played with the guy for a couple seasons and we did not have this issue with him – but his first name was ‘Jeff’ and his last name was ‘George.’  If Jay Cutler doesn’t watch himself, he’s going to be put in that class; misunderstood, all the arm talent in world, but the inability to make people around him or his team better.”

Johnson:  “Let’s not fool ourselves, we’ve all played sports before.  The bottom-line, you’ve got to win football games.  He can do what he wants.  If you’re winning, and you’re putting championships in Chicago, you can scream at whoever you like to scream at, you can criticize whoever you like to criticize, but you have to win.”

Ditka:  “All wounds are healed if you win.  There’s no doubt about it.”

On how do you beat the 49ers? …

Jackson:  “No. 1, you have to be more physical than they are going to be on the football field.  That’s very difficult to do.  No. 2, you cannot make mistakes because they don’t turn the ball over … Lastly, you have to match that contrasting style.  They are not playing football in the 2000s.  They’re stuck back in the 1980s with the seven offensive linemen, win with the elephant package.  Very few teams are prepared when they go out to play this kind of football.”

Carter:  “Number of things you have to do – You have to take care of the football.  You have to maximize your possession because you are not going to have extra possessions the way they take care of the ball.  No. 3, you have to make (quarterback) Alex Smith beat you.  You have to put eight, nine guys in the box, take away their running game.  Make him throw the football to beat you.  But the last thing that you have to do is – you have to buckle that chin strap up.  You have to come with the mentality that I’m willing to do what the next man won’t do because that’s what the 49ers mentality is this year and that style has won out in the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, 70, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.”

On whether Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was responsible for the three interceptions Monday night vs. Atlanta Falcons …

Jaworski: “I spent a lot of time breaking those three interceptions down.  Visual evidence showed me that, of those three interceptions, Peyton Manning, although he threw them, wasn’t responsible for them.”

On whether it is time for NFL to get regular officials back on the field …

Jackson:  “The thing that is insulting is that every single week now, we’re hearing from someone in the league, Jerry Jones, whoever, that it is okay.  That’s the part, eventually, that’s going to get to the public.”

Johnson:  “It’s not okay … They’ve got to get it fixed, because the integrity of the game is hurting right now, period.  Somebody is going to get hurt out there.”

Carter:  “One of the biggest problems is, when you go on to the field, before the whistle is blown, there is a great deal of disrespect from the players to the referees and we’ve never had this before.  I believe that will be a problem long-term.  As long as they are on the football field, the players will not respect them.”