This week's opponent for the New York Giants is, as you know, the New England Patriots. That gave me a chance to do a Q&A with the editor of Pats Pulpit, Greg Knooping. This is the first time Greg and I have crossed paths, since Greg was not running 'Pulpit' when these teams met in the Super Bowl.
I think we had a good exchange, and yes I did torture Greg by asking him about the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The good stuff is after the jump.
Big Blue View: What the heck is the deal with the Patriots' defense? Last in the league in yards allowed, and passing yards allowed, per game? How does that happen to a Bill Belichick team?
Pats Pulpit: Over the past few years, it has been well documented that the Patriots have been regressing a bit on defense, particularly in the area of getting to the quarterback. To help simplify the scheme due to a shortened offseason, Belichick transitioned to the 4-3 in the preseason. The Patriots have done some things well in this new scheme, they're getting to the quarterback a little better and can still take the opponent's best player out of the game if they so choose - but teams like the Steelers are taking advantage by throwing short, quick passes that beat the rush and take advantage of the Patriots porous zone coverage.
To this point, Bill Belichick has failed to adjust to these problems and it's starting to wear on the entire team. While the Patriots defense isn't as bad as the stats would indicate, they have been wildly inconsistent as a group and with a depleted secondary, I'm not too confident that these issues will be solved anytime soon.
BBV: Speaking of Belichick, I read a few articles this week critical of the defensive scheme and wondering if maybe Belichick was wielding too much authority since he has final say on all personnel/draft decisions. Thoughts on that?
Pulpit: Belichick has won the team three Super Bowl championships, gotten them to the conference championship or better five times, and has won the team eight division titles in his time with the team. While everyone makes mistakes and Belichick has made his fair share over the years, I'm not going to throw him under the bus when a team has a bad game.
That being said, there are some issues with the defensive scheme that I think need adjusting as I previously outlined. The team recently released veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden as well. Bodden was relatively healthy and was the team's No. 2 outside corner. For a team that has had it's secondary depleted, releasing Bodden was a real head-scratcher.
But I'll conclude with this: The common saying in New England is "In Belichick we Trust." While Belichick, from time to time, makes moves that don't really make sense from a fan or media success, his track record suggests that when all is said and done, he knows what's best for the team, so as fans, we should really just sit back and let Belichick do his work.
BBV: We know all about Eli Manning's comments earlier this year about being in Tom Brady's class as an elite quarterback. I don't want to re-hash that. What I want to do is ask you for your thoughts on Manning?
Pulpit: From a Patriots perspective, we don't really get to see that much of Eli Manning. That being said, I think most fans have a mixture of resentment and respect for Eli considering what he was able to do in Super Bowl XLII. Personally, I think Manning is certainly one of the NFL's better quarterbacks. I wouldn't put him in the Brady-Rodgers-Brees-Peyton class of quarterbacks, but he's definitely in that second upper echelon tier, especially now that guys such as Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, and Matt Ryan are all struggling. In addition, no one can deny how well Manning has been playing - and that scares me considering how porous the Patriots pass defense has been this year.
BBV: I have to ask. Thinking back to the Giants' Super Bowl victory over New England what bugs you most? Or, have you just erased it from your memory banks?
Pulpit: I try to erase it from my memory bank, so thanks for bringing it back up. In all seriousness, it's probably just the whole "18-1" idea. The Patriots were on the verge of having the greatest team of all-time and one string of bad plays took that away from them. I would have much rather had "17-2" than "18-1", but what are you going to do? In terms of a specific moment/play: it has to be the David Tyree catch. Seriously, what were the odds of that play? The guy isn't even in the league anymore. But I guess that's what destiny is all about - crazy plays such as Tyree's that it seems nothing can prevent from happening. Destiny clearly wasn't on the Patriots side that day.
BBV: My favorite question. If you could choose one Giants player to remove from the Giants and place into your lineup in New England, who would it be? Why?
Pulpit: It was a toss-up between Hakeem Nicks and Jason Pierre-Paul, but I'm going with the former USF pass rusher. The guy is an athletic freak with tremendous size and has already racked up 8.5 sacks in seven games this year. Did I mention he's only 22? The Patriots have had plenty of chances to select a top-tier pass rusher and always seem to pass on them. Getting a player like Pierre-Paul could really make a difference for the Patriots defense.