Tale of the tape
Signal stealing charges are making some noise
FOXBOROUGH - This week's mailbag is a mix between allegations that the Patriots were illegally videotaping signals from the Jets, as well as the team's impressive season-opening win.
We'll get right to the questions.
Did you see the article on ESPN that says the Patriots are accused of videotaping other teams' defensive signals in order to steal signs? How serious of a charge is this?
Rob Holmes, New York, N.Y.
A: This is a serious charge if it turns out to be true. It would be against the rules and I feel it would violate the spirit of competition. We'll see where the process leads before making a final judgment. If the Patriots were deemed to have violated the NFL's rules, they would likely have to forfeit a draft pick and/or pay a fine.
What do you know about this sideline cameraman/Patriot employee that was allegedly filming Jets coaches hand signals? ESPN also reported the same guy was caught at Lambeau Field by Packers security for the same offense and that the Pats are known league-wide for doing this. If this is true, why hasn't anything been done as it is against the rules?
Tom Williams, Vernon, Conn.
A: What I know is that the league has a video camera and tape that was seized from a Patriots employee who was shooting from the sideline on Sunday. According to Packers security director Doug Collins, who was told the name of the Patriots employee by a media member with knowledge of his identity, it is the same person who the Packers removed from the sideline last year. It should be noted that the camera wasn't confiscated in Green Bay, so there is no physical evidence from that situation of the team taping signals. As for why nothing has been done about it, I don't have the answer. I don't even know if the Patriots have done anything wrong. More facts are needed as the process plays itself out.
The issue of stealing signals is stirring up a lot of debate with fans. It brings me to another question, however. I just watched a video of a LaDainian Tomlinson interview on NFL.com and they asked him if he was surprised about the allegations against the Pats. He responded by saying it does not surprise him because he is used to hearing everyone around the league complain about the "things" the Patriots do. What kind of reputation do they really have in this league? I always thought LT was one of the few classy players in the league, but he seems to enjoy taking cheap shots at the Pats. In short, is the Patriots reputation a product of their constant winning, or a product of their personnel? Is there any substance to the Patriots being "cheaters?"
A: The Patriots' reputation depends on whom you talk to. Some believe they are one of the classiest organizations in the NFL. Others believe they push the envelope. Some are probably jealous of the team's success and enjoy it when stories like these - which could turn out to be true, or could, turn out to be false - unfold. There are no black and white answers to these questions.
Can you please shed any light into the allegations that the Patriots had an employee that was caught videotaping the Jets sideline as their defense was sending out signals? What is the possibility of this being true? How long before the charge is dismissed/upheld? I cannot believe Bill Belichick would allow this. Could this all be sour grapes by Mangini or Jets management?
Raymond Gerrity, Osceola, Fla.
A: The best light I can shed on this story is the Boston Globe's story in Tuesday's editions. I am not sure how long before the charge is either dismissed or upheld. It could end up being sour grapes by the Jets, but I need more facts before coming to that conclusion.
I read on Foxsports.com that: "Teams are allowed to have a limited number of their own videographers on the sideline during the game, but they must have a credential that authorizes them to shoot video, and wear a yellow vest. But Packers spokesman Jeff Blumb said the person in question didn't have the right credential and wasn't wearing a yellow vest, so Packers security asked him to put away the camera." Is this just a question of someone not having the right credentials and vest? Is ESPN trying to make a big deal out of nothing here? What is your take on it? And if true, how is it different than what Miami bragged about doing last year?
Jacob Callery, Granby
A: My take on it is that I'm trying to gather as many concrete facts as possible. According to league spokesman Greg Aiello, NFL guidelines prohibit the use of any video recording device on the field for the use of coaches during the game, and the league policy manual states that teams are specifically barred from taping an opponent's offensive or defensive signals. Because I don't know if the Patriots were doing that, I don't have a strong thought one way or the other until I know more facts. On the Dolphins situation from last year, they reportedly listened to audio from TV tape of Tom Brady's calls at the line of scrimmage in the days leading up to the game, studying his cadence. My interpretation is that would be different than this alleged situation because it was TV tape - available to anyone - and not a tape produced by the Dolphins from field level during a game.
If the allegation of video cheating against the Pats is true, and all indications are that it is, it certainly has taken a huge amount of luster off the enjoyment and the pride I felt in the team. I'm also certain that there are not just a few of the players who will be unhappy to learn that their accomplishments were not due solely to their abilities as athletes. Do you think that there's any way Bob Kraft could have been unaware of this potential cheating?
Paul, Hampton, N.H.
A: I don't see all indications pointing to the allegations being true. Until I hear from the NFL, which has the camera and tape, I would caution anyone from making a judgment on this. As for Kraft's potential knowledge of this alleged activity, I don't have the answer.
Wondering about this camera on the sidelines. You mentioned in your brief article Monday on the Boston.com Patriots blog about it the individuals who are on the NFL's competition committee. It seems to me that at least half of those individuals have a reason to vote against the Pats when the matter is discussed. How do you see this playing out?
Dean Barcelow, Philadelphia, Pa.
A: Ultimately, if the Patriots are found to have violated the NFL's rules, Commissioner Roger Goodell will hand out the punishment. It is possible that the NFL's competition committee would make a recommendation to Goodell, but I think the commissioner is aware that members of that committee could gain a competitive advantage by the decision, so that would be under consideration if he ultimately has to make a decision on the matter.
I loved the look of the new Pats passing attack. My question is where was Donte' Stallworth? He didn't get all that many snaps, yet he was one of the regulars during the preseason. Did something happen to put him in Bill's doghouse? What are your thoughts?
Matt E., Saxtons River, Vt.
A: I had Stallworth in for nine snaps, the fewest of any of the five receivers. I don't think he's in the doghouse as much as Jabar Gaffney is outperforming him at this time. I also don't think it's a health issue. My overall thought is that the Patriots mix and match their personnel and positional groupings on a week to week basis based on the specific matchup with the opponent, and it wouldn't be shocking to me if Stallworth is considerably more involved this week, or ensuing weeks.
Congrats to Ellis Hobbs on his record-setting kickoff return. One quick question about it: How do they determine how deep in the end zone a player is when he receives the ball since there are no hash marks? Who makes the call?
Bob K., Cambridge
A: The official stat crew at the game makes that call. From what I understand, they have a spotter who determines how deep the player is in the end zone.
I didn't see much from Adalius Thomas in the season opener. Is he struggling to adapt to an ILB role? I realize one game is way too early to judge, but you would have hoped that the most expensive offseason acquisition would have stood out a little more in the game. Is he a "mis-fit" for ILB - the only role he didn't play much with the Ravens?
Nagen Murti, Framingham
A: Thomas finished with five tackles (1 solo) and was credited with two passes defended (one of which probably should have been an interception). My thoughts on Thomas are that he still looks like he's adapting to being in pass coverage on early downs. It doesn't look natural right now, and I suppose that's only normal considering it's his first time playing that spot for an extended period of time. I don't think anyone could say definitively that he's a "mis-fit" at this time, but I would agree it's an area to keep an eye on.
Will you please explain the "illegal touching" call against Willie Andrews on Chris Hanson's first-quarter punt?
Paul, Hampton, N.H.
A: This was the most popular question to this week's mailbag, and I hope the NFL is somehow made aware of it because an essential part of a referee's job, in my opinion, is to effectively communicate what is taking place on the field so players, coaches, and viewers can understand what is happening. Andrews was penalized for "illegal touching" because he had been out of bounds at some point on his way down the field and was the first player to touch the ball in the field of play. A player who is out of bounds and then comes back into the field of play cannot be the first player to touch the ball.
It has been written that the Jets crowd cheered when Pennington was injured. Was this your impression as well, that they wanted Clemens in the game, or do you think they were cheering Chad for hobbling off the field despite being in obvious pain? Nothing would surprise me from a NY sports crowd, but if they were actually cheering his injury that would be a new low.
Rick, Seattle, Wash.
A: I interpreted the cheers directed more at Clemens than at Pennington's injury. Clemens is considered a future star for the Jets and I think the fans were excited to see him. By cheering him, it could be seen as disrespectful to Pennington, but I didn't necessarily take it that way. If they were cheering when Pennington hobbled off the field, then I would feel differently.
Brady had a lot of time in the pocket. In your opinion was it due to the OL work, max protection schemes or NYJ lack of pass rush? What is your assessment of the running game's performance? I thought Maroney started out strong but faded a bit as the game moved on and the Jets paid attention to stopping him. Your take?
BC, San Jose
A: The Jets blitzed 16 times on 29 dropbacks by quarterback Tom Brady; so I would give credit to the offensive line, tight ends and running backs for doing a nice job in pass protection. The running game was solid. I think the Patriots will take that every week. It wasn't dominating, but it was effective enough to create balance in the offense. I would agree with your assessment on Maroney. Some emailers asked why the Patriots don't run him outside more. Against the Jets, I feel as if the Patriots felt the best way to attack was up the middle, overpowering them.
Do you think Sammy Morris will play a larger role in the Pats running game or will they give the bulk of the responsibility to Laurence Maroney?
Jeff Cagnina, Lynnfield, Texas
A: I think Maroney will have the majority of carries, but Morris could also eclipse his previous career high of 132 carries (in 2004). On Sunday, Maroney played 30 snaps, Morris was in for 18, Kevin Faulk was in for 10, and Heath Evans five (not including his fullback snaps). That mix will change from week to week, but I'd still expect Maroney to be at the top of the list.
I hate to dwell on a negative after Sunday's great win, but how can you not put Rosie Colvin as a "down" for the game. He was a glaring weakness in a defense that generally played quite well. The Coles touchdown in which Colvin simply froze in space was just one of many plays where Rosie was either out of position or getting pushed around 9 yards downfield. The only time I remember anything positive from Colvin is when he began flexing after an offside penalty on the Jets. Come on, Rosie, let's save the celebrations for your own strong plays.
Martin, Washington, D.C.
A: This is a fair point, although I am not 100 percent Colvin was in the wrong on that touchdown pass. You've just hit on one of the great challenges of reporting on a football team: understanding the defensive call and who is responsible for what areas on each play. What I can say is that after watching the game a second time, looking at television tape, Colvin lost containment on the defensive right side twice during the Jets' second scoring drive. That loss of containment - or setting the edge as Bill Belichick often says - resulted in runs of 10 yards apiece for Thomas Jones. So he could have been a "down" although I didn't have that information directly after the game. To steal a line from Belichick - and quite frankly, a line that drives reporters like me crazy at times - I had to look at the tape.
Tedy Bruschi looked old, slow, and often out of position on throws over the middle. After the first period, the run blocking was unimpressive. I'm not convinced that Maroney can be relied on in short-yardage situations. Your comments on these concerns? Overall, it was undoubtedly an impressive opening day performance.
Paul Lynn, Missoula, Mont.
A: Bruschi finished with four tackles and while I'd like to see more before making a definitive call, I would agree he looked a bit slow. One play caught my eye, a 16-yard pass to tight end Chris Baker in the third quarter in which Bruschi didn't get out of his cut fast enough in coverage. As for Maroney in short-yardage situations, I don't think he's as decisive in his running as Sammy Morris. Right now, I like Morris in that role.
Is Willie Andrews the fastest Patriot? On Hobbs' kick return, he closed on Hobbs from 10 yards back with Hobbs at full speed. Also, in watching the game a second time I felt that Thomas didn't hold up well against the run. What is your take on this?
Bob Huberman, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
A: Coming out of Baylor University last year, Andrews was clocked at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. That's fast, and it's possible he's faster now than he was last year. As for where that ranks on the team, I would say it's in the top 5. In regards to Adalius Thomas, I thought he was solid against the run. I didn't see the Jets gaining much up the middle.
Not really a question, but more of a statement. With the NFL allowing team captains to wear a "C" on their jerseys if they want to, I am glad the Pats decided not to follow suit. This has been a longtime tradition in hockey, but doesn't belong in football. Not sure why the NFL decided to go down this path, but I think the "C" on the football jersey is out of place.
Andy Smith, Chantilly, Va.
A: I agree with your thoughts. As for why the NFL is doing it, the league decided to put more of an emphasis on captains this year, a decision based on a suggestion by a new Player Advisory Council. I believe the decision is to shed more light on some of the NFL's leaders at a time when players are making their fair share of unfavorable news.
Do you have any update on Richard Seymour? Being assigned to the PUP puts him out for at least the first 6 weeks, but does it appear he will be ready by week 7, or are we looking at much later in the season? Rumors have circulated that maybe his knee situation is more severe than initially expect.
John Storer, Auburn, Maine
A: Unfortunately, I don't have an update on Richard Seymour. He remains around the team, and I think it's a situation where they need more time to assess.
I don't want to rain on anybody's parade but one thing from Sunday's win did concern me. It was Pennington's final TD drive that started from the 36 and took about 6 minutes. Even though he was hurt, I thought his no-huddle and quick counts really took our defense off guard. What do you think? And do you think this could be an issue come Sunday night's game against San Diego?
Francisco, San Juan, Puerto Rico
A: That touchdown drive lasted 4:42 and covered 70 yards on nine plays. I agree with you that the Jets' no-huddle approach was effective, and the quick count on the touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles was a heady play that didn't allow the Patriots enough time to adjust to the fact that Coles was lined up in the backfield. It could be an issue against the Chargers, but I think the more pressing issue is how to stop LaDainian Tomlinson.
Is it my imagination or has Tom Brady re-committed to the play-action fake? He was lazier with the fake toward the end of last year, but his fakes were solid and convincing against the Jets. With a younger and more dynamic running back combo this year and better wideouts, good run fakes could be a devastating weapon.
Scott O'Neil, Chelmsford
A: I think what we saw is how effective the play-action game can be when you establish the run. One area that caught my eye Sunday was how the Patriots had three-tight end sets on the field - which would indicate run - but hit for big passing plays in that set (Moss' 51-yard touchdown catch). That Moss touchdown was on play-action. So I'd say it's more a result of an effective running game than Brady selling it better than he did last year.
The performance does not need further accolades! Moss was terrific. I was particularly impressed on the 14-yard catch, it appeared that Tom had to through it away just before he got hit and Moss went high at the sidelines to pull it down. Outstanding. And the speed to close on the ball at the goal line, leaving 3 Jets in his wake. I watched the Chargers and they will be very tough. L.T. was immense on one TD run through about six people. How do you see this next one going?
Sage analyst, Seattle, Wash.
A: I agree on that 14-yard catch by Moss. Of his nine grabs, that was the most impressive to me, as it came against a seven-man rush and Tom Brady delivered the ball as he was getting hit by Dewayne Robertson (the only time Brady was knocked to the ground). Moss reaches over defensive back David Barrett and plucks the ball seemingly off his helmet. Not many receivers make that catch. As for the Chargers game, I feel it will all come down to whether the Patriots can stop LaDainian Tomlinson. It probably doesn't take an expert to figure that out.
When was the last time a Patriots receiver had as many yards in a game that Randy Moss had in the season opener?
David Prosper, Pembroke
A: Moss finished with nine catches for 183 yards. The yardage was the third highest single-season total in team history. The top mark is 214 yards, which Terry Glenn achieved against the Browns on Oct. 3, 1999.
I see a lot of Cris Carter in the play of Randy Moss. Particularly the tip-toe moves along the sideline. How long did they play together on the Vikings?
Victor Helenic, Shrewsbury
A: Moss played for the Vikings from 1998-2004, while Carter played for the Vikings from 1990-01.
QB Matt Gutierrez (third quarterback) was listed as inactive, but he took a knee for the last play?
A: That is correct. In 1991, the third quarterback rule was instituted to enable teams to have an emergency quarterback available who was not on the 45-man game-day active roster since many teams, for strategic purposes, only carried two quarterbacks on their game-day roster. The rule states that if a third quarterback is inserted before the fourth quarter, a team's first two quarterbacks cannot be used in the game at any position. It is a coach's decision as to whether a third quarterback will be used. The active quarterbacks do not have to be injured for a team to use its third quarterback.