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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots are in trouble if they have to play on road in playoffs

10.31.11 at 9:33 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to pick apart the Patriots’ 25-17 loss to the Steelers.

The Patriots struggled all day Sunday to stop the Pittsburgh offense, leading to a heavily lopsided time of possession for the Steelers (39:22) over the Patriots (20:38). The Patriots gave up a total of 427 net yards, while the New England offense struggled to keep up, gaining just 213 net yards.

Esiason said New England’s defensive struggles Sunday were a bad sign for the team looking toward the playoffs.

“Yesterday, watching them play and giving up 40 minutes of possession time to the Pittsburgh Steeler offense, I think was tell-tale that this team is going to be in trouble if they have to go on the road for the playoffs,” Esiason said. “You cannot win if you cannot get the ball back, and yesterday was indicative of that.”

Esiason also weighed in on one of coach Bill Belichick‘s more controversial decisions of the game. On second-and-9 with 4:15 remaining in the game and the Patriots trailing 23-10, Tom Brady appeared to throw a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was ruled to have been stopped at the 1-yard line. Belichick chose not to challenge the play, and it took the Patriots until 2:40 left to score the touchdown.

Esiason said he thought the Patriots should have challenged the call, and because of Brady’s actions after the play, he thought the Patriots were going to challenge the call.

“I saw Tom at the line of scrimmage,” Esiason said. “They were going into their no-huddle offense, and Tom to me was kind of taking his time. … I thought he was taking his time, because I’m wondering if someone is in his helmet telling him, ‘We’re looking at this, we’re looking at this, we’re looking at this, we’re looking at it, don’t snap the ball right away.’ Because that’s what it seemed like to me.

“Even though they were at the line of scrimmage quickly, I think the down clock went under 10 seconds before he snapped the ball. The bad thing is CBS didn’t show a replay so I don’t know if they were showing replay in the stadium or not. But without question, that red flag should have come out.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On the play of the defense Sunday: “Yesterday was an ‘Oh my God’ performance by the defense for the New England Patriots again. It’s not like we haven’t talked about this for the last seven weeks. They played better against the New York Jets, but then again, the Jets were stunted because of their game previously against the Baltimore Ravens. I didn’t look at that game as like ‘Oh my god, the defense has arrived.’ ”

On whether it is surprising Belichick cannot get the defense to improve: “You would think that coach Belichick would be able to figure this out, but if you don’t have the horses or you don’t have the players, it just doesn’t matter what your scheme is or what you think you should be able to do against an opposing team when players can’t get it done.”

On if other teams will use the Steelers’ defensive schemes from Sunday to slow the New England offense: “Other teams don’t have LaMarr Woodley, they don’t have Troy Polamalu, they don’t have Casey Hampton. The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been a special defense. Everybody has known that. For the most part, Brady has had his way with them. Yesterday, you combine two factors. One, to me, was Ben Roethlisberger outplayed Brady and he played better because he had more time and there was no pass rush whatsoever.

“Honestly yesterday, it looked like at times, Ben Roethlisberger was in practice and it was seven-on-seven. Seven-on-seven is a [part of] practice where there’s no offensive and defensive lines, so there’s no pass rush. It was startling yesterday as to how much time he had. You combine that time of possession with a blitzing, attacking defense where you have to almost be perfect in order to beat them is going to spell disaster. … Defense on the road wins championships, and right now, the New England Patriots, if there were 36 teams in the league, they’d be 36. That’s how bad they were yesterday.”

On the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Giants: “It’s going to be really interesting next week watching this New England team going against a New York Giants team who has been spotty at best, but they do have a very good pass rush. But I think next week will be a good sign to tell where this New England defense is going to be heading, because Eli Manning threw for 350 yards yesterday. He’s a more than capable and competent quarterback. He’s a top-five quarterback in my estimation right now. And we’ll see if we can shut them down.”

On whether the Patriots should have gone for the onside kick: “Here’s my thought process on that: I have three timeouts left. Is it easier for me to get the ball back with a three-and-out or to actually recover the onside kick which I don’t know what the success rate is, but it’s probably less than 10 percent. So I thought that given the amount of time left, given the fact that they had all three timeouts left, they should have kicked the ball off because the success of an onside kick is not that great, especially after watching that kick yesterday.”

On whether Belichick is overwhelmed by the combined responsibilities of coach and general manager: “I don’t think that’s the case with Bill Belichick, because Bill Belichick has been such an intricate part of making these personnel decisions since he’s gotten there. I can’t argue with everything that he’s done, because a lot of the stuff that he’s done has worked. It’s just unfortunate now here we sit on a Monday morning after they get plowed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and there have been some of these decisions that have been made, and now all of a sudden, they’re starting to creep their ugly head up.”

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Eli Manning, Tom Brady
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