Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

TheRanchReport.com's Roy Philpott sits down with Jon Scott of PatriotsInsider.com to talk about Sunday's game between undefeated New England and undefeated Dallas.

Compare this year's New England team to the great ones earlier this decade. Could this be a better team than the three that won Super Bowls?
Scott: There are some very good players from those Super Bowl runs who are still on this team. Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Troy Brown, Richard Seymour are all holdovers from those Super Bowl wins. There are other holdovers that are part of this Patriots team, but the missing parts, the players like Ty Law, Ted Johnson, Joe Andruzzi are what made those Patriots teams special.

Are the teams of old that much more talented than this year… my short answer would be no.

In camp when the media were gathered around shooting the breeze discussing this year's version of the roster vs other teams, there was a buzz… the type of buzz that hasn't been there the past few seasons. This team is not only good; it has the potential to be amazing. The talent level has been dialed up at the skill positions, and the blue-collar mentality hasn't been sacrificed to get there.

Do you think the whole "video taping scandal" has actually helped motivate this team even more this season? What has been the impact of that in the locker room?
Scott: There's a crazy theory out there that Bill Belichick may have done the video taping thing on-purpose to diffuse the hype over the superstar roster. In the locker room the players were ticked off at questions about "spygate" as some have dubbed it. The whole NBC Broadcast was really over the top on spygate and that didn't sit well at all.

Has it motivated players? Certainly. The thing about this team is that they genuinely feel that when people like Chris Collinsworth and Peter King start questioning the history of the Patriots' success, that something needs to be done to destroy the opponent to prove that no videotape can win the game, the players on the field win the game.

Tedy Bruschi was emotional after the scandal broke and the Patriots wiped out the San Diego Chargers in week two. You could feel how badly Bruschi wanted to show people the team is good, with or without the speculative inside intelligence.

The last thing the opponents on the Patriots schedule needed is a ticked-off roster loaded with this type of talent. Now every week the players can feel like they're underdogs even though they were Super Bowl favorites before the season started.

Have you seen anything on either side of the ball or on special teams that concerns you through the first five games of the season?
Scott: Special teams hasn't been a real issue in New England other than possibly Stephen Gostkowski's accuracy at longer distances and Chris Hanson's distance on punts. The Patriots have opted to go for the first down a number of times when faced with a choice between going for it or kicking the field goal from 40 yards or longer. Gostkowksi wasn't exactly impressive in camp with this accuracy. Many times his kicks are not headed down the center of the uprights, which may be a concern for the team.

As for Hanson, he trails the entire league in gross average for punting, and net average. Bill Belichick has issued a vote of confidence in Hanson, but that doesn't' mean that Hanson will stick around if he struggles. Fortunately for New England they team has only had to punt 11 times.

Randy Moss- many around the league thought he would never see the kind of production he's had this year. Has he surprised the organization with his effectiveness and behavior?
Scott: The signing of Moss came after Bill Belichick called Randy to see what his mindset was like. When Moss first signed, he was immediately integrated into the Patriot culture. His locker was separated from the other receivers. He was sequestered between Vinny Testaverde and Tom Brady. Although Moss took a while to get to New England, when he did arrive he became an immediate team player.

The irony was that many speculated Moss was selfish, a malcontent and the anti-thesis of all things Patriot. That has turned out not to be the case. Even with rumors surrounding Moss' potential to be lackadaisical at practice, the team has yet to express any visible concern about Moss' practice habits or his attitude.

Randy says all the right things because there's a creed in New England; if you get yourself in the paper for some bravado comments, or self-centered behavior you get to talk to the head coach. It's a meeting players don't have twice.

From an injury standpoint, what do we know about the health of the Patriots entering this game?
Scott: The Patriots have some injury concerns along the offensive line and in the backfield with Laurence Maroney. Don't forget, they lost their promising tight end David Thomas to IR, Richard Seymour and Troy Brown are on the PUP list, but the Patriots have always had injury issues.

Matt Light, Dan Koppen and Stephen Neal have all had issues practicing this week. The scary part for New England fans is that these are Tom Brady's primary protectors. Russ Hochstein can fill in for Koppen. He has also filled in for Neal who is suffering from a shoulder injury. Billy Yates has filled in for Neal previously, but if New England has to rely on these guys on Sunday, the offense may struggle. Koppen, Neal and Light haven't missed the same game at the same time before. With Maroney out, Sammy Morris can fill in without much – if any – drop off in production.

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