NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday's Patriots-49ers game and discuss news from around the league.
Although the Patriots blew out the Texans on Monday, Lombardi said the 49ers game will be much more difficult.
“I think San Francisco is really good,” Lombardi said. “I think this will be the toughest challenge the Patriots face all season. This is a championship-level defense. There are not a lot of easy plays. … This is one of the best teams in the National Football League keeping you off the field. They have great speed, they can run, so there are not a lot of easy plays and there are not a lot of easy yards. You are going to have to make some chunk yards up the field on them, you’re going to have to make explosive plays on them, which is hard to do against them. … You’re going to have to put your foot in the ground and get the ball moving north and south and maximize your drives. Really make sure that your focus and concentration is at the highest level because this will be a challenge for 60 minutes.”
Although the 49ers defense is good, Lombardi said that San Francisco has to be careful about covering the middle of the field.
“The concern if you’re a 49ers fan is how they’re going to handle the slot, how they’re going to handle the middle of the defense in terms of [Wes] Welker, in terms of trying to handle [Aaron] Hernandez, what’s the matchup there,” Lombardi said. “Now, people say they have Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, they could probably do it. Well, those guys can cover, but this is a unique situation in terms of covering the middle of the field. If they try to blitz Tom [Brady], it does the Patriots more good than harm. … I think they’re going to play their game. One thing about the 49ers is there’s really no secret to what they do; you’ve just got to beat them.”
Jim Harbaugh made a quarterback change earlier in the season after starter Alex Smith was out with a concussion. Colin Kaepernick has been starting even though Smith has been medically cleared to play, and Lombardi agrees with the decision.
“It makes all the sense in the world to me because I think it’s an illusion offense,” Lombardi said. “Here’s why: When you watch them closely, they’ve thrown for more than 2,500 yards, they’ve run for 2,100 yards. They really want to run the football, and part of the reason they want to run the football is much like the Houston Texans but in a different way. Their offensive line struggles. They're 28th in the league in holding calls. They're 28th in the league in sacks allowed. So, they can’t really pass protect. … When they have to drop back and pass, it becomes a problem. What I think Harbaugh has done is he’s made it look like we’re putting Kaepernick in to pretend he’s Randall Cunningham to let him run around here. The reality of it is we want to be able to run the football and make explosive plays running. … I think it’s an illusion-type thing. He’s made everybody become distracted on one thing while they’re doing something else.”
Lombardi agreed that the Patriots secondary has improved since Aqib Talib began playing at the corner, leaving Devin McCourty to concentrate at safety.
“Certainly better safety play,” Lombardi said. “Look at the last few games where they’ve gotten turnovers. They’ve made plays from the safety position, whether it was [Steve] Gregory’s interception on the Jets … to McCourty’s interception on [Matt] Schaub. … When you get range plays from your safety, it really helps you. You’re not giving up big plays, you’re not giving up chunk yards. … They’re moving more on defense and when you have big physical defenders like they do in New England and you move them, they become a real problem to block.”
Rob Gronkowski has not practiced this week, but Lombardi says it is important that the Patriots get him back on the field before the playoffs so that he can be ready.
“I think Gronk has got to play,” Lombardi said. “You’ve got to play football if you’re cleared to play. … I think once he’s cleared to play, you’ve got to get him some reps and depending on where they are in the playoffs and especially if you have to play in Round 1. You want to make sure he’s not going into Round 1 without getting any reps.”
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On the Patriots' win over the Texans on Monday night: "We said it last week. We said whoever won the first quarter was going to win the game. I think the Texans proved to me that they have to play a style that they have to play from in front. When they got behind 14-0 and the Patriots said, OK, where’s your drop-back passing game?, and the answer was, We don’t have one, you know we can’t play catchup. You cannot play Tom Brady in that kind of coverage and think you’re going to be able to be successful. … There were a couple throws that probably Tom would like to have back. I don’t even think the Patriots played their ‘A’ game in terms of their offense, but they were good enough.
On reports linking Lombardi to a job with the Browns: “The reality is I don’t know, I really don’t know what’s going to happen or transpire. … As for Cleveland, I don’t know what they’re going to do; they’re on a three-game winning streak. I was there once in Cleveland and we left. So I don’t know what’s going to transpire at the end of the season, what they do in Cleveland, or what’s going to happen in the NFL as it relates to me going back in.”
On the report that Lombardi and Bill Belichick chat during the week: “One thing about Bill and myself and our relationship … we like football together. I don’t think I help Bill in any way, at all. But we talk about football. … I ask more questions of him than he would probably ask of me. It’s a situation where you have a thirst for knowledge and you want to try to understand this. I think you go to the people that you trust and respect and you ask them questions as I do with Bill sometimes on teams.”
On the league MVP race: "I think it’s really hard. … Is it Tom Brady? Is it Peyton Manning? I think it’s going to be between those two guys. … Tom’s doing it at a level where it is very quiet how he is doing it. … And then of course Peyton Manning’s comeback. I think he’s certainly the Comeback Player of the Year, if not for Adrian Peterson, they should share it."
On former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruling in favor of the Saints players in the bounty scandal: “I think what Tagliabue did was right. I never thought you could blame the players for following out orders. That’s what they get paid to do. They’re coached and lectured each day from peewee football to do what your coach tells you to do, and they were doing it. To suspend players and to fine players who were carrying out orders, to me, never seemed right.”
Pete, Thornton and Price give their final thoughts and predictions for the Super Bowl.
Gabe calls the boys to handicap one of the biggest gambling days of the year - Super Bowl 51! Gabe has all the point spread info down and gets to all of the major prop bets that interest him.
Fauria is still down in Houston and calls live from NRG Stadium to give his take on what will go down later on in Super Bowl 51. He likes the Pats and gives his reasons why, but also gets into the scene in Houston all week, famous people he met and why he is tired out from a wild week.
The NBA trade rumor mill is beginning to swirl as the deadline approaches and Picard is ready to go! He talks about the possibility of Jimmy Butler coming to Boston, why Isaiah Thomas is not getting enough respect and the future of the Celtics.
Adrian Wojnarowski has been talking about the possibility of the Celtics making a trade with the Bulls to bring Jimmy Butler to Boston. He actually thinks it may be the the marquee deal to keep an eye on this week heading into the trade deadline. Pete and Jerry discuss and give their thoughts on if they would want Butler. Pete thinks it will happen, Jerry thinks Ainge will stay put. The guys get into more Celtics, present and future and if they can battle with the best of the NBA.
Anna Horford, sister of Boston Celtics Al Horford, makes her Boston radio debut. She talks about Twitter and reacting to mean tweets about her brother. She also gives us her thoughts on the city of Boston and racism.
Bradford checks in from spring training to give us all the media dirt he can dig up...oh, and talk some baseball too.
Rob Bradford is joined by Lou Merloni to talk life in spring training, his toiletries, sleeping arrangements, and facing off with Red Sox personnel that he might have been critical of. Rob and Lou also get into the dynamic of electronic and print media when it comes to ripping the Red Sox.
Pete, Bradford, and Tomase are talking all about the Boston Red Sox, who opened spring training on Monday with pitchers and catchers reporting. They talk about what the Red Sox approach at the plate will be to replace the loss of David Ortiz bat, the impact of some players participating in the WBC, and of course the pitching rotation.
Guys talk the Bruins season so far and the All-Star Break
Guys discuss if or when the Bruins will fire Coach Julian
Ken, Rear and Ty get into a very solid week for the B's beating St Louis and the Flyers and losing a hard-fought game against the Predators. Is this team turning things around? Krug and Marchand are kicking things up a notch. The guys also talk about Claude and Sweeney's job security before getting into some big hits around the league this week.
Hour 4. Milo is done after advocating for pedophilia. The guys dive into the Red Sox roster.
Hour 3. Kirk and Gerry's dream of doing play-by-play is over.
President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski joins Kirk and Gerry in Fort Myers.
The Dallas Mavericks traded for Nerlens Noel, and dumped Andrew Bogut in the process, leading the guys to wonder why the Celts weren't pursuing 6'11" power forward/center.
Chris Mannix, Yahoo! Sports joined the show to give the latest on the NBA trade deadline.
The guys acknowledge that the Green-teamers will defend Danny whether he makes a move or not.
Dale, Michael and Keefe discuss the comments made by Dave Dombrowski on K&C this morning concerning John Farrell and his in-game management.
We close out the show with the best sound bites of the day.
Dale, Michael and Keefe discuss the rumored increase in interest in Jimmy Garropolo and try and figure out what they'll get if they complete a trade for him.
Kirk and Glenn continue their conversation from last week. In this episode Kirk and Glenn scream at each other about the infamous "station incident", what the news of the merger means to WEEI and the Sports Hub, and Kirk tries to get Glenn to answer what the perfect "Big Show" would be. You will not find a better look behind the scenes of radio.
Kirk sits down with the legend Glenn Ordway to talk about when Glenn got fired here at WEEI, his start with the station, the controversial decisions he made when he was the Program Director, and he relationship with Eddie Andelman.
Kirk chats with David Duchovny about his current music tour, which takes him to the Wilbur on February 22nd, how David got his start in television, from his first stint on Red Shoe Diaries, becoming a superstar on the X-Files, and his hilarious appearances on the Larry Sanders Show. This is a fascinating discussion about show business and controlling your own career.
Ken Laird and Chris Curtis recap Wednesday and Thursday's K&C shows on location in Ft. Myers
Kirk and Glenn continue their conversation from last week. In this episode Kirk and Glenn scream at each other about the infamous "station incident", what the news of the merger means to WEEI and the Sports Hub, and Kirk tries to get Glenn to answer what the perfect "Big Show" would be.
Rich Keefe & Ryan Davey talk best and worst movie/TV presidents. Plus the always important "This Week in #DORK" and the Pick of the Podcast.
Hour 4. Evan Drellich joins the show. A fight for the ages ensues.More from this show
Hour 1. Evan Drellich attacked Kirk and Gerry for their interview with John Farrell. Kirk had an accident.More from this show
Kirk and Glenn continue their conversation from last week. In this episode Kirk and Glenn scream at each other about the infamous "station incident", what the news of the merger means to WEEI and the Sports Hub, and Kirk tries to get Glenn to answer what the perfect "Big Show" would be.More from this show
Hour 2. Curtis brought his dog. Kirk saw Fences. Lou thought Trenni got in the way.More from this show