By: Steve Balestrieri
A very banged up New England Patriots team took care of business on Sunday in London and routed the St. Louis Rams 45-7 at Wembley Stadium. The Patriots put together their best 60 minute performance of the season and the results were plain to see. The Patriots dominated in all three phases of the game and enter the bye week at 5-3, on a two game winning streak.
Brady On Top of his game: QB Tom Brady had a big game as did the much maligned New England offensive line; does anyone remember all the pre-season hand-wringing about how bad it was? Brady picked apart a good St. Louis defense, which had no answers as the Patriots finished drives on Sunday, scoring touchdowns on their first five drives before booting a field goal on the sixth.
Patriots tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer did an outstanding job of keeping talented Rams DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn off of Brady all game long and when that happens, Brady usually rises to the occasion and Sunday was no exception. How many times did we hear Long and Quinn’s names being called on Sunday? Can’t remember many at all….great job for the OL.
No Answers For Gronk: As we pointed out in our pre-game matchups, the Rams were susceptible for passes down the middle and their safeties were liabilities in coverage. With Brady having time to throw, TE Rob Gronkowski torched the Rams again and again, finishing with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots offensive line also figured out the Rams defensive line alignments and after a slow start had a solid game of running the ball. Stevan Ridley had an outstanding game running for 127 yards on 15 carries including a career long of 41 yards. Patience paid off in spades as the Patriots offense showed how versatile and deadly this unit can be when firing on all cylinders.
McDaniels Spreads the Ball around: Much of the credit for the Patriots success has to go to Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. One thing that can’t be discounted is the knowledge McDaniels has of the Rams defense, their personnel and weaknesses from his time there as an assistant coach.
McDaniels is frequently criticized on here as not making proper adjustments and getting too cute for his own good at times, but Sunday he was on target perfectly. He came up with a fantastic game plan that worked to perfection. Adjustments weren’t needed at halftime as the Patriots scored at will on St. Louis.
The Rams made stopping Wes Welker their priority, not a bad plan but the Patriots countered with Ridley, Gronkowski and short passes to Danny Woodhead. Welker was held to only 6 catches for 48 yards. While Brandon Lloyd only had two catches for 28 yards, both of them went for touchdowns.
Defense Adjusts, Shuts down Rams: The Rams first series seemed like a recurring nightmare for Patriots fans as QB Sam Bradford made a beautiful deep throw to Chris Givens for a 50 yard touchdown. We said in our pre-game that Givens was someone to watch as he had 50 yard receptions in four straight games.
But after that touchdown, the Patriots defense stepped up, as they should against a less than stellar offensive team in St. Louis and kept them out of the endzone for the last 57:25 of the game. While Bradford completed a high percentage of his passes, the deep ball was taken away and the Patriots kept everything in front of them and got off the field on third downs, very important points going forward.The Patriots even got a little creative in a few of their early blitzes, stunting Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to bring pressure on Bradford.
Run Defense Solid: Forget about the 101 yards the Rams got on the ground for the game. The important stat is 19 yards and 1.9 yards per carry at halftime. That’s what St. Louis got when the game was in doubt, and those are outstanding numbers for the Patriots defense.
In the second half, the Patriots went to a very light DL of at times four defensive ends to bring pressure on Bradford. The Rams weren’t going to come back from 4 touchdowns down by running the ball and those runs were given rather than taken.
Overall the defense played very well, nothing to get too excited about; they shouldn’t be gashed by these offensively challenged teams like Seattle and the Jets as they have been. But it is a good step forward to correcting mistakes and solidifying things as they go forward into the bye week.
The Patriots have a week off now and plenty of time to prepare for Buffalo, it couldn’t come at a better time as they are a banged up unit on both sides of the ball. But at the bye, they’re in first place in the division and have just played their best 60 minutes of football of the season. All positive signs.