It’s that time of year again, when the National Football League imparts itself on the people of London. Rumors are circling about expanding the game overseas and this Sunday the Patriots and the St. Louis Rams are the NFL’s current ambassadors.
On paper this may seem like an easy win for the Pats but fourth quarter letdowns have become all too familiar. The Rams have the 21st ranked total offense in the league and are 26th in points per game. The Patriots, meanwhile, are at the top in both of those categories. So far this season we’ve seen New England’s defense give up big yardage to lesser quarterbacks than Sam Bradford such as Russell Wilson, Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick. But Bradford has been consistent the last two weeks completing over 60% of his passes in both games. With Patrick Chung out, the secondary is going to have to fill in and make the adjustments to stop a potentially dangerous situation. The Patriots defense needs to hold this offense to its current numbers.
With the bye week in sight, here are three things the Patriots need to get done in London before heading home for a much needed break.
The Patriots are dealing with some big injuries including Aaron Hernandez. They’ll have to adjust and try to get into the bye week without any major setbacks. (FILE:USPresswire)
1. Plain and simple, Get a Win: No matter how ugly it has to been, the Patriots need to get a win on Sunday. The Rams are averaging just over 18 points per game and are clearly struggling offensively. The Patriots need to hype themselves up to play at a level much greater than that of the Rams and avoid a letdown. The defense needs to continue to develop and make Bradford work for each and every completion. Ball security is essential and the Pats need to stay in complete control throughout the entire game. They need to play well enough to win so they can…
2. Work on finding an Identity: Even Tom Brady said this team needs an identity. We’ve watched them struggle offensively this season trying to figure out what kind of team they want to be. Do they have enough to be a dominating run team? Are the tight ends healthy enough to make them the focal point? And what is the deal with Brandon Lloyd? There are a lot of questions that still need answers. The Patriots can take this game on Sunday to carefully work through their identity crisis. The Rams defense is tough with good defensive ends and corners so this could be a great opportunity to test out potential options. The main focus should be on being as effective as possible but if the Patriots can get up by a few scores and the defense seems in control, it might be worth it to do some experimenting.
3. Stay Healthy: Injuries are a part of the game but this season the Patriots have dealt with some big ones already. Aaron Hernandez is out this week after suffering a setback with his ankle and stayed behind along with Brandon Bolden and five other players. Rob Gronkowski has been dealing with a hip injury and last week we saw Jerod Mayo suffer an elbow injury and he missed some practice this week. Big pieces of the Patriots puzzle are hurt and the key in London is to bring back as many healthy players as possible. They will definitely benefit from some rest, but hopefully it doesn’t get worse before it gets better.
It’s exciting to play in London but we know the Patriots will have no trouble getting focused on the task at hand. It’s easy to look past this game but there’s no such thing as “getting comfortable”. The Patriots have a glaring weakness that has burned them before. A win is a necessity and this game could be the push the Patriots need to help them re-adjust during their bye week.