By: Russ Goldman
After watching the Patriots face off Thursday Night againt the St. Louis Rams at Gillette Stadium, I felt very disappointed by the team. On both offense and defense I thought the Patriots were embarrassing at times, and while the Patriots lost 36 – 35, don’t let the score fool you. It wasn’t that close.
The third pre-season game is usually the dress rehearsal for the opening game. Good teams usually beat up on bad teams, and it should have been a great opportunity to exploit a team that won just one game all last season. The worst part was that the Rams were even starting a rookie quarterback, with Sam Bradford starting in place of the injured A.J. Feeley. This should have given them an opportunity to frustrate the rookie QB and potentially have a big night, and hopefully build on what they did the last couple of weeks.
Instead the opposite happened, and the Patriots defense made him look like Peyton Manning. To make matters worse the Rams kept the ball out of the hands of New England’s offense in the first half, and when they did have it they could barely move the chains and sustain a drive.
When each team’s starters played against each other, the Rams won that battle and dominated the Pats in yardage, and time of possession. I didn’t recognize the Patriots team I saw Thursday night, and they certainly didn’t look like the one we watched in the previous two contests.
The Rams had no problem with the Patriots’ first defense, and were able to run the ball and pass with ease. They also allowed Bradford to finish the first half 15-of-22 for 189 yards and gave up two touchdowns passes.
On offense, the Patriots really had a tough time moving the ball against the Rams’ first team defense. They gained just 14 yards during their first two possessions, and they really didn’t get things going until the second half.
One bright spot on the night was on special teams with wide receiver Brandon Tate, who ran the opening kick back for a touchdown. Following that play I was feeling pretty positive, and looking forward to what I thought would be a pretty good night.
Unfortunately it didn’t take long for that feeling to change. It was only a pre-season game and I understand that, but I was really hoping to see what I had witnessed in the first two games. Instead the Pats took a step back, and hopefully they can learn from their mistakes.
Just like I did last week, after each game I’ve gone back and looked at my “reasons to watch” article to see if they shed any light on the game. As a result, below is an analysis of my ” five reasons to watch the Patriots pre-season game against the Rams”.
1. Will the offensive line continue to protect Tom Brady? In the first half I thought the offensive line struggled somewhat to protect Tom Brady. He was under decent pressure in the first half. It wasn’t terrible, but the line was definitely better in the first two games. Also, there was not much room for the running backs to make yards.
2. Who will emerge as the third receiver for the Pats? Brandon Tate I thought played very well. He only caught two balls, but got himself open. I definitely am encouraged by this young receiver. Julian Edelman did not play in this game.
At this point both receivers could still be the third option. I am actually not worried about this position anymore. Between Edelman and Tate I think one of them will emerge during the season.
3. Will the young secondary continue to show signs that they will be able to cover and hit? The young secondary took a step back in this game. The Rams receivers were open often. Devin McCourty I thought had a tough game.
They could not stop the Rams tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. He caught two touchdown passes and had four receptions.
I am hoping the young defensive backs will learn from this experience. This unit is green and going to make mistakes. I am still hopeful that this unit will be a positive for the Patriots this season.
4. Will the Pats defense be able to put pressure on the quarterback? The Patriots defense failed miserably in getting a pass rush on Sam Bradford. He had all the time in the world to throw the ball. His passer rating was 125.
Tully Banta – Cain I thought was a bright spot at times getting pressure on the quarterback. The problem was he did not have much support from any other member of the front seven. Derrick Burgess to me has been invisible in two games. The Patriots are going to need more out of him this season.
I am hoping that a lack of pass rush does not kill the Patriots this season. This could be a concern again throughout the year.
5. Can punter Zoltan Mesko dramatically change field position with his punts? Zoltan Mesko did not have a very good game punting. His average was 37.2 yards in 5 punts. That is not good at all. The Pats will need him to be much better during the regular season. He still has a chance to be a weapon.
This analysis might be harsh, but I think the Patriots deserve it. They played so well in the first two games. It was just disappointing to see them take a step backwards in the third game.
I hope this game is forgotten in two weeks, and we will see the team that played in the first two pre-season games. I still see this team winning the division. Let’s just hope the pre-season game against the Rams was just a good learning experience, and the Patriots will move forward once again.