October 28, 2012
Patriots Do Jolly Well In London, What?
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Two games, two wins by an aggregate score of 80-14.
They say they need an NFL team in London. Take away the word "New" and you have the "England Patriots". Think Bob Kraft takes the bait?
Not on your Gillette Stadium White Elephant cookies.
It appears that the Patriots like London, and London likes the Patriots. In front of a packed house which braved both a blowout game and rainy conditions all throughout the game, the Patriots totally dominated the St. Louis Rams, 45-7 on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. The solid attendance combined with the score and the weather does lend credence to those who believe that London is ready for an NFL team. But they said the same thing about Mexico City, and there is no NFL team south of the border yet.
And unless the team that is based there loves to fly long flights in airplanes (London at Seattle? Yeesh.), and vice versa, having an NFL team in London may have to wait until they bring back the Concorde or come up with some other feasible speedy travel across the Atlantic Ocean. The old WLAF was a nice idea, except that all those teams were based in Europe. In a nation obsessed with its Premier League (count Red Sox owner John Henry among those such fans), it is nice that the NFL is so well received. But like in Mexico, where soccer is equally, if not more, popular among the local constituents, the NFL may be nice now and then, but not perhaps over the long term. What Mexico and England call football will always win out in the end, especially if their NFL team should fall on bad times (like, for example, while it is in its expansion diapers and cannot reach full maturity quick enough to appease the locals).
The Patriots did well for the second straight visit to Wembley; in 2008, the Patriots flummoxed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 35-7. This game was also no contest; following the obligatory defensive breakdown on the opening drive for the Patriot defense, the offense scored 45 unanswered points and the defense showed that it actually can play fundamentally sound defense for just over 50 minutes and actually looked terrific in doing so.
Maybe it's Jeff Fisher. When he last faced the Patriots as Tennessee head coach, he went into Gillette Stadium in October of 2009 and came out on the short end of a 59-0 count in a freak early snowstorm. In the last two meetings against New England, Fisher's teams have been outscored 104-7. Maybe Fisher can succeed Tom Coughlin as Giant head coach one of these days.
Virtually nothing went wrong for the Patriots on Sunday. Tom Brady was 23 of 35 passing for 304 yards, four touchdowns, and a 131.1 passer rating. Stevan Ridley rushed for 127 yards on 15 carries and an 8.5 yards per carry average. Rob Gronkowski looked like his invincible 2011 self with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns (Brandon Lloyd had the other two). Ridley and Shane Vereen each rushed for a touchdown, and on both scores, the lead blocker was former Rams tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. The offense scored touchdowns on its first five drives, added a field goal on the sixth and didn't punt until the seventh. The Rams' defense, seemingly improved over the last few weeks, looked powerless to stop the Patriots as Brady at times had all day to throw the ball and was never sacked.
An oddity was that Sam Bradford, the heralded third-year Rams quarterback, didn't really have horrible numbers despite losing by 38. He was picked off once, but completed 23 of 31 passes (not that far off Brady's totals) for 205 yards and a touchdown. His one interception took his passer rating down to 88.8, but looked pretty good all game long despite being under pressure often times and being sacked twice.
But the Patriot defense played its best game of the season, with much better coverage schemes and nice pass rushing by Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork leading the way.
The one aberration was the opening drive of the game. On first and goal at midfield, Chris Givens put a double move on Alfonzo Dennard and blew by him towards the end zone. Tavon Wilson tried to pick him up but turned the wrong way, and Givens was able to beat Wilson and take a perfect toss from Bradford to give the Rams an early 7-0 lead. It looked like "here we go again", as the Patriots showed continued ineptness at zone defense and bad technique by Wilson.
But that ineptness would never resurface again. Sterling Moore, filling in for Kyle Arrington who was out due to concussion symptoms, had some very nice defensed passes. Marquice Cole may have turned a few heads with some nice plays until he came out in the fourth quarter with an injury. Dennard and Wilson each registered an interception, with Wilson taking his back 45 yards late in the game off backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.
The front seven looked terrific and generally did a nice job in containing Steven Jackson (seven carries, 23 yards). Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes predictably led the team with eight tackles each, and Jones and Ninkovich each had a sack of Bradford. But most pleasing was the nice coverage schemes by the secondary, helped out by a nice pass rush and some hurried throws by Bradford, but still a terrific job by the defense overall.
The Patriots will have next week off before playing host to Buffalo. The bye week is at the exact halfway mark of the season, something that Bill Belichick relishes. In past years when the bye week had been either too early or too late, the Week 9 bye is the best of all. The Patriots sit at 5-3 and in first place in the AFC East, and now have time to heal up and work on making that defense just a bit better.
But the Patriots will have some travel issues. They may have to stay in London longer than they would like because of Hurricane Sandy pounding the east coast and making it impossible to fly to Logan Airport for a day or two.
Well, what to do? Place a call to Needham and ask Ally Raisman what to do in London. If anyone should know the old city, it's Ally.
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