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Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Rams

Steve Balestrieri
4 years ago at 9:49 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Ramsusa today - USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots return home after a two-game road trip and will take on the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium. The kickoff is slotted for 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots (9-2), defeated the New York Jets 22-17 on Sunday. Tom Brady led the come-from-behind game-winning drive in the final five minutes, his 50th of his career. He hit rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell with a four-yard touchdown pass with just under two minutes remaining for the win. Mitchell had a pair of touchdown catches. Chris Long strip sacked QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to kill the Jets hopes of answering.

The Patriots maintain their two-game lead in the division over the red-hot 7-4 Miami Dolphins who have won six in a row. The Pats are still tied with Oakland with the best record in the AFC and once again hold the tiebreaker with the win over the Jets.

The Rams (4-7), continue their mediocrity under coach Jeff Fisher’s watch. They always seem to teeter between making the jump to being a good team and doing just enough to lose. They were blown out 49-21 against the Saints in New Orleans last week.

The loss was the Jets sixth in the past seven games. Rookie QB Jared Goff did throw for three touchdowns in the losing effort.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Rams:

Fisher Continues to Muddle Along, Rams Still in Search of a Winner: The Rams got off to a 3-1 start this season but since then they’ve suffered thru a series of close losses until the blowout loss last week in New Orleans. After a while, the responsibility must fall on the coaches’ shoulders. Sunday’s loss dropped the Rams to 4-7. Under coach Jeff Fisher’s watch, they’ve never been better than 7-8-1, despite picking high in the draft every year.

The loss to the Saints was Fisher’s 163rd, moving him past Tom Landry into second place all-time as an NFL head coach. Landry coached in 81 more games than Fisher, however. If the Rams drop three of their final five games, Fisher would become the NFL’s all-time leader in career losses.

And yet the excuses run freely. Fisher blamed the loss on Sunday on the fact that, the Saints “had a few extra days to prepare for us” because they played the previous Thursday night. Fisher also used the relocation card saying, “I don’t think anybody really knows what we’ve been going through,” about the move to St. Louis that entails a heavy travel schedule.

Despite this, he continues to cruise along, year after year seemingly bulletproof. Many other coaches are given far less leeway in search of a winning program. Could this be the year that the Rams management digs in their heels? A loss on Sunday to the Patriots would signal another season of no better than 8-8.

Goff Finally the QB of the Present for LA: The Rams used the top pick in the NFL Draft in 2016 to draft Jared Goff from Cal to be their QB of the future. In doing so, the Rams gave up some tremendous draft capital to get there. They traded their first-round pick, two 2nd round picks, a 3rd in 2016 and their 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick in the 2017 draft for Tennessee’s first overall pick, a 4th round pick and a sixth in 2016.

Goff finally broke into the starting lineup two weeks ago against Miami and followed that up with an impressive performance against the Saints where he threw for three first-half touchdowns. His talents got the attention of both Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia this week.

“You have a big guy, he’s a tall quarterback, he’s long,, ” Pats defensive coordinator Patricia said of Goff. “He has an extremely strong arm and a very accurate arm in a lot of the different throws that they ask him to make.”

“He’s a very good quarterback from the standpoint of arm strength and the ability to get the ball downfield. He has some tremendous skill players – Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick”

“You just have to respect the talent and the skill that [Jared] Goff has,” Belichick said. “You can certainly see that, particularly in this game against New Orleans, but he’s a very, very talented player with a great arm and an ability to make a lot of throws.”

Goff has excellent arm strength and can zip the ball anywhere on the field. He’s shown good recognition and will use his check down when he has to. However, in just his third start, the Patriots will try to show him some looks on defense that he hasn’t seen before. And Bill Belichick’s track record against rookie QBs remains, pretty darn solid.

Aaron Donald is the Rams biggest disruptor on Defense: The Rams have a very solid, stout front four. They’re the reason that their pass defense is so stingy allowing just 227.5 yards per game, they create pressure, not sacks per se but pressure.

It starts with Aaron Donald in the middle. Donald is considered undersized for a defensive tackle at 6’1, 285, but he’s like a bowling bowl and incredibly strong. He’s very tough to move off his spot and is equally effective against the run as he is with the pass.

Donald leads the team with six sacks and he and Robert Quinn are outstanding at disrupting the timing of the opponent’s passing game. But it is Donald who as an interior pass rusher, that gives Tom Brady fits. He can push the pocket and create pressure in Brady’s face. Bill Belichick spoke glowingly about him on Tuesday.

“I’d say [Aaron] Donald is one of the most disruptive players in the league, maybe kind of like Geno Atkins that we played against with Cincinnati. He’s got good quickness, good playing strength,” Belichick said. “He’s got very good countermoves, so a lot of times he wins on his initial move, but if you happen to block his initial move, then he’s got a counter move and a quick counter and they’re hard to stop. He’s very instinctive.”

“He’s got a good knack [for] knowing kind of when to do the right thing. He changes it up on his opponent, on those guards quite a bit. They don’t always get the same thing from him; he keeps them off balance. He’s really a very disruptive player. He makes his share of plays in the running game too, it’s not all pass rush. He does a good job in the running game and makes a lot of negative plays. He’s just a hard guy to block.”

The Patriots will have their hands full with Donald this week. Remember sacks are secondary, pressure is the key. The Rams as a team have 22 sacks, the same number as the Patriots. But they do a great job of creating pressure.

Rams OL has struggled, it begins with Robinson: On the flip-side, the Rams offense, specifically the offensive line is struggling. The offense for the Rams ranks at the bottom of all NFL ranks, they are the 28th ranked passing offense, and the 29th ranked rushing offense. And the play of the offensive line is a big reason for it.

Fisher benched left tackle Greg Robinson for last week’s game in New Orleans after the 3rd-year player has struggled with his consistency since his rookie campaign. Fisher said, that Robinson, was a healthy scratch because he required “a break, a week o because he needed it. … I expect Greg will return back to the lineup.”

His replacement, Roger Saffold injured his hand so Robinson will probably be back in the lineup this week. He’ll be going against Trey Flowers and Jabaal Sheard this week. It will be a matchup to watch.

Gurley Struggling, but with No Branch That May Change: No one has struggled more this season than RB Todd Gurley. He’s been held to under 100 yards in 17 of his last 18 games and much of that has to do with the fact that the Rams have been falling behind in many of their games.

Gurley has suffered from less than stellar offensive line play as well. But that may change this week. With a rookie QB making just his third start, they may opt to go run heavy this week. With the 29th ranked rush offense? Well, matchups can change quickly.

With Alan Branch probably going to be suspended this week, the Patriots run defense will be missing a key cog in the interior. This too will be an intriguing matchup to watch.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots Roster Bill Belichick Brian Quick Greg Robinson Jabaal Sheard Jared Goff Jeff Fisher Kenny Britt Los Angeles Rams New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Tavon Austin Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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