The Patriots were honoring the 2001 team that won the Super Bowl 15 years ago this weekend. That team shocked the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI for one of the bigger upsets in NFL history. The 2016 version of the Pats and Tom Brady evoked a truly 2001esque performance on Sunday against the Rams to throttle their visitors 26-10 that was far more one-sided than the scoreboard indicated.
The Patriots were balanced on offense and early in the game ran the ball extremely well using a nice combination of LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. In the second half, they went to the short passing game with Brady hitting a number of different receivers. The defense mixed up their coverages and blitzes and got two interceptions and sacks from four different players. Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals and channeled a Vinatieri-like performance.
Their workmanlike butt kicking of the hapless Rams also culminated in the 201st win of Brady’s remarkable career. It was fitting that the team used Sunday as the day to celebrate the 2001 team. Because in the final drive against the Rams in SB XXXVI, it was John Madden who would foretell what was to come when he said, “What Tom Brady just did on that final drive, gave me goosebumps.” Now, 15 years later Brady stands at the pinnacle of NFL quarterbacks.
Heavy Lifting Starts Now: Look no one is suggesting that the past three games have been against any teams that are remotely considered top flight NFL teams. But with the team having to reinvent itself on the fly due to trades and injuries, this has been a time of searching for pieces to fit their system. And it seems they’ve found them. Their next two weeks against the Ravens and Broncos will go a long way in determining how the team’s seeding will go playoff wise.
SF, the Jets, and Rams gave the team the chance to find the right combinations that they’ve been searching for defensively and it seems they’ve settled on their players now and it gives them the chance to work more on their execution. This arguably lesser competition sets the table for tougher opponents down the stretch and into January.
With Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts filling in for the departed Jamie Collins at linebacker opposite Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots have their rotation now and how each will be utilized. McClellin and Van Noy each had a sack and the latter came up with a leaping interception of Jared Goff on Sunday.
Eric Rowe is now the 2nd corner opposite of Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan will be the slot corner where, Justin Coleman and rookies Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones failed to make an impression despite some chances.
Matt Patricia dialed up a bunch of different looks for rookie QB Jared Goff and although they blitzed a bit more, they mixed things up with linebackers coming from both the edge and the A-gaps, corner blitzes from Logan Ryan and from the safeties. The result was Goff, was off-balance and was sailing his throws all day.
The Rams were held to just 25 yards of offense in the first half, the least amount of any team in the NFL this year. They had less than 100 yards of total offense until a garbage-time drive in the final minute of the game pushed them to 160. But with just 126 yards passing, and Todd Gurley and the running game rendered completely ineffective, this was a dominant effort by the defense. This was a building block type of game, that they unit can use to tighten things up and get better.
Brady Continues Excellence: Tom Brady got his milestone win and as he is prone to do, deflected all the credit to his teammates and coaches. And while QB stats when it comes wins is pretty much worthless, the fact that he’s done it so often and with such a varied cast around him for the past 17 years speaks volumes about himself.
On Sunday, Brady carried over the workman-like approach against the Rams completing 33 of 46 passes for 269 yards and a nice touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. The back-shoulder throw at the pylon in the end zone was perfectly thrown and put the Patriots up 14-0. It felt like it was 40-0 with the way the defense was shutting down the LA offense.
The offense settled for four field goals after that, but there was no reason to risk any chance of a turnover after that. The game was well in hand and they were cruising. They just took the points and kept rolling.
Blount is having a career year: LeGarrette Blount or LG as he’s called in the locker room is having an outstanding 2016. It’s hard to believe that he was a question mark during the preseason this summer. Blount did a lot of the heavy lifting in the first half where he gained 70 yards and set the tone for the day on the Patriots first drive.
Facing a 4th and 1 from the Rams 43-yard line, Blount took a handoff and was attempting to run over the right tackle. Finding the way blocked, he kicked it outside and then broke down the right sideline and raced to the end zone for a highlight reel touchdown. He finished with 18 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown.
On the year, he’s carried 230 times for 957 yards and an NFL-leading 13 touchdowns. With just 58 yards in the final four games, he’ll break his career high of 1007 yards he set in his rookie season with Tampa Bay. He’s already shattered his best of seven TDs scored in 2013 with the Patriots. With two more rushing touchdowns, Blount would break the Patriots record of 14 set by Curtis Martin in 1995 and equaled in 1996.
Edelman, Mitchell Pick up the Slack: With Rob Gronkowski out, the question became who was going to pick up the offense and elevate their game. With fellow tight end Martellus Bennett having a quiet day with just a pair of catches, that in itself wasn’t surprising as the big man is battling injury issues of his own with shoulder and ankle woes. Brady turned to another old reliable weapon and a new one.
Julian Edelman had a fantastic day hauling in 8 catches for 101 yards. He looks like his normal self for perhaps the first time this season and was positively dominant down low. He made the tough catches in contested areas and took some terrific blows in this game. Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell continues to impress as well.
He too caught eight passes for 82 yards and is becoming a favorite target of Brady. The fact that Brady trusts him, frequently on third down speaks volumes on how far he’s progressed this year. In the past three weeks, he’s made tremendous progress. His production eases the sting of the Gronkowski loss a bit.
One final observation, does anyone believe that Bill Belichick was over-hyping Rams punter Johnny Hekker now? He was by far the best player on the field for LA on Sunday.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jared Goff Jeff Fisher Julian Edelman LA Rams LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Martellus Bennett New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Todd Gurley Tom Brady Trey Flowers