FOXBORO, MA I hate to rain on every Patriots fans parade, but the New England Patriots, even though they beat the Stephen Jackson-less Rams, did not look good or close to a championship caliber team, but thats stating the obvious.
They continued to sputter on offense, at one point turning the ball over three straight drives (twice from pass interceptions and once on downs), and the defense still has not proven their front four can consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season without a linebacker or safety blitzing and the secondary continues to give up the deep ball.
Dont get me wrong, there were some bright spots. With their top three running backs out of the game, old Mr. Reliable Kevin Faulk came up with a huge game, running 60 yards on 13 carries, including the go-ahead touchdown reception. The much maligned Pats quarterback Matt Cassel actually tallied his first career fourth quarter come-from-behind victory, albeit from a three point deficit, but a comeback is still a comeback!
The top five observations immediately following the game are as follows:
First, the way the Patriots played entering the second half was terrible. They fell asleep on the second half kickoff, losing possession when the Rams surprised the sleeping Pats special teams with an onside kick. New England was outplayed in the third period and if they play like that against a good team like Indianapolis they will lose. Luckily it was the lowly Rams and despite turning the ball over three straight times, the Pats only allowed 3 points because the Rams just couldnt run the ball without their all pro back Steven Jackson. Both the offense and defense never really woke up until the fourth period.
This brings us to observation number two. Thedefensive line finally stepped up late. Adalius Thomas, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour and Ty Warren all applied plenty of pressure in the fourth quarter, forcing Rams quarterback Marc Bulger to make bad throws late. Wilforks pressure up the middle set up the sack for Warren, while the defensive line rotation was part of the reason why the team was able to apply constant pressure throughout the last part of the game. Keeping the line fresh was Mike Wright and Le Kevin Smith.
Marc Bulger Sacked by Adalius Thomas (AP Photo)
The problem came earlier in the game when the previously mention front four were unable to get as much as a sniff of Bulger, leaving the Pats subpar corners in one-on-one coverage down the field. The results were disastrous with Rams rookie Donnie Avery scorching the secondary for 163 yards and a 69-yard touchdown. Avery also had receptions of 35 and 44 yards. The 69-yarder was the longest pass play of Bulgers career. Thats just brutal pass defense.
As for the good, Faulk proved to be as great as always. He made a heck of a catch by for the go-ahead touchdown over a defender. Theres nothing flashy about him, he just keeps making plays. When the team was depleted down to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Heath Evan and Faulk, Kevin came through big time. Faulk was effective running draws with Cassel in the shot gun. He averaged 4.6 yards a carry and he seems to always have a knack for finding the little holes in the line and squirting through to come up with a solid gain.
The rest of the offense came as advertised: efficient but not spectacular. The team had success on the roll out play. The runs off left tackle looked ok, but it appeared that the team kept running the same plays and were too predictable at times, which hurt the offense. However, that was probably dictated by the personnel groups.
Lastly, Randy Moss was efficient in having a 100 yard game. Like the offense as a whole, he was not spectacular. He had a chance to make a big play on a deep ball in the end zone but dropped it. Moss was most effective over the middle, where he did most of his damage in the game, which was setup by his potential to do a long play.
What to look for down the road is for teams to continue to go over the top of the Patriots weak secondary. Hobbs was burned by the deep ball badly; the corners are at best mediocre. If teams have the weapons theyre going to go deep and Indianapolis still have the weapons. New England is going to be in trouble if they cannot find a way to get defensive pressure up front and lock down the opposing receivers.
Ill save my Matt Cassel bashing for another game. Nice game Matt!
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin here.
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