Patriots - Rams: Game Balls & Goats

The St. Louis Rams defeated the New England Patriots 36-35 on Thursday night. Here's a list of who did well and who has some work to do.

Each week Patriots Insider hands out our Game Balls and Goats – awards for good games and bad. Everyone and everything is fair play for nominations. With the Rams win over New England, there was plenty of both positives and negatives to hand out.

GAME BALLS
There were plenty of individual performances worthy of mention, but tonight belongs to the Rams who dominated early against the Patriots first string.

Wes Welker It was Welker's 39-yard reception late in the second quarter that finally got the Patriots offense on track. Welker finished with just a pair of catches for 41 yards, but his catch turned momentum in the game, again. A fan favorite, the crowd roared when he took the field, and equally looud when he made the catch.

Rob Gronkowski3 receptions for 66 yards and 2 TDs. The Rookie has another game with multiple scores. Dragging former second-round pick James Laurinaitis 3 yards for the score. Gronkowski came up big with multiple catches on the night, including a second score late in the game for a Patriots lead early in the fourth quarter.

Sam BradfordYes it's a Rams GB, but the rookie outplayed TO Brady with all the starters in for both teams. Bradford finished 15 of 22 for 189 yards 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Bradford left in the first half, Brady played into the 4th quarter.

Honorable Mentions:
Tom Brady – almost made it into the other column until he got on track hitting Randy Moss deep, Gronkowski deep for scores. Finished 18 of 22 for 273 yards and 3 TDs.

Randy Moss -- shaking off th effects of an early drop Moss led all Patriots receivers with 3 receptions for 74 yards and a TD.
Ron Brace – Another game, another QB pressure, resulting this time in a sack.

Brandon Tate97 yard KO return put the Patriots up 12 seconds into the game. 3 KO returns for 164 yards (54.7 avg.) and a pair of catches.

Rams 1st String defense – Held the Patriots in check 5/7 for 26 yards until the 4 min mark of the first half when he found Welker deep.

Rams PK Josh Brown -- Clutch when it mattered. 3-for-3 FGs including the game winner of 37 yards.

GOATS
Patriots First String Defense – Abyssmal. Little pressure, loose coverage, no turnovers. The first team allowed an unproven QB time to throw, opportunity to find checkdowns, and time to convert when in trouble. 15 first downs for the Rams in the first half, 57% third-down conversion rate, and over 20 minutes ToP to convert four scores. If they play like that against a real offense, Brady and co will have to score 100 points to win.

Secondary – Too often Rams receivers were wide open downfield. DBs played off, or got beaten on tight coverage. Penalties extended drives that should have been over. Blown coverage lead to at least one score, more like two. Starting DBs Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler played deep into the game, possibly as a message being sent by their coach.

Running game - 28 yards on 11 attempts for a 2.5 ypc avg. Hardly NFL playoff worthy. The team had trouble opening holes for the backs. With no room to run, the Patriots play-action was nullified. The team had to go no-huddle and shotgun to generate some offense.

Dishonorable Mentions:
LBs – not one, but three roughing the passer calls? Tully Banta-Cain, Brandon Spikes and Marques Murrell. Horrible timing led to plays extending drives, or ruined good stops. Only slight pressure was from TBC. Others were relatively invisible.

Penalties – as mentioned previously, bad timing. Patriots were flagged often, giving four for first downs to the Rams.

Officiating – When a team has to overturn your rulings twice on the same drive, you must be missing something. It's preseason, the zebras have plenty of time to fix this.

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