EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 23, 2012

Don’t expect Rams to run it 33 times

Even with Steven Jackson, St. Louis will be heaving it Sunday

On Pro Football Hector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — FOXBORO — I can see the conversation breaking down in St. Louis yesterday afternoon in the office of head coach Jeff Fisher.

Fisher: “Steven, I know you were excited to check out the scene in London, but the bottom line is we’re not taking you.”

Steven Jackson: “Not taking me? Coach Fish, I’m your star! I’m your Hall of Fame running back!”

Fisher: “Sure, Steve. I know. You da man. But we’ve got the Patriots this week, and to be honest, against that secondary, I just don’t see us ever having the need to run the football. Enjoy the week off big guy. Instead of fish and chips in London, try one of our many BBQ rib joints in town here.”

Of course, this didn’t happen and it won’t happen, but, if it did happen, the Rams chances of winning wouldn’t change with or without the 29-year-old three-time Pro Bowl player.

The “thrill” of Sunday’s victory against the hated New York Jets continues to sink in here for the Pats and their fans.

But as we all do what the players do — and watch the film — I can’t help but wonder what the heck Rex Ryan and his offensive coordinator Tony Sparano were doing on Sunday running the football 33 times out of a possible 78 offensive plays.

Including the four sacks allowed, the Jets dropped back to pass 45 times and rolled up a net 297 yards (Sanchez threw for 328, but lost 31 in sacks).

This 6.6 yards per pass average came despite Stephen Hill’s ugly late drop, despite Sanchez’s tunnel vision and his tortoise-speed read of the Pats’ defense on his grotesquely underthrown interception. They gained 3.2 yards a rush and 6.6 yards per forward pass.

That’s with Mark Sanchez, folks. Am I the only one seeing the logic of the forward pass here over catapulting Shonn Greene into the waiting arms of Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love?

How stubborn/stupid must a coach be? I have to figure Fisher can read (numbers) better than Sanchez can read defenses. He’s a very good coach. And if you read my story a few weeks ago, you’d understand there aren’t many of them around these days.

The Rams feature Sam Bradford with legitimate pro receivers in Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Steve Smith. Bradford’s last 300-yard passing game came two weeks, not 13 months ago like Sanchez’s had been until Sunday.

Buckle up again folks. Sunday afternoon at Wembley might be another wild ride for the 2012 Pats.

If you’re wondering ...

I thought there might still be one or two Patriots diehards out there still believing the team’s “don’t worry, the secondary is better than you think,” campaign. Judging by sports radio and comments on the Web, it appears those folks are now in hiding.

But I did want to make sure Sunday that my assessment of the game, seeing Jets running free all over the defensive backfield only to be missed by Mark Sanchez, held its veracity. So I went to the visitors themselves. I asked Jets receiver Stephen Hill if the Pats stopped them at all.

“Oh no, no, it was nothing like that at all,” said Hill, one of the Jets’ goats with a huge late red-zone drop. “We just messed up on certain opportunities. That was it.”

Were there plays out there that should have been made?

“Yeah, definitely.”

So then, I moved to the guy I saw running free down the middle all afternoon, Dustin Keller, who caught all seven passes thrown at him for 93 yards and a TD.

“There were areas we could have picked it up,” said Keller. “We had some plays out there to be made, we made some, and we left a lot more out their on the field.”

Forgetting Mayo ...

In retrospect, my Monday Two-Minute Drill contained an egregious omission in the “Big Shows.”

Linebacker Jerod Mayo continued his stupendous season at the outside linebacker spot. Mayo led all Patriots with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. He was true in his tackling, and played stout on the run. He flowed and scraped to the football downhill, attacking more than back-pedaling.

It was a monster effort — his best whole game in what has been Mayo’s top year as a pro. My apologies for the miscue.

Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.