1. Vince Wilfork – When the nose guard sniffs out a swing pass, not a screen, and runs down the line to bury Daryl Richardson for a loss, it’s a special play from a special player. I know he gets no pass rush, and his run-stuffing talents are growing less and less pivotal in the game today, but that kind of play makes him very special.
2. Stevan Ridley – Looked like he was playing on old-fashioned AstroTurf and everyone else was bogged down in mud. Fastest guy on the field, he had 127 yards on 15 carries, an average of 8.5 per attempt.
3. Rob Gronkowski – The Rams put some tiny little corner on him, often two, and he shrugged them off like a dad with twin 6-year-olds. Honestly, at times, it looked like 1970s Saturday morning pro wrestling when the WWWF would throw Steve King and Frankie Williams in there against Andre the Giant. Andre, I mean Gronk, finished with 8 catches for 146 yards, 2 TDs and a pin on which he stacked both opponents on top of each other and sat on them.
1. Tavon Wilson – In case you missed Pat Chung or Brandon Meriweather, Wilson did his best impression getting toasted on the early bomb and being looked off repeatedly.
2. Sterling Moore – Not the answer for Kyle Arrington at corner. Five solo tackles is too many for a corner going against those receivers.
3. Shane Vereen – What does it mean if you’re gaining 3.1 yards a carry when your teammate, with the same offensive line going against the same defense, picks up 8.5 a carry. It means he’s better. Hope you’re good on special teams.
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (A) … Playing against the vaunted, new-look, physical Rams front, the Pats imposed their will. How many times did Jim Nantz refer to “Chunks
of Yardage” yesterday? Without Logan Mankins, this group played tough. And thanks to blazing reads by Tom Brady, they weren’t bothered a bit by any Rams blitzes.
Running backs (A) … Again, Stevan Ridley sparkled. Danny Woodhead was spectacular in what should be his lone gig, the passing game, catching five balls for 56 yards. Shane Vereen takes the “+” off the grade with his lackluster effort.
Wide Receivers (B) … Wes Welker drew coverage and still managed six catches for 48 yards. Brandon Lloyd hauled in a couple TD passes.
And Deion Branch continues to adapt with his diminishing skills. No, he didn’t have any catches, but his incessant begging and some believable flopping yielded a pair of phantom pass interference penalties from Walt Coleman’s clueless crew.
Tight ends (A) … Rob Gronkowski was again the All-Pro New England expects him to be. Nobody else really mattered, although I’m sure
Bill Belichick’s propagandists will tell us how well Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui blocked for Ridley in the rushing game.
Quarterback – Jeff Fisher’s Mickey Mouse Blitz schemes, attacking Tom Brady from the corners instead of the middle, made life easy for the Pats’ signal-caller. Again, sorry to go old school, but the Rams chased him like Tom chases Jerry and were just as successful. Brady hit 23 of 35 for 304 yards and four TDs – with no sacks and no interceptions. That folks is a 131.1 passer rating to you and me.
Line (B-) … Solid effort from the guys up front, but honestly there wasn’t enough pressure on Sam Bradford, and the Rams had some holes in there to run
Linebackers (B+) … Very active with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes combining for 15 solo tackles. Good to see Dont’a Hightower back in action. His post-throw slam of Sam Bradford into the ground – which would have cost any other team 15 yards but is allowed under Belichick – might have been the play of the game. Bradford played scared the rest of the way and never even bothered to look downfield.
Defensive backs (C-) … I can hear the jamoke callers on sports radio, who were ready to hang these guys in effigy last week, preparing to place Alfonzo Dennard up for Hall of Fame nomination in Canton. Again, the throws were there, Bradford simply didn’t make them, whether he was afraid of another Dont’a Hightower throwdown or he was hurt and couldn’t get it up the field. Oh yeah, did I mention that they were facing the worst receiving corps in NFL history?
Coaching (A) … They kicked Jeff Fisher’s booty. That sounds familiar, though, since Fisher is down 104-7 in his last two meetings with Bill
Special Teams (B) … Nothing much in the return game, but Stephen Gostkowski made all his kicks, and Zoltan Mesko netted 46.5 yards on his two punts.
Why Belichick is better
OK, so I already mentioned the 104-7 point difference between Belichick and Jeff Fisher in the last two meetings.
How about the fact that at one point yesterday, the penalty yards against were 84-15? Fisher’s crew was on the bad side of that one, too.
What has Fisher ever done to garner such reverence from a guy like Belichick?
The man is 5-6 career in the playoffs with a .542 regular season win percentage.
All week, we heard how well-coached this bunch is. Well-coached by whom? Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer?
Has Belichick ever lost to a Schottenheimer? Sure, but this guy is so stupid, he ran the football 23 times yesterday. Against this Patriots team, that’s about 15 too many. Any reason this football team doesn’t feature Steven Jackson in the passing game?
The guy has Hall of Fame credentials and exceptional hands, yet is ignored like an unwanted step-child.
I’m sure Fisher learned another lesson this week, but at this rate he’ll be ready to challenge Belichick in about 2025.
The turning point
After opening the game with a 50-yard TD bomb, only to have the Pats answer right back with a Tom Brady-to-Brandon Lloyd TD hookup, the Rams face a third-and-5 at their own 47. Bradford panics on a high snap, runs out of the pocket and tries to heave the ball out of bounds.
At fourth-and-5 at midfield, Jeff Fisher’s will to win would be tested. Instead, Walt Coleman hit Bradford for a bogus intentional grounding call, the first of many awful calls to sting the Rams yesterday.
St. Louis punts, the Pats drive 83 yards for a 14-7 lead and this one is over.
Five thoughts as we hit the bye week at 5-3
1. For the next two weeks, we’ll hear the buffoons in this business and on sports radio profess that this secondary is better and improving every week. They’ll say that Marquice Cole and Sterling Moore are improvements.
Heck, one reporter from New England, who now works for the NFL Network and whose last name rhymes with ear, tweeted yesterday that Devin McCourty now looks “really good” at safety. The fact of the matter is, like last year and 2010 as well, this secondary smells. The Pats can overcome the shortcomings with turnovers and offense, but the secondary remains putrid.
2. Suddenly, the game to watch next week for New Englanders is now 4-3 Miami at 4-3 Indy. Who’d have ever thought that?
3. Was I the only one to think bad thoughts, seeing Wes Welker’s cleat sink into the Wembley mush and the leg buckle. Let’s hope
that’s only a tweaked ankle of sorts and that he’ll be fine.
4. All of you who knocked Tom Brady this past week – and you know who you are – should get a pad of paper and write, “I’m sorry,
Tom,” at least 1,000 times. Let’s hope he has the decency to forgive you.
5. Until Stevan Ridley delivers a bigtime performance, without fumbling, against a real opponent in a tight game, I’m can’t go all-in on him. But damn, did he look nasty yesterday.