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Week 8: Notes and Observations vs. St. Louis Rams in London

Rob Gronkowski spikes the football after scoring a first half touchdown and paying tribute to the London crowd. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Allow me to do my best impersonation of Bill Belichick and try to find negatives in an overwhelmingly positive game. After all, I wouldn’t be a Boston sports fan if I still couldn’t find things to complain about…

– I think all of New England is with me in saying that everyone knew that first long pass from Sam Bradford was going to be a touchdown as soon as he did the play action fake. Bradford rolled out with zero pass rush, meaning the defense was completely fooled by the fake, and he had all the time in the world to set his feet and launch the ball 50 yards to Chris Givens. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms mentioned it was almost the same play the Seahawks beat them with a couple weeks ago, and it sure did seem identical.

– It seemed like we were in for another questionable game after the safeties were burnt to a crisp by Givens, but the offense started rolling early which really seemed to sway the momentum to the Patriots’ side early on, and they never gave it back.

– Tom Brady had a banner day for his career. He extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 40 when he connected with Brandon Lloyd on the first drive for a 19 yard fade towards the back corner of the end zone. He also had his 50th game with 300+ passing yards, as well as his 50th game with 3 or more touchdowns. As much as we all love to criticize Brady when things aren’t going perfect, the fact is we will never see another quarterback like him on this team, so be thankful for what you have.

– Lloyd definitely made up for his poor performance from last week. He caught two touchdown passes in London and he and Brady seem to be firmly on the same page. It is a great sign moving forward that Lloyd can bounce back from a tough week and be a vital part of the offense.

– Rob Gronkowski is possibly the most likable player in the history of the Patriots. The two spikes he threw down after his two touchdowns on Sunday were easily the best of his career. The first was a nice homage to being in London with a “nutcracker”-esque march followed by the spike. The second was more of a “Gronk in the club” hip swirl followed by the spike. Both were received tremendously in London as well as back home in the states. He also had 146 receiving yards on 8 catches. Not a bad day for Gronk.

– Stevan Ridley once again showed his electric ability to bust off big gains. In the third quarter alone he had over 90 yards rushing, mostly due to a 41 yard run that set the Patriots up inside the 10 yard line. He had 127 yards on 15 carries, for an average of 8.5 yards per carry. He also scored a touchdown. I said it before and I’ll say it again: the running game we have this year may be better than when we had Corey Dillon. No one back is equal to Dillon, but with Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, and a healthy Brandon Bolden, the offense has been more balanced and more dangerous.

– The improvement in the running game allowed Brady to once again sit back and make adjustments at the line of scrimmage depending on what the Rams were showing him on defense. This is exactly what this offense didn’t do in Seattle, and we all saw how that game turned out.

– The offense was moving so well that Zoltan Mesko was not called on to punt until the 4th quarter. That is the way all the fans in New England like it, and when the offense is playing the way they’re capable of playing, that’s the way it should be.

– I’m sure everyone panicked on the first touchdown pass by Bradford, but that was all the defense let up. Like I’ve been saying all season long, when the offense does what they are supposed to do the defense does their job, and more. All year they have been stopping opposing offenses with turnovers or holding teams to field goals, but the offense has not been able to capitalize. That was not the case in this game and in turn we all got to sit back, relax, and enjoy an old-fashioned blow out.

– Alfonzo Dennard is one of the best 7th round picks in the Belichick era. He shows physicality at the line with receivers. If he gets beat, and that’s a big if, he is rarely more than a yard off of his receiver, and he understands the zone defense well to know when to stick with his man and when to send him off to the next defender. He had another interception yesterday on a ball just heaved into the air, but because he was playing the zone correctly, Dennard was able to creep up and pick off a pass Bradford thought was to an open man. I would like to thank Dennard for getting in trouble a week before the draft, undermining his first round potential to drop all the way to the 7th, where Belichick and the halfway house known as the New England Patriots welcomed him with open arms.

– The sack Chandler Jones had on Bradford was nothing short of impressive. Bradford saw Jones coming in and attempted to roll out to his left side and had plenty of space. Jones went to the ground and swiped his long reaching arm to knock Bradford’s right leg into his left, knocking him to the ground for the sack. He has so much raw talent for a rookie that I think everyone is anxious to see how he develops over the course of his career.

– The defense as a whole played this game very well. They did their typical bend-but-don’t-break style, but there were few times the Rams even threatened to score a field goal. The coverage, even without Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, was much better than it was last week. Kyle Arrington went down with a head injury early, but Sterling Moore and Marquice Cole filled the void well with some solid play at the corner position. Devin McCourty once again played safety, but also had a few snaps at corner, and aside from the first and only touchdown pass by Bradford, he showed great poise throughout the game.

– Tavon Wilson had another solid performance on Sunday. On a safety blitz he blew up a run in the backfield. He also had that late interception to seal the victory with an exclamation point when Kellen Clemens pump faked and then fired to the same receiver. The pump fake gave Wilson just enough of a heads up to start breaking towards the receiver and he timed it perfectly to jump right in front as the ball arrived. He has had a nose for the ball all season and continues to impress.

– Last week, a win was a win. This week was the perfect way to stroll into the bye week. A nice blowout in London, and now we can all enjoy a much needed bye week.

– On a side note: in two games at Wembley Stadium in London, the Patriots have outscored their opponents 80-14. Maybe we should play all our games there, or at the very least, maybe Robert Kraft’s and Roger Goodell’s insistence on a NFL franchise in London isn’t such a bad idea after all.

About Steve Bastek - @sbastek12

Graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BA in Communication studies. I've been a Boston sports fan all my life and enjoy having the opportunity to write about it.

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