A look at Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Rams before settling for a spectacular sports Saturday, with plenty of great college football and baseball’s world series as the undercard to the Pats game tomorrow.
3-4 St. Louis Rams vs 4-3 New England Patriots
1:00 p.m. ET at Wembley Stadium in London
TV: CBS (40% coverage), DirecTV channel 711; announcers are Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
Satellite Radio: Sirius channel 107; XM and SiriusXM channel 818
Vegas: Pats opened as 7 point favorites, currently 6; total at 47
Referee: Walt Coleman
Point Differential: Pats +54 (6th), Rams -11 (19th)
Turnover Differential: Pats +11 (2nd), Rams -0- (14th)
Football Outsiders DVOA: Pats 27.5% (6th), Rams 0.6% (14th)
Points per Game: Pats 31.0 (1st), Rams 18.6 (26th)
Yards per Game: Pats 436 (1st), Rams 315 (28th)
Red Zone TD %: Pats 58.1 (9th), Rams 41.2 (28th)
Yards per Point: Pats 14.1 (11th), Rams 17.0 (23rd)
Offensive DVOA: Pats 27.2% (1st), Rams -5.3% (21st)
Rushing Yards per Game: Pats 149 (5th), Rams 106 (16th)
Rushing Yards per Carry: Pats 4.2 (11th), Rams 4.2 (12th)
Passing Yards per Game: Pats 287 (5th), Rams 209 (24th)
Passing Yards per Attempt: Pats 7.4 (13th), Rams 7.2 (17th)
Passer Rating: Pats 96.9 (6th), Rams 83.0 (19th)
TD/INT Ratio: Pats 4.00 (12:3), Rams 1.33 (8:6)
Interception %: Pats 1.05 (3:286), Rams 2.73 (6:220)
Points per Game: Rams 20.1 (9th), Pats 23.3 (19th)
Yards per Game: Rams 324 (9th), Pats 376 (23rd)
Red Zone TD %: Rams 50.0 (12th), Pats 57.9 (19th)
Yards per Point: Pats 16.2 910th), Rams 16.1 (11th)
Defensive DVOA: Pats 3.0% (20th), Rams -7.7% (9th)
Rushing Yards per Game: Pats 86 (8th), Rams 99 (10th)
Rushing Yards per Carry: Pats 3.3 (2nd), Rams 4.0 (13th)
Passing Yards per Game: Rams 226 (14th), Pats 290 (29th)
Passing Yards per Attempt: Rams 6.9 (12th), Pats 8.1 (28th)
Passer Rating: Rams 82.1 (12th), Pats 99.2 (27th)
TD/INT Ratio: Rams 0.88 (7:8), Pats 2.29 (16:7)
Interception Percentage: Rams 3.21 (8:249), Pats 2.69 (7:260)
The Patriots are beat up after several tough, physical games; they are dangerously thin in the defensive secondary and their offense is not anywhere near as efficient as it usually is without Aaron Hernandez playing. While skill positions get all the headlines and the Pats pass defense gets all the scrutiny, the key to the game is the Rams defensive line versus the Pats offensive line. With Hernandez out and Rob Gronkowski less than full speed, the Pats OL needs to run block effectively the way they did against Buffalo and Denver. If the Pats cannot establish the running game then they risk having the same thing happen to them that happened to Arizona, when Robert Quinn and Chris Long ran wild as the Rams sacked Kevin Kolb nine – nine! – times.
The Rams defense has allowed just 50 yards per game the last three weeks, but they can be run on. Three weeks ago they playe Arizona, who has no offensive line and no running game. Last week they played the Packers who similarly have no running game – and torched them for more than 400 passing yards. While the Pats might see that and be tempted to do the same, I think they would be better off running the ball instead. No Hernandez limits the passing attack and the running game will open up play action passes to Brandon Lloyd, Gronk and Deion Branch and Daniel Fells.
Notice I did not say Wes Welker? Wes leads the NFL with 688 yards receiving. The Titans are sure to focus on him as a result. Time to go back to the past, when Tom Brady‘s favorite receiver was the one that was open. Slot receiver Randall Cobb may have had a big day last week but Green Bay runs a 3WR offense; the Pats do not. Cortland Finnegan will probably be lined up against Welker, doing what he does best: getting under an opponent’s skin, trying to get them to lose their focus, and goading them into a penalty. No reason to force the ball to Welker; let’s see some early passes to Fells, Branch and Lloyd. Janoris Jenkins is athletic but prone to over reactions; I would rather see the Pats throw at him than at CB Bradley Fletcher; opposing quarterbacks have just a 57.0 passer rating when throwing at Fletcher. Let Welker run a route with Finnegan that clears a space for the Pats to take advantage of the two main weaknesses in the Rams’ defense: the outside linebackers and safeties.
When the Rams have the ball the Pats need to take advantage of another weakness of theirs, the left side of their offensive line. Things don’t look much better on the other side for St. Louis, where Jets castoff Wayne Hunter is starting at RT. Look for Rob Ninkovich to do what he does best, creating a turnover … or two. The one thing he and Chandler Jones do need to be aware of is RB Daryl Richardson; he’s fast and explosive, a different type of runner than Steven Jackson. They can’t completely abdicate their responsibilities of setting the edge as a result. Still, there should be plenty of opportunities to get after Sam Bradford by both Ninkovich and Jones.
Does this mean the Rams have no shot? Absolutely not. Long, Quinn and MLB James Laurinaitis are all excellent players, capable of causing havoc to the Patriots’ offense. Should they create a turnover or two the Rams could easily capitalize with quick scoring passes to WR Chris Givens on the Pats secondary. While I’m sure St. Louis will indeed score on at least one long pass play, I still like the Pats chances against that Rams offensive line.
Prediction: similar to last week the Pats win, but Patriots Nation reacts in a similar manner to how most NFL fan bases respond to a loss.
Patriots 27, Rams 21
The Patriots lead the all-time series between the two franchises 6-5, with the most well remembered game obviously being the 20-17 victory in Super Bowl 36. In those eleven games the Pats have scored 223 points to the Rams’ 215, for an average score of 20.3 to 19.5. The Patriots have won the last three games while the Rams won the previous four – two as the St. Louis Rams and two as the Los Angeles Rams.
The two teams last met on October 26, 2008. Despite having three of their running backs sidelined the Patriots persevered and defeated the Rams 23-16 at Gillette Stadium, improving their record to 5-2.
Josh Brown‘s second field goal of the game with 12:25 remaining put the Rams up 16-13 but Stephen Gotkowski responded four minutes later with his third field goal, this one from 41 yards out to tie the score. After taking over on a punt on their own 47 Matt Cassel completed passes of 23 and 3 yards to Randy Moss, and a 7-yard run by Kevin Faulk gave the Pats a first down at the St. Louis 28. Cassel then threw an 8-yard completion to Moss and Faulk ran for 5 yards giving the Pats another first down at the 15. Cassel then connected with Faulk on a 15-yard touchdown pass that was just inbounds, with Faulk securing the ball despite being hit by Pisa Tinoisamoa for the winning score with 3:13 remaining.
St. Louis got the ball back with plenty of time remaining but on a 3rd and 15 with 1:26 to go from the Patriots 38 yard line Deltha O’Neal intercepted a Marc Bulger pass deep down the right sideline and held on to secure the victory.
Randy Moss had seven receptions for 102 yards; it was the 58th 100-yard game of his career. Faulk led the Pats with 60 yards on 13 carries and added 47 yards on four receptions, and Wes Welker had seven catches for 79 yards. Cassel finished 21-for-33 and had what was then a career high of 267 yards passing.
Odds and Ends
– Although he has been in the league with the same team for nine years the Pats and Steven Jackson have virtually no history against each other. As a rookie in 2004 Jackson got only three carries as Marshall Faulk‘s backup in a 40-21 New England win, and he missed the 2008 game with a leg injury.
– When Jackson came out of Oregon State in 2003 Bill Belichick and the Patriots were reportedly very interested in drafting him. Vince Wilfork slid and the Patriots traded up with Baltimore to acquire him instead in one of the decade’s most lopsided deals (the Ravens used the pick they got in the trade to select Kyle Boller). Still in need of a running back the Pats traded for Corey Dillon, and they went on to win their third Super Bowl that year. If those two trades don’t happen there is a good chance that Jackson, who was drafted three spots after Wilfork, ends up in New England.
– The Rams have not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2005; the 115 game stretch is the longest current streak in the NFL by more than two years.
– When Devin McCourty ran his kickoff back for a touchdown it was the longest return by the Pats in the last 103 kickoffs, dating back to Dan Connolly‘s famous return.
– The Pats defense had recovered eleven fumbles this season; the Rams defense has recovered just one. The Pats have recovered a fumble in a league-best 18 straight games; the Rams defense has not forced a turnover in either of their last two games.
– Live and die by the sack: The Rams are sacking opposing quarterbacks a 5th-best 7.8% of the time, but are allowing sacks a 6th-worst 8.7% of the time.
– The Rams have converted only 34.1% of their third downs (22nd), yet have 15 drives of ten plays or more – which is second to only to the Patriots, who have 19.
– Long but not gone: the Rams have eight plays of 40 or more yards this year – but only one of those has been for a touchdown.
– The Pats defense has given up nine touchdowns of twenty or more yards in seven games this season; that’s more than twice as many (four) as they allowed in all of 2011.
– While much has been made of the Pats offense inability to score when they have the opportunity to do so, take a look at the Rams offense. Of their 27 scores they have had to settle for field goals 17 times, which is the worst percentage in the league. On the other hand the Pats defense has the third worst touchdown-field goal percentage in the NFL.
What a great sports weekend this is. Early college football games include Tennessee at #13 South Carolina, then at 3:30 The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party kicks off in Jacksonville with #2 Florida against #10 Georgia. At the same time there are at least a half dozen other good games: #14 Texas Teach at undefeated #3 Kansas Sate; #9 Southern Cal at Arizona; Colorado at #4 Oregon; #21 Boise State at Wyoming; Michigan State at #25 Wisconsin; Duke at #12 Florida State; and Kent State at #15 Rutgers.
But wait, there’s more!
Through dinner time we have Washington State at #17 Stanford and #20 Texas A&M at Auburn. Then tonight #5 7-0 Notre Dame at #8 5-1 Oklahoma … and at the same time #11 Mississippi State is at #1 Alabama and #22 Michigan is at Nebraska … and there is also Game Three of the World Series. Finally to wrap the day up there is #7 Oregon State at Washington kicking off at 10:15 p.m. ET, if you haven’t developed a sensory overload to football by that point.
As for the local games BC is actually favored to win (-2.5) in Chestnut Hill against Maryland; I’ll believe it when I see it. UMass has struggled mightily and is a 33-point underdog at Vanderbilt; despite the huge number I’ll put one unit on the Commodores, the Minutemen are that bad (dead last in scoring, 11.9 ppg; 119th in defense, 40.7 ppg).
– final scores: Vanderbilt 49, UMass 7; also BC 20, Maryland 17
I’ll also go one unit on Texas A&M-Auburn over 53.5, two units on Texas A&M -7, one unit on Florida-Georgia over 45.5, one unit on Florida -6, one unit on Syracuse +7.5 at USF, and one unit on Notre Dame +13 at Oklahoma.
– final scores: Texas A&M 63, Auburn 21; Georgia 17, Florida 9; Syracuse 37, South Florida 36; Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13
This Day In Patriots History
October 27, 1968:
Jim Whalen catches an 87-yard touchdown pass from Tom Sherman for the longest reception of his career but the Patriots lose to the Jets at Shea Stadium. The tight end was a first team all-pro this season, finishing the year with 718 yards and seven touchdowns. Bob Scarpitto also had a 33-yard touchdown reception; it was the only TD as a Patriot for the long-time Denver Bronco.
October 27, 1974:
In a game old time Patriots will surely remember, TE Bob Windsor wills his way to a touchdown with time running out despite blowing his knee out on the play, and the Pats beat the Vikings 17-14 at Metropolitan Stadium.
With 1:29 left to play Fran Tarkenton scored on a keeper at the near corner of the end zone and the Vikings took a 14-10 lead. With time running out Jim Plunkett hit Randy Vataha on a desperation heave for his only catch of the day that went for 55 yards, giving the Pats the ball on the Minnesota ten yard line with nine seconds remaining. Windsor caught a pass from Plunkett near the seam on the right side on the two-yard line; at the same time the catch was made Lew Krausse delivered a big hit to Windsor on his knee, tearing his ACL to shreds. Windsor somehow stayed on his feet and dragged Krausse to the goal line before falling into the end zone for the game winning score.
The play not only ended Windsor’s season but effectively ended his career. Although he did return the following season he was clearly not the same and finished with only six receptions before retiring from football.
Although both the Patriots and Vikings came into the game with identical 5-1 records this was considered to be a huge upset; the Pats were coming off a 5-9 season while Minnesota had made it to the Super Bowl with an NFL-best 12-2 record. Unfortunately the Patriots were snakebitten with injuries such as this one and those losses finally took their toll: after a 6-1 start the Pats won only one more game the rest of the way and finished 7-7.
October 27, 1985:
The Patriots beat the Buccaneers 32-14 at the Old Sombrero in Tampa Bay. This was the third in what turned out to be a six game winning streak; the team would end up winning 14 games overall and make it to the franchise’s first Super Bowl three months later.
Tampa Bay jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead but it was all Patriots the rest of the way. Craig James ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and also threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tony Collins. Collins finished with 164 yards from scrimmage; he had 55 yards on 10 rushed and 109 yards on six receptions. Steve Grogan was an efficient 14-for-21 for 237 yards and no turnovers. The Pats doubled up on the Bucs on total yardage, outgaining them 420 to 209 and ran for 197 yards while holding Tampa Bay to 79 on the ground. OLB Don Blackmon led the defense, getting his 4th career interception and then sacking Steve DeBerg in the end zone for a safety for the only points of his NFL career.
October 27, 1991:
The Patriots come close to pulling off a major upset but fall just short, losing to Denver 9-6 at Foxboro Stadium. The Pats defense stymied John Elway for 55 minutes, keeping him out of the end zone and limiting him to 154 yards passing on the day. However with time running out, as he did so often Elway came through in the clutch, directing a nine-play, 42-yard drive that culminated with a game winning 34 yard field goal by David Treadwell. Other than Leonard Russell rushing for 89 yards on 17 carries the Patriots couldn’t do much of anything on offense; they got close to scoring twice but had to settle for 17 and 20-yard field goals by Jason Staurovsky.
October 27, 1996:
The Patriots beat the Bills 28-25 on Sunday Night Football at Foxboro Stadium to move into a first place tie in the AFC East.
The Bills seemed to be headed for their fifth three-point victory of the season, but the Patriots scored two touchdowns in the last 1:25 for the hard fought victory. Curtis Martin had scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 10-yard run. Then, with Jim Kelly trying to lead his 24th successful fourth-quarter comeback, Willie McGinest returned his first career interception 46 yards for another touchdown with 41 seconds remaining. The 28-18 lead seemed secure, but there was still time for more drama.
With 24 seconds to play, Kelly connected with Andre Reed on a 48-yard desperation pass for a touchdown, and Steve Christie‘s extra point cut the lead to just three points. But Keith Byars, in just his second game since being picked up from Miami, recovered the onside kick and the Patriots held on.
The victory left New England, Buffalo and Indianapolis (which had lost to the Patriots a week earlier) all tied for the division lead at 5-3; t could have actually been a four-way tie had Miami beaten Dallas earlier in the day.
Drew Bledsoe was 32-for-45 for 373 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for the Patriots. Other than his touchdown the Bills defense did a good job containing Curtis Martin, limiting him to 54 yards on 21 carries. Shawn Jefferson had 95 yards receiving and Keith Byars had seven catches for 52 yards out of the backfield. For Buffalo Thurman Thomas rushed for 119 yards and one touchdown, and Andre Reed finished with 121 yards receiving and one TD.
October 27, 1997:
In a rematch of the previous season’s Super Bowl the Patriots once again lose to the Packers, this time by a score of 28-10 on Monday Night Football at Foxboro Stadium.
The game turned on the opening possession of the 2nd half. The Pats received the kickoff and drove down to Green Bay’s one-yard line. Drew Bledsoe had to throw the ball away on 2nd down, CB Tyrone Williams broke up a pass intended for TE Ben Coates on the next play, and then Williams deflected another pass, this one for RB Keith Byars. The Packers took over on downs and proceeded to march 99 yards for a touchdown to go up 21-10, completely deflating the team and the crowd. The 17-play drive consumed 9:31 and was capped off by Brett Favre‘s third touchdown pass of the evening, a 20-yarder to WR Robert Brooks.
Terry Glenn had 7 receptions for 163 yards to lead the Patriots and Curtis Martin had 117 yards (65 rushing, 52 receiving). Drew Bledsoe went 20-36 for 268 yards but threw three interceptions. The only touchdown for the Patriots came early in the 2nd quarter on an 11-yard pass from Bledsoe to TE Ben Coates. The game sparked much second guessing of head coach Pete Carroll. The Packers came in to the game with one of the NFL’s worst run defenses, but the Pats inexplicably threw the ball rather than utilize Curtis Martin all game – most notably in that goal line situation.
October 27, 2002:
The defending Super Bowl champs lost their 4th straight game, losing 24-16 to the Broncos at Gillette Stadium to fall to 3-4. As had been the case in the previous losses the Pats defense faltered in the red zone, allowing three touchdowns in the four times Denver got the ball inside the twenty. For the season the Pats at this point had allowed 18 touchdowns in 22 red zone situations, a stark reversal from 2001 when they led the NFL in red zone defense.
Broncos rookie Clint Portis gained 111 yards on 26 carries (including a pair of TDs) to become the fifth straight back to gain over 100 yards on the Pats; on the flip side the Pats couldn’t run the ball with Antowain Smith gaining 58 yards on just 13 carries.
Denver scored on three of their five first half possessions to open up a 21-7 halftime lead. After the break the Pats showed some life, with Adam Vinatieri kicking a 26-yard field goal after a penalty on Denard Walker wiped out a Denver interception by Deltha O’Neal. After forcing a second straight three-and-out, Deion Branch returned a punt 40 yards to the Broncos 35 and the Pats cashed in when Tom Brady connected with a wide-open TE Christian Fauria in the end zone for an eight-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Pats went for two but Brady’s pass was knocked down, leaving the score at 21-16.
However on the first two plays after the kickoff Brian Griese completed 19 and 21 yard passes to WR Ed McCaffrey. Denver drove deep into Patriots territory but Tedy Bruschi stopped RB Mike Anderson on third-and-goal at the 1, but Jason Elam‘s 19-yard FG extended the lead to 24-16, and that is how the game ended. Denver dominated the game more than the final score would indicate, outgaining the Patriots by almost a two to one margin, 351 yards to 179 yards.
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October 27, 1975:
A then unknown Bruce Springsteen appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazines simultaneously.
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