December 4th, 2016 is not a day that LA Rams fans are going to remember fondly. On the same day that the team signed head coach Jeff Fisher to an extension, for whatever reason, they also faced the Patriots at Gillette Stadium and got spanked. It was basically another day in the life of a poor Rams fan.
To Tom Brady, this was just another win and now he’s on to Baltimore. To the rest of the football world, Brady recorded his 201st career win, making him the winningest quarterback in the history of the NFL, passing Peyton Manning after tying him at 200 just last week in the Meadowlands. It seems that with every passing week, Brady further cements his status as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Week after week, he continues to leave me astonished. In his 201st win, Brady threw for 269 yards, went 33/46 and, unsurprisingly, threw zero interceptions. Brady and co. ended the glorious day with 402 yards of total offense.
New England’s offense only really showed up in the first half, with both of their touchdowns coming in that first half. LeGarrette Blount started things off early with a 43-yard touchdown run that came on a questionable call to go for it on 4th and 1. Blount broke ankles all the way down the field to the minutemen waiting for his celebration with them at the endzone. Blount ended his day with 88 yards on 18 carries. The second and final Pats TD of the day was caught by Chris Hogan for a 14-yard score. Brady threw a beautiful ball to Hogan in the front left corner of the endzone and Hogan proceeded to make a fantastic catch, as well.
Unfortunately, Danny Amendola left the game early with a high-ankle sprain, but the Patriots plan to have him back for the playoffs. Amendola only had 3 receptions going for 30 yards, but at least two of those converted on third down. While Amendola doesn’t have much going for him when you look at his stats, he’s quietly becoming Mr. Reliable in those big situations. He’s been getting less and less playing time due to the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell, but is still being utilized in clutch situations.
As for Edelman, he caught 8 passes for 101 yards, also coming up clutch at times. Malcolm Mitchell, who is quickly becoming a fan favorite, recorded 8 receptions for 82 yards. Expect to see even more playing time for Mitchell while Amendola is on the mend. Many would have expected Marty Bennett to play a large role in this game due to Gronk’s season-ending surgery, but Bennett was virtually invisible, catching only 2 passes for 4 yards.
That being said, New England made it well known from the very first few plays of the game that they wanted to establish a running game. There’s only one player for Los Angeles that could have stopped it in any way from happening, Aaron Donald. I honestly don’t recall seeing him make any flashy plays or even do much at all. Their other star defensive playmaker, Robert Quinn, did not play in this game due to injury. LA literally let the Pats run all over them.
The Patriots completely stole the show for the entirety of the first half. New England converted more fourth downs (2) than the Rams had total first downs (1). The Pats had a total of 12 first downs in the first half alone. New England ran 42 offensive plays, compared to the Rams who ran only 18. Everything went wrong for Los Angeles in this game overall, but notably the first half.
I think we need a Gostkowski mention this week. Gostkowski recorded a perfect day on both extra points and field goals. Gost split the uprights on both of his two PAT attempts, and also made 28-yard, 48-yard, 45-yard and 45-yard field goals, three of them coming in the second half. He’s obviously had a very shaky season, so who knows what may happen next week or so on. After the game, Gostkowski did say that this was “a start.” I’m sure that he’ll take a perfect day seven out of seven days of the week, as would all Patriots fans.
As for the defense, as a whole, they had themselves a day. Granted, it was against the Rams, but still. It had to have been a confidence booster for all of them, considering their struggles. Holding any team to just 162 yards of offense is a damn good day, everyday. It took LA until the final minute of the fourth quarter to pass 100 yards of offense on the day.
New England’s defense is back in the feel of things, turnovers-wise. Last week against the Jets, they finally forced a fumble, their first turnover in three straight weeks. Against the Rams, none other than Malcolm Butler picked off rookie Jared Goff in the first quarter, immediately putting the Patriots offense in decent field position, near the Rams’ 45. Newcomer Kyle Van Noy picked off Goff in the third quarter, as well. Van Noy isn’t Jamie Collins, but at this rate, he’ll certainly suffice.
Belichick and Matt Patricia gave Jeff Fisher’s offense fits in this game. This defensive gameplan left Goff and his receivers ultimately confused for the entire afternoon. New England’s pass coverage was spot on for almost the entire day. All three corners, Butler, Ryan and Rowe, did their jobs and then some. Rams receivers dropped a total of five passes on the day. The Patriots were definitely feeling themselves on Sunday.
At last, the Pats’ pass rush reappeared after going missing for a few weeks. I think the defense as a whole, players and coaches, are finally starting to realize that it’s more than okay to make tackles and record sacks, get after the passer and pressure the opposing offense. New England totaled four sacks on the rookie Goff, the first overall pick making only his third NFL start. Logan Ryan and Shea McClellin both recorded sacks, Ryan’s first sack since 2013 and McClellin’s first with the Patriots. Again, this was against the putrid LA Rams, but it’s a step in the right direction.
As of Week 13, the Patriots record stands at 10-2. This is the 14th straight season in which the Pats have reached the 10-win mark. Not too shabby. New England does face a tough schedule in the remaining four weeks of the regular season, though. They’re at home against the Ravens this Monday night, then at Denver, versus the Jets and at Miami. It’s pretty much a lock that New England goes 12-4 every year, right? We’ll see what happens here down the stretch. There’s a lot on the line and a lot to play for in the next month, and it’ll be fun to see how the team responds to that pressure.