The Patriots looked woefully bad against the Rams in their third preseason game, which is considered the most important due to the starters playing into the second half. The first team defense looked especially woeful, giving up 20 points to a rookie quarterback on a 1-15 team. Sam Bradford looked like a veteran QB, completing 15/21 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns. That, however, is not the most depressing news if you’re a Pats fan. In their opening drive after halftime, the Rams BACK-UP offense went down the field and scored a touchdown on the Pats FIRST defense. They were aided by an illegal contact penalty on CB Darius Butler on third down, giving the Rams a whole new set of downs. The Pats’ offense was also stifled most of the first half, scoring only 7 points. They were also 0/4 on 3rd down conversions in the first half. The first offense came out in the second half and put up another 14 points, which sounds great, but it was against the Rams’ back-ups. The Patriots went on to lose the game 34-33.
Outside of Vince Wilfork, who consistently took on double-teams, the defensive line was underwhelming, especially Mike Wright. I’m not convinced that Wright, who is a good pass rusher, is best suited playing all three downs, especially against the run. He just seems to get moved off the ball each time. My dislike of CB Jonathon Wilhite was justified once again as he consistently gets beaten and/or misses a tackle. The check-down passes underneath were once again a problem for the Patriot LBs (and that CB I do not wish to speak of anymore). On the bright side, Ron Brace was competitive once again, contributing 7 tackles and a sack.
Keeping with the positives, rookie TE Rob Gronkowski is simply a beast. On the Patriots’ first offensive touchdown, Gronkowski dragged and pulled LB James Laurinaitis (who was grabbing onto Gronk’s foot) to the end zone for the score. He caught another pass, using his 6’6″ frame, from back-up QB Brian Hoyer for a score. Gronk finished the night catching 3 passes for 66 yards and 2 touchdowns. Brandon Tate was another nice surprise, returning the opening kick-off 97 yards for a score. He also caught 2 passes for 17 yards.
All-in-all it was not a great night for the Patriots, despite the final score. This game cannot inspire any confidence if you’re a Pats fan. If this was the first, even second preseason game, it would be concerning but not overly alarming. For the third preseason game, this performance, particularly by the defense, is downright scary. I’ll have more in-depth analysis when I re-visit my “5 to Watch” Friday.