NFL International Series: Game six: New England Patriots @ St Louis Rams
Well that certainly didn’t disappoint, and not just because the Patriots overcame the Rams 45-7 on a wild and typically wet English Sunday night at Wembley.
84,004 people attended the game, with barely an empty seat in the house. Some fans left early, but that was as much to do with their exit strategy as it was due to the ‘blow-out’ of the Rams by the Patriots.
Wandering into the bustling tailgate party prior to the game there was a real sense of occasion for the fans; there was plenty to see and do, although the lengthy queues were a bit too much even for an Englishman like myself.
The NFL store need to sort out the quantity of items stocked. I queued for forty minutes at the NFL store in the tailgate area, only to be told on arriving at the counter that none of the items I wanted were in stock.
The merchandise counter in Club Wembley was much the same story, although I persuaded them to sell me the last Brady jersey from the hanging display so I ended up satisfied.
The game started at a blistering pace from the Rams perspective. They were 7-0 up within the first three minutes. Steady play moved them down-field until Sam Bradford rolled out of the pocket and launched a fifty yarder that Chris Givens the rookie out of Wake Forest collected, after blasting past Patriots Safety Tavon Wilson. The two cornerbacks, rookie Alfonzo Dennard and Devin McCourty were unable to stop Givens’ momentum into the end-zone.
The crowd were vocal throughout and despite a feeling among some fans the other side of the pond, knew when to cheer and when to boo. There was a fairly even split between Patriots fans and fans who, were less fans of the Rams and more ‘anti-Patriot’ fans.
Ex Rams receiver Brandon Lloyd hit back right away for the Patriots as Tom Brady led the ‘away’ team on a march into the red zone. Brady’s 19 yard pass found Lloyd wide open and after Gostkowski’s point-after kick it was 7-7.
St Louis went three-and-out after Bradford was called for intentional grounding, giving the ball back to New England on their own 18 yard line.
Into the second quarter the Patriots were on second down and goal, Shane Vereen ran it in from one yard out to make it 14-7 to the Patriots.
The Rams again were made to punt, the Patriots pass rush caused them problems but they were killing themselves with penalties and the quarterback’s inability to make completions.
The next Pats drive saw Rob Gronkowski gain over fifty yards from three receptions, the last of which was a lunge to his left which saw him bring in his first touchdown of the night. Gronk then celebrated the touchdown with a march in honour of the changing of the guard.
Sam Bradford was clearly missing the injured Danny Amendola, and the Rams’ last drive of the half ended with a fifty four yard field goal attempt by Greg Zuerluin. Zuerluin had the ball poorly snapped to him, he was then promptly downed, with the Patriots getting the ball back on their own forty-four yard line.
The Rams running game was faring marginally better than the passing game. Though Steven Jackson wasn’t gaining much in the way of yardage, rookies Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson showed there could be life after Jackson, who could be leaving in the summer, if the speculation is true.
There was just 01:50 left on the clock in the first half when Brady got the Pats moving again. Bradley Fletcher, the Rams cornerback was flagged for his second pass interference on third down, when New England looked likely to be kept to field goal range.
Fletcher briefly redeemed himself by blocking a touchdown to Lloyd, before a short gain from Welker and a QB sneak by Brady kept the Patriot offensive-machine churning forward with another first down.
Lloyd then missed a high ball in the end zone after a fake spike by Brady, before Trumaine Johnson, one of the Rams rookie cornerbacks, tipped a pass meant for Gronkowski to stop the big number eighty seven getting his second touchdown of the day. With seventeen seconds to go in the half, Fletcher was again called for pass interference on third down, this time on Deion Branch.
Stevan Ridley made no mistake running it in from one yard out, to make it 28-7 at half time.
The Patriots started the second half in the same manner as the Rams had started the first. Stevan Ridley ran for 30 yards in the first drive after a superb block by Daniel Fells to open up the gap for him.
Brady ended the six-play drive by finding Lloyd in the end-zone. Lloyd was just too slippery for Janoris Jenkins to handle, catching the ball down low for his second touch down.
The Rams once again were forced to punt and the Patriots managed to get in field goal range, with Gostkowski scoring.
The third quarter ended with Bradford yet again being sacked.
The Patriots took over with the ball on their own 45 yard line and Brady again drove the offence down field with Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker making some key short-yardage receptions.
Gronkowski caught his second touchdown to make it 45-7 and the contest was all but over.
The final quarter saw both teams give some play in ‘garbage time’ to their back up QBs, though in the Patriots case Ryan Mallett coming in was purely insurance against injury to Brady.
There was still time for Bradford to throw an interception though, he was picked off by Alfonzo Dennard with just over eight minutes left.
Kellen Clemmens, the Rams seventh year QB, showed some good and bad things, he threw for 39 yards to rookie wide receiver Brian Quick then threw a pick to Tavon Wilson, who returned it 30 yards. Game over.