First impressions: Rams 36, Pats 35

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- First impressions from the Patriots’ 36-35 loss to the Rams in preseason action at Gillette Stadium:

Defensive concerns come to light. The Rams’ first- and second-unit offense carved up the Patriots’ top defense. While the Patriots might not have been scheming much, it was still a case in which they weren’t winning one-on-one battles consistently. Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford was the story of the night from a national perspective. The Patriots pressured him sparingly and Bradford starred with a strong performance.

Brandon Meriweather, Ron Brace & Terrence Wheatley shaken up. Three Patriots players were knocked out of the game and did not return -- safety Brandon Meriweather (leg), defensive lineman Ron Brace (lower leg/ankle) and cornerback Terrence Wheatley (lower leg/ankle). From an NFL perspective, the right knee injury to Rams receiver Donnie Avery was the most significant development, as he was carted off the field.

No sign of Laurence Maroney. For the second straight game, fifth-year running back Laurence Maroney did not play. Veteran Sammy Morris got the majority of the work, with Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis also seeing time.

Impressive performance from Rob Gronkowski. The rookie tight end, the first of the team’s three second-round draft choices, was the individual star of the night for the Patriots. His 14-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the second quarter, on which he dragged Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis for 5 yards into the end zone, was a terrific individual effort.

No overlooking Tom Brady’s night. The Patriots seemed to come into this game looking to work on the passing game, and quarterback Tom Brady looked comfortable, with the highlight his 65-yard long-bomb touchdown pass to Randy Moss. He was 18-of-22 for 273 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Time-of-possession stat telling. The Rams held a 43:46 to 16:14 time of possession edge on the Patriots.

Inside linebacker rotation comes into focus. The Patriots started with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes at inside linebacker, with Gary Guyton rotating in. It wasn’t until the 7:38 mark that Tyrone McKenzie -- the 2009 third-round pick who appears to be on the roster bubble -- entered the game.

Sergio Brown a sleeper to monitor. Rookie free agent Sergio Brown (Notre Dame) showed up on three special teams units and also played on defense in the second half. When it comes to bubble players, Brown looks like someone who could be making a charge for a roster spot.