Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Rams and offers some of his second-quarter observations:
1. DL Ron Brace can credit LB Jerod Mayo on his sack of QB Sam Bradford on the second play of the quarter. Mayo blitzed, splitting the left guard and center, forcing Bradford to step to his right. Brace had bull-rushed RG Adam Goldberg but Mayo’s pressure on Bradford gave Brace a better angle to complete the sack. On the next play, Mayo again blitzed up the middle and created pressure, forcing a dump-off pass to RB Kenneth Darby.
2. Complementing the Patriots’ return to a spread, passing-based offense in the game was an increased use of the draw play. Early in the quarter, the Patriots ran a draw to RB Kevin Faulk out of a shotgun formation, which was read by FS O.J. Atogwe for a short gain. It was the type of unproductive play seen last season, not the pounding running game seen in the first two preseason games. The drive ended in another three-and-out for the team.
3. Rams PR Danny Amendola’s 31-yard punt return early in the quarter could have easily been prevented. Both Patriots gunners – CB Devin McCourty and safety Sergio Brown – beat their defenders on the punt. McCourty forced Amendola to cut-back inside, but Brown had taken too deep a pursuit and found himself behind the play, when the tackle should have been his to make.
4. The Patriots run defense continued to look solid, getting support from the secondary on two plays in a row during the quarter. On the first, SS Patrick Chung read the run and stayed clear of blockers to make the tackle. On the second, OLB Tully Banta-Cain and CB Leigh Bodden forced Darby to run laterally, where FS Brandon Meriweather came down to make the stop.
5. Patriots LB Gary Guyton, seeing his first action of the preseason, saw time as an edge rusher on passing downs. The move is a double-edged sword for the team, as Guyton’s speed can be valuable in the pass rush, but also moves his speed out of the middle of the field, where it could be used in coverage on tight ends, which have been the offensive weapon of choice against the Patriots defense this preseason.
6. The 12-yard touchdown catch by Rams TE Michael Hoomanawanui came out of a Rams formation frequently employed in the game. They lined up three receivers in a “bunch” formation off the end of the line, forcing the Patriots secondary to read each route and react quickly. In this case, both Bodden and Chung went for an outside route by Amendola, letting Hoomanawanui find open space for the touchdown.