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 fourth-quarter observations:
1. Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich played in a key role in the fourth quarter interception by safety Brandon McGowan. On the play, a third-and-8, Ninkovich was lined up as a standing outside rusher in the Patriots’ nickel package. Rams TE Fendi Onobun was lined up in the backfield and attempted to pick-up the pass rush. Ninkovich was able to throw Onobun aside with one move, hitting QB Thaddeus Lewis on his throw.
2. Shaky in his first two preseason appearances, 2009 fourth-round pick Rich Ohrnberger saw his first action of the game with the second-team offensive line during the abbreviated possession following McGowan’s interception. Lining up at left guard, Ohrnberger found himself on the ground in the backfield on the first play, beaten by DT Clifton Ryan.
3. LB Brandon Spikes continues to be a disruptive force in the backfield. Lining up at his normal 3-4 inside linebacker spot on a third-and-8 play in the fourth quarter, Spikes came in on a delayed blitz after a play action. He beat RB Keith Toston, who was in pass protection, and clotheslined Lewis as he threw. The pass ended up going vertical and was caught by Toston for a short gain, but Spikes’ presence on the play was still felt.
4. Another key drive-extending play for the Rams came on a fourth-and-2 late in the fourth quarter. On the play, the Rams lined up with three players on the right side of the formation, against four Patriots defenders. LB Tyrone McKenzie shadowed the running back coming out of the backfield, while CB Jonathan Wilhite covered a crossing pattern by WR Jordan Kent. That presumably left both OLB Marques Murrell and safety Sergio Brown on the tight end, Onobun, who ran a short route in the flat. However, Murrell released Fendi Onobun outside and made a late attempt to rush the passer, while Brown bit on Kent’s crossing pattern. That left Onobun wide open to make the catch, and left the safety, Brown, out of position as the last line of defense. Onobun gained 33 yards and set up a touchdown run.
5. Ohrnberger’s struggles continued into the final Patriots drive of the game. On a third-and-5 play, the Rams stunted RE Eugene Sims behind the defensive tackle, meaning Ohrnberger was responsible for picking Sims up. Ohrnberger found himself out of position, and pushed Sims towards the direction of QB Brian Hoyer, forcing a throw-away and a Patriots punt. Yet the play was nullified and the drive extended on a Rams penalty.
6. The offensive line’s struggles continued on the next play, a power run to the right by RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. There were two solid blocks at the point of attack by RT Quinn Ojinnaka and TE Carson Butler. However, the play fell apart on the backside, with center Ted Larsen not catching up to LB Josh Hull in the second level, and RG Ryan Wendell being beaten outside by DT Jermelle Cudjo.
7. Undrafted rookie NT Kyle Love had a solid quarter of action. He held his own at a difficult position to learn in nose tackle, and displayed a strong motor in the pass rush.