These Patriots are not an easy bunch to figure out. One week they’ll try to ram the ball down an opponent’s throat with the run, the next they’ll spread it out and attack through the air, and they’ll follow that with an ultra hurry-up approach to rattle a defense and open up holes. What’ll it be this Sunday against the Rams? Our three Patriots reporters try to get into the mind of Bill Belichick and guess the game plan for Sunday.
Share your thoughts on how the Pats should attack the Rams in the comments section.
Mike Reiss: Good time to get creative with pressure packages
This could be the week the blitz returns more prominently to the Patriots’ defensive plan.
With some confidence gained that Devin McCourty has settled things down on the back end with his move to safety -- helping to limit some big plays -- one could envision a scenario in which the Patriots roll the dice a few more times than the norm and bring some heat on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams' offensive line is not a top unit, so a blitz-laden plan, or at least a third-down wrinkle such as an “amoeba” type approach with players standing up at the line to make it hard to identify who is rushing and who isn’t -- would be creative and potentially effective.
Offensively, it starts with being able to handle the Rams’ front four. Tight end and running back chips on end Chris Long would be a nice inclusion into the plan, helping to slow down his high motor.
Then it comes down to matchups and how the Rams counter tight end Rob Gronkowski. If the Rams move cornerback Cortland Finnegan into the slot against Wes Welker, that could lead Tom Brady to look elsewhere more often than the norm, and someone like Gronkowski could benefit with a big day. One thing on Finnegan -- he has a way of testing an opponent’s patience because he’s so feisty, so keeping cool has to be part of the plan.
Meanwhile, this looks like a Stevan Ridley type of running game. Get him going early with play-calls that use the Rams’ aggressiveness against them.
Mike Rodak: Pats will re-establish offensive dominance
The Patriots have arrived in London, Halloween is right around the corner, and the bye week looms. It's about time that the NFL's top offense begins looking like it on a more consistent basis.
This is less about the Rams defense, which has some talented players but is middle of the pack. This is about being dominant and fulfilling the potential of the offense, even though it will be without Aaron Hernandez.
The game plan, then, is to not hold anything back. Let the play-calling be creative. Make use of the no-huddle. Take some shots. It's a neutral site. The last time the Patriots were there, they scored 35 points. With the weapons on offense, there's no reason that can't happen again.
With a bye week and then two home games against relatively weaker opponents (the Bills and the Colts), this game is crucial for the Patriots to begin to established more rhythm in their passing offense.
Field Yates: Patriots will emphasize ground attack
The Rams do a lot well defensively, but two noteworthy areas of strength are their pass rush and cornerback play. That doesn't preclude the Patriots from attacking St. Louis through the air this Sunday, but it’s a suggestion that the team might be able to run the football effectively, something they’ve done less of in the past two weeks.
Even though it seems likely that Brandon Bolden could sit again this week, look for the Patriots to stick with a heavy load on the ground, riding the trio of Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen. Vereen saw additional work last week, and could further integrate himself as a factor in this offense.
It appears that the Rams are at their best when defensive ends Long and Robert Quinn are able to turn the corner as pass rushers. If the Patriots can establish the run early and neutralize the rush -- much like they did versus Buffalo earlier this season -- they should set themselves up to have a successful outing.