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 first-quarter observations:
1. KR Brandon Tate’s 97-yard kickoff return to begin the game was as much a product of bad pursuit by the Rams’ coverage unit as it was blocking by the Patriots. Tate benefitted from a solid block by TE Alge Crumpler, but otherwise the Rams only had one player in coverage from the far hash marks to the near numbers. Tate saw this large hole and went for it, putting a move on CB Jerome Murphy before beating K Josh Brown around the corner.
2. The Rams’ 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to begin the game was preventable. The Patriots’ run defense was solid the entire drive, especially along the defensive line. The killer play was a 32-yard catch by WR Donnie Avery, who faked a hitch pattern before fading deep. Patriots CB Devin McCourty fell for the fake and was out of position for the pass.
3. In a change from previous weeks, the Patriots went for a pass-first, spread attack. Their first drive lasted only three plays, with WR Randy Moss running a yard shallow of the first down markers on third down. It was a rookie mistake for a seasoned NFL veteran.
4. The Patriots’ run defense continued to look solid on the Rams’ second drive, with CB Darius Butler shedding Avery on one play to make the stop on the outside. However, CB Jonathan Wilhite slipped in coverage of WR Danny Amendola on the next play, giving the Rams a first down. On the play after that, the Rams lined up three receivers to the left, but the Patriots did not compensate in their coverage, leaving TE Michael Hoomanawanui open for a 13-yard gain.
5. Rams DT Gary Gibson was disruptive in the running game on both Patriots possessions of the quarter. He beat center Dan Koppen to make a stop of RB Sammy Morris on one play, while also beating LT Matt Light on another play to chase down RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
6. On a third-and-2 situation, LE Chris Long beat RT Sebastian Vollmer inside with a quick push, but fell to the ground as he tried to get to QB Tom Brady. Normally unfazed by pressure, Brady took notice to Long crawling towards his left leg in a similar fashion to the play where Brady was injured two seasons ago. Brady jumped up to avoid Long, but was quickly taken down by DT Fred Robbins, who had turned RG Stephen Neal wide.
7. The Rams closed out the quarter with a pair of first-down catches from Avery and Hoomanawanui. Both catches highlighted the weak points in the Patriots’ zone defense, which was without CB Leigh Bodden and safety Brandon Meriweather for the drive.