Rams-Pats: View from the dark side

Michael Hoomanawanui splits three Patriots defenders for a touchdown.

While all of us are basking in our brand new professional football team, you have to wonder — what do the mighty Patriots think about being so thoroughly upstaged by the upstart Rams? Not that the game counted, of course, but Belichick had the riding crop out and was pushing his starters most of the night to show him something. This was going to be a ‘teaching moment’ for the Pats, with the Rams playing the unlikely role of the schoolyard bullies.

I asked one of the new members of Pro Football Focus‘ growing legion of writers, die-hard Patriots fan Akshay Adnan (@PFF_Akshay), for his take on what he saw from the Rams’ opponents. Here’s how he responded:

Quick thoughts: We know the Pats pass rush is lacking, but the secondary had more missteps than usual. 3rd down D was also fairly shaky, and the Pats were playing in a fairly vanilla zone for many pass plays… looked better when in man. That said, Bradford looked really good. Suspect a big key for him will be play action ability because of SJax threat.

But back to Pats D, I completely expect ups and downs. Mayo also isn’t looking like his 2008 self. If our secondary plays to their potential they’ll actually be our best defensive unit…playmakers, athletic, but still young. Also some goofy penalties, which I think was mostly just mental lapses, and I’m sure Coach Belichick laid into them pretty good.

Playing a soft zone in the redzone made the D look especially bad (ie Hoomanawanui TD where he sat between 3 zone defenders). Time of possession also factored in, I’m sure some players were tired since Pats O was getting off the field so quickly for one reason or another.

All in all, I’d say the defensive gameplan was fairly conservative. A lot of shorter routes were basically handed to Rams WRs. One area of concern was that some of the blitzes weren’t up to par. Since our OLBs are weak, means Pats HAVE to have good blitzing.

This analysis jibes with Belichick’s own post-game thoughts:

“(I’m) disappointed in the whole game,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday, “regardless of how the last kick turned out.” His defense couldn’t get off the field quickly, and his offense couldn’t stay on it when it eventually had the ball.

The Rams had more than twice as many plays, 84-38, and held the ball for 43 minutes, 46 minutes. The Patriots’ offense had it for just 16:14, barely more than one quarter. It was a preseason game, but Belichick knows it could be an indication of how the defense will play during the regular season.

“I think that the way your team develops its fundamentals and its foundation in the early part of training camp and the preseason definitely is important in the big picture,” the coach said. “If it wasn’t, then we wouldn’t do it. But, that being said, there’s certainly a lot of unknowns going into the season.”

— NFL.com: “Belichick disappointed in ‘everything’

Meanwhile, the Rams are gaining nothing but confidence from Thursday night’s game.

Like the offense, the defense is stocked with plenty of young players still finding their way in the league but one only need to look at a youngster such as cornerback Bradley Fletcher going toe to toe with Randy Moss to see that the confidence is growing every day.

“It’s all about attitude,” Fletcher said. “You’ve got to come to work with the right attitude that you are going to get better today than you were yesterday and you’ve got to come out with the attitude that you are going to win whenever you take the field. I think that everyone has done a great job buying into that and feels like we can play with anybody in the NFL.”

— StLouisRams.com: “Rams gain much from win