BOSTON (CBS) – Well, that sure looked easy, didn’t it?
Tom Brady took his traveling offense to England and put together the football near-equivalent of a perfect game. After the defense allowed an 80-yard touchdown drive on the Rams’ first possession of the game, Brady spent the first quarter going 8-for-8 for 119 yards and a touchdown. He’d go on to throw three more touchdowns, spreading the ball out to seven different receivers and leading the Patriots to their largest victory since their 45-3 blowout win over the Jets in early December of 2010.
The Patriots now own the NFL record with 17 consecutive games of 350 or more yards and they’re on pace to gain more yards than they did in 2007. Their first eight drives ended like this:
It was made possible for a number of reasons, one of which being offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels resisting the urge to run the little gadget trick plays he’s used in the past. Perhaps scoring 45 points against a team that allowed an average of 20.1 points per game heading into Sunday will be enough to convince him to keep those in his back pocket from here on out.
Now, let’s get into all the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Rams in London.
–I’m not used to seeing two national anthems before a game with one of them not being the Canadian national anthem, which is the best song ever made. No offense, England, but that was kind of a letdown.
–Cortland Finnegan has a reputation of being a guy who “gets under opponents’ skin.” People say this about him as if it’s a good quality. Jamming your hand into a receiver’s throat and essentially choking him to the ground when he tries to block you when you’re losing 35-7 isn’t the move of someone trying to gain a mental advantage over his opponent. It’s the move of a complete chump.
–Do companies still make trading cards? If so, Tavon Wilson’s is going to look like this:
–That was the downside of Wilson’s first quarter. The upside was that he was laying some serious hits on running backs on the Rams’ second drive. That’s a pretty good way to channel your frustration. He also made his team-leading third interception and made the smart move of going down rather than chasing the temptation of scoring a touchdown.
–Rob Gronkowski’s trading card should show him dragging at least two bodies on his back. It won’t be difficult to find a photo of it.
–The least-coveted position in sports is known as the turk, who is the low-level member of the organization who essentially has to inform people that they’re getting cut from the team. The second-least-coveted position in sports is the guy who has to go up to Tom Brady before a game and say, “Tom, Logan Mankins won’t be playing today.”
–But yet again, you didn’t even notice Mankins wasn’t in there as the Patriots manhandled the Rams for the entire game. Perhaps Donald Thomas just hates the preseason, or loves being talked about on the radio in August, because he looks pretty good in there.
–Walt Coleman went to England and saw people driving on the left side of the road, so he went out and announced penalties to the wrong side of the field.
–I always love watching defensive backs run away from 6-foot-8, 320-pound Nate Solder when he’s running at full speed as the lead blocker. They look like the kid who runs the other way in an Oklahoma drill at tryouts for freshman football and never put on a helmet ever again. On Sunday, it was Janoris Jenkins who opted to live to see another day rather than try to face Solder head-on.
–Dear St. Louis Rams,
No. 87 in white is Rob Gronkowski. He is very big, very fast and very strong. He’s hard to cover, but you should at least try it a little bit. I’m just trying to help. As these next two screen shots will show you, you need it.
–Gronkowski had a typically Gronkowski day, with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, but his best catch of the day was that ridiculously athletic play inside the 5-yard line get the Patriots to the goal line before Stevan Ridley’s touchdown. People who are the size of Gronkowski aren’t supposed to be able to do that. Most guys his height are lucky if they can tie their own shoes.
–Gronkowski saying his pre-spike touchdown dance he was paying homage to “the little Nutcracker dude that’s guarding the house” is the most Gronkowski thing ever.
–Gronkowski’s touchdown dances are rightfully getting a ton of attention, but the unfortunate side effect of that is that Chandler Jones’ sack dance isn’t getting its proper due. So, without any further ado …
–There were 84,004 people inside Wembley Stadium for this game. I wonder how many of them knew what was going on most of the time. At least Sam Bradford gave them something they’re used to seeing: a guy go down to the turf and appear to be deceased, only to jog back onto the field a couple of minutes later.
(The difference is that a 270-pound man fell on Bradford’s shoulder prior to the incident, as opposed to the usual slight grazing which causes the same scene in soccer, but it was close enough.)
–There are many impressive acts that take place on a football field any given day, but when Vince Wilfork (all 350 or so pounds of him) stays with a 195-pound running back on a swing route then chases him down and makes an open field tackle for a loss of three yards, words just can’t do it justice. I hope the Brits noticed that even our fat guys are incredibly athletic.
–This is what Tom Brady was looking at when he decided to throw a pass to Gronkowski:
He saw his tight end sandwiched by two defenders in the middle of the end zone, and just threw an absolute bullet to a spot, knowing Gronkowski would be able to create space and make the catch. That’s quite a luxury for a quarterback to have.
–Dear St. Louis Rams,
I forgot this in my earlier letter to you, but No. 84 in white is Deion Branch. He used to be awesome, but he’s not nearly as great as he used to be. You can probably just cover him without cheating. Committing two pass interference penalties against Branch, both on third down, is a bad strategy if you’re interested in staying competitive in your football games. You could have saved yourself seven Patriots points if you had just known this before the game.
–It was nice of Wembley Stadium to play “Machinehead” by Bush to make the Patriots feel at home, and it was nice for them to let Mr. Jovi sit next to Robert Kraft, but it was even nicer for them to have all the midfield red seats empty after halftime, just like at Gillette Stadium.
–Just a reminder: Aaron Hernandez and Logan Mankins did not play in this game in which the Patriots scored 45 points and gained 473 yards.
–I’m glad in the third quarter, we got to show England what the NFL really offers: Long delays where the referee and officials discuss calls with each other and then with the head coaches and nothing else happens for five minutes at a time. It’s only a matter of time before the NFL truly takes a hold in the UK after they’ve witnessed that kind of excitement.
Seriously though, the Rams punted to the Patriots early in the third, and Julian Edelman returned it to the New England 24-yard line with 10:09 on the clock. It took a full three minutes and ten seconds for the officials to sort out their penalties for a rekick, after which Edelman was tackled at the 34. If you make 80,000 people wait three minutes for something, a punt with no return is not a suitable reward.
–I don’t know how this happened, but pretty much every single feeling I have toward sports is the same as that of a 75-year-old old-school fan. So you can imagine my delight to see NFL players actually get dirty and get grass stains on their jerseys. That Sunday’s game was one of just four on real grass this season is a true shame. Thankfully it rained so they really got the most out of it.
–If ever you need to teach a young running back how to be the nail instead of the hammer, show them video of Stevan Ridley absolutely destroying Craig Dahl early in the third quarter.
Ridley, by the way, is a whole lot better than just “good for a Patriots running back.” He’s good for any running back. After Sunday’s 127-yard showing, he ranks fourth in the entire NFL in rushing yards. Among rushers with at least 100 attempts, he ranks fifth with 4.8 yards per attempt, behind Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Ray Rice. That’s not bad company.
–Chandler Jones managed to take down a scrambling Sam Bradford simply by touching the quarterback’s leg. Bradford looked like he stepped on a landmine. I think Jones lifts weights.
–I did find it interesting that the big story last week was that the Rams traveled to London on Monday and spent the week practicing there, while the Patriots waited for the Thursday red eye and didn’t even sniff a practice field in England before the game. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Rams went through such pains to fly early to London if they weren’t even going to bother showing up to the game.
Screen shots courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind.