By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — To borrow a line from the late, great Dennis Green, the Rams are who we thought they were.
Which is to say … the Rams are not very good.
They came into Gillette Stadium on Sunday and managed to pick up just one first down in the entire first half, falling behind 17-0 at the break. By and large, they failed to compete with the Patriots, as the two teams looked largely to belong in different leagues.
This weekly feature is called “Four Ups, Four Downs,” but some weeks, it’s a challenge to limit the “Ups” to four, and it’s equally difficult to scrap together four “Downs.” This is one of those weeks.
As such, here’s what we’ve got from the Patriots’ 26-10 win at home over the lowly Rams.
The big-bodied running back ensured that this game began the way the Patriots wanted, as he was handed the ball on a fourth-and-1 play on the opening drive and ended up taking off for a 43-yard touchdown run. He made a smart cut behind the line and then toyed with safety Maurice Alexander up the right sideline en route to scoring his 13th touchdown of the season.
Blount finished the game with 88 yards on 18 carries, putting him back in the lead for most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this season. He’s also now just 43 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark on the year. He’s reached the 1,000-yard plateau just once in his seven NFL seasons, and that came back in his rookie season in 2007, when he rushed for 1,007 yards for the Bucs. His previous career high in touchdowns was seven, set in 2013.
In rather short order, the rookie receiver has become a go-to target for Tom Brady. The rookie out of Georgia was targeted 10 times by Tom Brady, and he hauled in eight receptions for 82 yards. Six of those eight receptions resulted in the pickup of a first down.
Mitchell has really come on strong over the past three weeks, beginning in San Francisco, and he’s done a lot to earn Brady’s trust. We’re seeing that more and more each week.
Julian Edelman led the way among receivers with eight receptions for 101 yards, but we know what Edelman can do. The fact that Mitchell was equally important bodes well for the young man.
With Rob Gronkowski gone for the season, the pressure to perform in the red zone is turned up a notch for the receivers. Chris Hogan made sure early on Sunday to announce that he’s up to the challenge.
Hogan ran a route to the front left pylon of the end zone on a snap from the 14-yard line. He waited for the precise right moment to spin and leap to catch the ball, and he managed to tap both feet before going out of bounds in the end zone for the Patriots’ second touchdown of the game.
Look, when you hold an NFL offense — even a very bad NFL offense — to just one first down for an entire half of a footbal game, that’s an impressive feat. So, given all the criticism the defense and Matt Patricia have been under this season, they did an absolutely outstanding job all around with this one.
The defense ended up recording four sacks, with one apiece for Chris Long, Shea McLellin, Logan Ryan and Rob Ninkovich. Malcolm Butler and Kyle Van Noy each recorded an interception, with Jabaal Sheard impacting the pass on the Van Noy pick.
McClellin led the team with seven tackles, and the Rams were held to just 162 total yards on the day. Sixty-six of those yards — or 41 percent — came on one deep pass to Kenny Britt in the final minutes of the ballgame.
Likewise, Gostkowski has been under added scrutiny this season, on account of an irregular number of missed field goals and PATs. But he was immensely important in this one, and he was perfect.
Gostkowski went 4-for-4 on field goals, booming them through the uprights from 28, 48, and 45 yards (twice), and he was also 2-for-2 on extra points.
By Brady’s standards, it was an unremarkable performance. But the quarterback earned his 201st career victory (regular season and playoffs combined), which is more than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL. You set a record like that, you land on the “Ups.”
The rookie out of Alabama was supposed to contribute as a punt and kick returner. But he’s struggled in that regard, and it continued Sunday when he muffed a punt from Johnny Hekker in the first quarter. Patrick Chung was in the right place to recover the loose ball, but Jones may have gotten to the point where Belichick can’t trust him to catch a punt in a big spot.
To be sure, few members on the Patriots had a performance that lands on this list. But injuries are no bueno, and Amendola left the game with an ankle injury after getting tackled on a punt return in the second half. He walked off under his own power, so it didn’t look incredibly serious. But with no Gronkowski, the need for every member of the receiving corps to remain healthy is even more important than usual.
The cornerback made a strong third-down tackle to force the Rams to settle for a field goal in the second half, but he shortly thereafter suffered a hamstring injury that caused him to lead the game. He didn’t return.
“Who is Ed Camp?” you may be saying. Well, he’s the head linesman on Jerome Boger’s officiating crew. He managed to miss a tremendously obvious facemask penalty being committed before halftime, and then he missed receiver Brian Quick getting both feet inbounds on a reception up the right sideline in the third quarter.