The 1972 Miami Dolphins popped champagne this past Sunday when the NFL’s lone undefeated team remaining, the Los Angeles Rams, fell in a shootout to the New Orleans Saints 45-35 for their first loss of the season.
The biggest concern in the loss was the defense giving up 45 points and 487 yards of total offense to the Saints, a team they could very well meet again in the post season.
However, despite the big numbers the Rams gave up, NFL on CBS analyst James Lofton isn’t ready to sound the alarm. We spoke with Lofton about the Rams and a pair of AFC contenders meeting on the field this Sunday when the Patriots battle the Titans.
CBS Local Sports: The Rams suffered their first loss of the season against New Orleans, giving up 45 points. How concerned are you about their defense and do you think it will hold them back from a Super Bowl run come playoff time?
James Lofton: I kind of associate the Rams with the Golden State Warriors. When we watch the Warriors play, every once in awhile, they will get outscored or not make their threes.
With the Rams, they still scored 35 points against the Saints. So, the other team hit 25 threes and they only hit 19 threes as it were. For the Rams and a lot of teams that score well in the National Football League, it is getting more like a basketball game. If you can get a stop at the end of the first half or in the fourth quarter, you have a chance to win the game.
Most teams are going to be able to score 24-30 points per game. The era of having the Steel Curtain, or ’85 Bears, or even the “Legion of Boom,” has dwindled away. Yeah, you need a couple of play makers on defense but I don’t think defense is going to stop anybody from going to the Super Bowl. If you don’t score your maximum, that’s when you’re going to get stopped. There be a lot of high-scoring games down the stretch in the NFC and AFC.
CBS Local Sports: Speaking of high-scoring offenses, the Patriots got explosive games out of Cordarrelle Patterson and Josh Gordon against the Packers en route to 31 points on Sunday night. Do you think we’re beginning to see the emergence of some new weapons for Brady? Or was that a one game plan by Belichick to get by the Packers?
James Lofton: Josh Gordon is. I go back to a play he didn’t make against the Packers. The Patriots were inside the 10 yard line on fourth down and Tom Brady threw the ball to him on a stop fade in the end zone. Gordon slipped. They zoomed in on Brady and he laughed about it and shook his head. But at that moment, Josh Gordon was the go-to guy. That speaks volumes about how the coaching staff feels about him and how Tom Brady feels about him.
Let’s not forget, there was no Rob Gronkowski or Sony Michel in that game. This is a team that just figures out a way to say, ‘Okay, what are the three or four things this player does well? Let’s do those things.’ Cordarrelle Patterson is such a strong physical runner that they took advantage of that.
Offensive coordinators can have great plays, but you always hear people say, ‘Think players not plays.’
One more thing, remember Week 2 when the Patriots played the Lions and Matt Patricia? I don’t know if everybody in the building in New England is always aware when they’re playing a Bill Belichick disciple, but I wonder if it gets into the back of their heads. I’m interested to see if that will be the case with the Titans and Mike Vrabel. That’s an interesting X-factor to this game.
CBS Local Sports: Like the Patriots, the Titans got their offense rolling on Monday, what did you see from their game against the Cowboys that made them so effective?
James Lofton: Marcus Mariota is a skilled player and he had a really good game passing. They were able to find a player in the Cowboys secondary and complete some passes in his direction, much like a Patriots team would do.
You’re not looking to throw the ball against the All-Pro cornerback or safety. Those are basically no-throw areas, especially with a young quarterback. Finding that matchup you like, and Marcus Mariota making some plays with his legs combine to make for good game planning, which is what made them effective against the Cowboys.