New England's head coach was a special kind of angry over the Patriots' performance against a team that had the worst record in the NFL last season. And, preseason or not, Belichick had no problems expressing his disdain.
"We didn’t do well on anything," said Belichick, who was very succinct with each of his responses at the postgame press conference. "We didn’t have a good night."
Outside of a few offensive drives midway through the game, the Patriots played pretty lousy across the board, looking nothing like the team that started the preseason with a pair of impressive victories against the Saints and Falcons.
"I felt the week went pretty good," defensive lineman Gerard Warren said of this week's string of practices. "Just didn’t show up [Thursday], and it was evident on the field."
The Rams had the ball for 84 offensive plays and 43:46, leaving just 38 plays and 16:14 of possession for the Pats. St. Louis was also 11-of-17 on third down, while the Patriots were just 2-of-7.
New England's first-team offense, which was so efficient through two games, was helpless in its first four possessions against the Rams, tallying just 26 yards and one first down in 13 plays. And the Rams jumped out to a 17-7 lead after the Patriots opened the game with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Brandon Tate. So, yeah, it could have been even worse.
"It gets pretty old pretty quick when you keep going to the bench after three or four plays," said quarterback Tom Brady, who completed 18-of-22 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. "We just had to get a bit of a rhythm out there."
Then came the killer. Belichick trotted out his first-stringers at the outset of the second half, while the Rams sat their first-team offense and their few key players on defense. Yet, the Rams' backups — led by the likes of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, running back Chris Ogbonnaya and wide receiver Brandon Gibson, none of whom are anything close to household names — executed a 15-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that ate up the first 9:19 of the third quarter.
There were missed tackles, drive-prolonging penalties and mistakes across the board, as if Lewis were the 1999 version of Kurt Warner and the Patriots' defense was the, well, present-day Rams.
"In a game of no defense, we played less," Belichick said.
All in all, there were some positive performances from Brady and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler. But that wasn’t really enough to satisfy Belichick or many else in the somber postgame locker room.
"When you can't make a first down in the first half, it's hard to find a lot of bright spots on offense," Belichick said.
Patriots safety James Sanders said "it's going to be rough" Friday when the team watches film, but that’s just the first step in the healing process from a game that didn’t have a whole lot of highlights.
Brady was proud of the way they bounced back, but the Patriots have to also figure out how they dug themselves into such a crater in the first place, especially after they created all that momentum during the last two weeks.
At the end of the day, it's the preseason, and the flat performance could turn into a building block for the more important games that are quickly creeping up on this team. While the Patriots understand they've got bigger things to handle down the road, they didn’t sound like a group that would devalue a performance that didn’t reach their expectations.
"We didn’t do a good job. I think that’s pretty obvious," Belichick said. "We've just got to get back to the drawing board and just to a better job in every area. That’s really about it."
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