Sarcasm aside, Bill Belichick isn’t going to be very happy with this performance. The offense was stagnant for its first four drives, and the defense couldn’t get a stop for much of the night. Then, New England’s second unit couldn’t hold onto an eight-point lead in the last five minutes.
And then there was Laurence Maroney, who didn’t get in the game at all. P,enty to discuss, so keep it with NESN.com for complete coverage.
Fourth quarter, 4:33, Patriots 35-33: Running back Keith Tostan buttered up and slipped through the line to score a two-yard touchdown, but the Rams’ two-point try failed.
Fourth quarter, 6:15, Patriots 35-27: Cornerback Terrence Wheatley is the latest Patriot to head to the locker room for an injury evaluation.
Fourth quarter, 9:40, Patriots 35-27: Ron Brace was getting his ankle checked out earlier, and it looks like he might have disappeared to the locker room, too. Brace was having a decent night.
Fourth quarter, 11:14, Patriots 35-27: Brian Hoyer delivered a tight five-yard pass to Sam Aiken’s chest for a touchdown. Nice throw, tough catch and a good job by Hoyer to come off the sideline and deliver a quick score on a golden opportunity.
Fourth quarter, 12:30, Patriots 28-27: Brandon McGowan intercepted Thaddeus Lewis’ pass and knew what to do with it, returning it to the Rams’ 10-yard line and setting up Brian Hoyer, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and New England’s offense for an easy scoring opportunity.
Fourth quarter, 13:59, Patriots 28-27: Rob Gronkowski strikes again. The giant tight end made a double move and slanted inward toward the end zone through three defenders, and Tom Brady threw it where only a 6-foot-6 human being could catch it. Gronkowski made a leaping grab to put the Patriots on top, and I’d venture to guess that’s the end of the night for the first-team offense.
End of third quarter, Rams 27-21: Tom Brady and the Patriots are driving, and they’ve got a third-and-5 on the St. Louis 37-yard line coming up. It’s hard to really say the Rams have a first- or second-team defense, but at the very least, their two best defensive players — linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Chris Long — have been out of the game.
Third quarter, 1:44, Rams 27-21: Tom Brady and the first-team offense are back on the field for a drive that is starting at the New England 2-yard line. Meanwhile, Brandon Meriweather was having his knee looked at on the sideline, and I think he’s departed for the locker room. It didn’t appear to look like anything too severe.
Third quarter, 4:15, Rams 27-21: Not a great way to come out of the game. That long touchdown drive proved to be the end of the night for New England’s first-team defense.The second unit is out there now.
Third quarter, 5:01, Rams 27-21: That was easy. Tom Brady went up top and hit Randy Moss for a 65-yard touchdown pass to quickly answer St. Louis’ long drive with a two-play possession that spanned 72 yards. Moss ran right through the middle of St. Louis’ secondary, and Brady’s throw was a thing of beauty that dropped into Moss’ hands.
Third quarter, 5:41, Rams 27-14: The Patriots can only hope this was the low point of their season. St. Louis’ second-team offense — led by the likes of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, running back Chris Ogbonnaya and wide receiver Brandon Gibson — dismantled New England’s first-team defense on a 15-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that spanned 9:19.
It was a series of missed opportunities, and cornerback Darius Butler had the worst of it. He was flagged for illegal contact on a a failed third down, and the Rams were able to extend their possession. Later, Butler flailed on a one-on-one tackle attempt that led to Gibson’s 20-yard touchdown. Ugly.
Third quarter, 14:55, Rams 20-14: Mardy Gilyard returned the second-half kickoff to the St. Louis 24-yard line, and the Rams are in business. Thaddeus Lewis has replaced Sam Bradford at quarterback, and the rookie can hold his head high after completing 15-of-22 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
End of first half, Rams 20-14: That was an ugly first half for the Patriots, who were completely out of rhythm on offense and susceptible to too many mistakes on defense.
The Rams will get the second-half kickoff, and there’s a good chance the Patriots’ starters will remain in the game for a few more series. They simply haven’t played well enough in the opening 30 minutes to deserve a break.
Second quarter, 0:01, Rams 20-14: Josh Brown kicked a 45-yard field goal to cap off a functional two-minute drill from Sam Bradford and the Rams, who took advantage of a roughing-the-passer penalty to move down the field. Also credit Bradford for his quick decisions and playmaking ability to prolong the drive.
Second quarter, 1:32, Rams 17-14: Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery suffered a right knee injury while diving for a pass along the right sideline. Avery is getting put on a cart. It didn’t really look all that bad, but Avery’s reaction wasn’t good. This is going to keep him out for some time.
Second quarter, 1:35, Rams 17-14: Rob Gronkowski is something of a cyborg. The gigantic rookie tight end shook free from Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis — who is a heck of a player in his own right — and dove for the end zone to score a 14-yard touchdown, his second score of the preseason.
Second quarter, 2:28, Rams 17-7: I have no idea how that was ruled a completion. Maybe the standard-def televisions in here aren’t working to our advantage, but that ball looked like it clearly hit the ground. Either way, Alge Crumpler was credited with a 24-yard reception, and the Patriots are in business.
Second quarter, 2:28, Rams 17-7: Bill Belichick isn’t going to win this challenge, but that doesn’t take away from a pretty nice play from Tom Brady, who slipped after the snap, quickly got up and delivered a strike to Alge Crumpler about 30 yards down the field. The ball hit the turf and was ruled incomplete.
Second quarter, 4:13, Rams 17-7: New England’s offense has 26 yards on 13 plays and just one first down. Brandon Tate had nearly four times as many yards on the opening kickoff as the offense has in four possessions.
Second quarter, 6:54, Rams 17-7: Have to feel bad for the PA guy, who keeps having to call out Michael Hoomanawanui’s name. It’s like in baseball when you’re having a tough time in the field, and the ball keeps finding you. One of those nights. For the PA guy, and the Patriots’ secondary.
Second quarter, 7:02, Rams 17-7: Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui found a soft spot in the zone, and Sam Bradford hit him for a 12-yard touchdown pass. So, if it weren’t for Brandon Tate’s opening kickoff return, this night would be a complete disaster for the Patriots.
Second quarter, 9:11, Rams 10-7: Leigh Bodden has made his preseason debut. Also, Tully Banta-Cain must have a good read on Sam Bradford’s snap count because he’s been getting good jumps all night. On the last play, though, he was bagged for jumping offsides.
Second quarter, 11:40, Rams 10-7: Devin McCourty couldn’t make the initial tackle after Zoltan Mesko’s punt, and Danny Amendola returned it to the New England 38. In other news, did the Patriots and Rams switch jerseys?
Second quarter, 13:05, Rams 10-7: Sam Bradford is making good decisions and crisp throws. He’s immediately recognizing the Patriots’ blitzes and getting the ball off quickly. However, Ron Brace did pick up a coverage sack later in the drive, and the Rams had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Josh Brown. Now, they get to try to tackle Brandon Tate again.
End of first quarter, 7-7: The first quarter ended with another big catch from tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who caught the ball behind him with one hand, fended off a hit from Devin McCourty and forged ahead to the New England 10-yard line. This hasn’t been a spectacular night for McCourty.
First quarter, 1:30, 7-7: Tom Brady’s left knee just had a heart attack. Rams defensive end Chris Long came screaming into the pocket on a low angle, and Brady had to avoid taking a hit to the legs. He eventually waived the white flag, hit the turf and took a sack. After Zoltan Mesko’s punt, the Rams have the ball at their own 49.
First quarter, 3:20, 7-7: The Patriots also have the ball back after forcing the Rams to punt. To this point, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk are the only backs who have hit the field.
First quarter, 3:42, 7-7: Brandon Spikes has gotten almost all of the reps at inside linebacker next to Jerod Mayo, and Gary Guyton has only seen the field on obvious passing downs. The Patriots are again using a number of three-safety combinations, particularly in passing situations.
First quarter, 7:08, 7-7: Just Zoltan being Zoltan. Mesko ripped off a 46-yard punt that landed softly at the Rams’ 4-yard line. The Patriots went three-and-out and surprisingly chose not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from midfield. The crowd actually sounded stunned.
First quarter, 8:20, 7-7: Sammy Morris got the start at running back, and that is not a good sign for Laurence Maroney. Not. At. All.
First quarter, 9:14, 7-7: The Rams answered with a touchdown of their own, and two defensive breakdowns helped St. Louis move down the field. Derrick Burgess failed to set the edge on a nine-yard Steven Jackson run that kind of set the tone for the Rams, and Devin McCourty got turned around on a 32-yard pass to Donnie Avery. Sam Bradford hit tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for a five-yard touchdown to cap the drive, and that was the result of a slow read for Brandon Spikes.
First quarter, 14:30, Patriots 7-0: Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright, Derrick Burgess, Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, Tully Banta-Cain, Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and Darius Butler started for the Patriots defense.
It’s interesting that McCourty started over Bodden, and Spikes started over Guyton. It was a nice read by Spikes, who immediately saw a run and was the first linebacker through the line, even though the hole opened up on Mayo’s side of the field.
First quarter, 14:48, Patriots 7-0: Ladies and gentlemen, Brandon Tate. The exciting wide receiver returned the game’s opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to give the Patriots an early lead. Tate burst through a huge hole and wasn’t touched on his way to the house.
7:35 p.m.: The Rams lost the toss, and the Patriots elected to receive. It’s on.
7:33 p.m.: You know who is excited right now? Buddy Farnham. The undrafted rookie receiver was cut by the Patriots before their first preseason game at home, so this is the Andover native’s first chance to play at Gillette as a member of the Patriots.
7:02 p.m.: It appears as though the Patriots are missing 12 players for this game.
Wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, wide receiver Julian Edelman, wide receiver Matthew Slater, safety Bret Lockett, cornerback Kyle Arrington, linebacker Eric Alexander, offensive lineman George Bussey, left guard Logan Mankins, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, tight end Aaron Hernandez, outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and safety Josh Barrett have not been spotted on the field during warmups. The biggest surprise here is Arrington, who tweaked something during Tuesday’s practice. The other absences, due to this week’s attendance, were predictable.
6:51 p.m.: It doesn’t look like wide receiver Julian Edelman or tight end Aaron Hernandez will play against the Rams. Edelman is typically one of the first players on the field for warmups, and he hasn’t been spotted at any point in the last two hours. Also, four tight ends have taken the field, and Hernandez is the only one missing. It looks like his knee injury will keep him out.
6:46 p.m.: Tom Brady has gotten his “by any means” on and taken the field for warmups. Jay-Z can be heard from Foxboro to Boxboro.
6:05 p.m.: Wes Welker is on the field warming up, and he’s got his football pants (new favorite sports apparel terminology) on under his shorts. Looks like a go, not that it was ever really in doubt.
5:51 p.m.: Brian Hoyer and Zac Robinson are playing catch, and there’s good news to report. Hoyer isn’t wearing a brace on his left knee. Hoyer had been wearing the knee brace prior to last week’s preseason game and then again during practice this week, so the lack of a plastic carriage likely means the injury isn’t all that serious.
5:32 p.m.: Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who was the top pick in April’s draft, is wearing shorts and a T-shirt and tossing the ball around with a teammate at the 45-yard line. Bradford will make his first preseason start, and those passes will be much more difficult to complete in another two hours.
5:15 p.m.: Stephen “Big Money” Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko and Thomas Williams are among a handful of Patriots who are on the field working out. It’s still pretty warm here, and there’s a good breeze blowing through the stadium.
3:00 p.m.: Here’s a list of things to keep an eye on during Thursday night’s all-important preseason action.
12 p.m.: New England’s defense has to be salivating over the chance to line up against Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 draft pick who is making his first preseason start Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
Bradford looks like a guy who is ready to have a long, promising career, but the Patriots have long since had a cruel way of welcoming rookie quarterbacks to the big stage.
On the whole, this should be a good confidence booster for the Patriots because they’re going against the worst team in the NFL from a year ago. With the starters expected to earn a major chunk of playing time — likely their last go-round before the Sept. 12 regular-season opener — it will be a chance to get some solid reps as the preseason winds down.
Stay with NESN.com’s live blog throughout the day, as we’ll give you a front-and-center of the Super Bowl XXXVI rematch that promises to yield none of the same drama.
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