FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots' offense was surprisingly pedestrian in the first half of Thursday's preseason loss to the Rams, particularly after Tom Brady and the starters played with so much fluidity in their first two games.
New England established a whole lot of nothing in its first four possessions, gaining 26 total yards on 13 plays and managing just a single first down. And this was against the Rams, who finished 29th in yardage allowed and 31st in points allowed last season.
"We obviously don?t have everything solved at this point," Brady said after the game, "so we?ve just got to come back to work."
Let's take a closer look at the tape and try to figure out what went wrong during the Patriots' first 13 offensive plays.
First Offensive Possession
Play 1: First-and-10, New England 41
Description: Brady to Wes Welker for two yards
Analysis: Welker, lined up in the left slot, ran a quick out-route, caught the pass and was immediately tackled. Little else was available, as Randy Moss, Alge Crumpler and Sammy Morris were all blanketed. Brandon Tate ran a four-yard hitch along the right sideline and was open, but Brady never looked in that direction.
Play 2: Second-and-8, New England 43
Description: Sammy Morris runs left for three yards
Analysis: Morris got about as much as the offensive line allowed him to get. Defensive tackle Gary Gibson, who made the tackle, pushed center Dan Koppen well off the ball at the snap.
Play 3: Third-and-5, New England 46
Description: Brady to Moss for four yards
Analysis: Brady made a conscious effort to find Moss, who worked off press coverage and ran a four-yard in-route underneath the Rams' coverage, which protected against first-down distance. However, Brady had Kevin Faulk wide open underneath on the right side. If Brady went in that direction, the Patriots would have moved the chains, but this appeared to be a case of Brady simply trying to get Moss involved.
Second Offensive Possession
Play 4: First-and-10, New England 16
Description: Brady to Tate for 10 yards
Analysis: Brady went play-action to Morris, which temporarily froze the defense. Tate and Moss were the only receivers who immediately went into routes (Morris and Crumpler might have released after picking up their blocks), and Moss was blanketed by three Rams. Brady made a good read and a nice throw to hit Tate, who was shadowed by cornerback Bradley Fletcher.
Play 5: First-and-10, New England 26
Description: BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs right for one yard
Analysis: The whole offensive line pulled to the right, but left tackle Matt Light was badly beaten to the inside by Gibson, who quickly dragged down Green-Ellis. Morris, at fullback, made a nice block that might have been able to get Green-Ellis a good gain if he was able to spring past Gibson.
Play 6: Second-and-9, New England 27
Description: Brady to Tate for seven yards
Analysis: Faulk, Crumpler, Moss, Welker and Tate were sent into passing routes, and the offensive line gave Brady enough time to make his initial reads. However, the pocket collapsed around Light, and Brady flushed out to his right, where he found Tate along the sideline. Welker was open down the field, but it was tough to tell if Brady either didn?t see him or, at that point, was too focused on trying to evade the four-man pass rush. Initially, Brady could have hit Faulk on the left side, but he chose not to go in that direction.
Play 7: Third-and-2, New England 34
Description: Brady sacked for a loss of 13 yards
Analysis: The Rams rushed four, and defensive end Jake Long just pushed right tackle Sebastian Vollmer out of the way. Long, though, fell to the turf in the direction of Brady's legs. Brady moved out of the way, and by the time he regained himself, he was dragged down by Fred Robbins, who beat right guard Stephen Neal.
Third Offensive Possession
Play 8: First-and-10, New England 20
Description: Brady to Faulk for three yards
Analysis: The protection wore down quickly. The Rams again only rushed their front four, and the Patriots had six blockers, including tight end Rob Gronkowski. Defensive tackle Darell Scott easily beat Neal, and Brady had to dump it over the middle to Faulk. Actually, the rest of the offensive line did a good job to counter the Rams' shuffling defensive line, which tried to confuse right guard Dan Connolly. Neal just couldn?t handle Scott.
Play 9: Second-and-7, New England 23
Description: Faulk runs left for three yards
Analysis: Faulk took the hand-off from Brady, who was in the shotgun. It looked like Faulk might have had some room off the left tackle, but he was swallowed up behind Connolly.
Play 10: Third-and-4, New England 26
Description: Brady's pass to Moss falls incomplete
Analysis: Connolly got beat to his left shoulder, and Brady had to make a quick read. He made a good throw, and the ball hit Moss in the numbers. Fletcher, though, deserves some credit for disrupting Moss along the sideline. Still, it was a play you'd probably expect Brady and Moss to make. It was another four-man rush, which showed St. Louis' dedication to keeping as many players in coverage as possible.
Fourth Offensive Possession
Play 11: First-and-10, New England 26
Description: Morris runs left for four yards
Analysis: Morris ran hard to the left and basically got as much as he could.
Play 12: Second-and-6, New England 30
Description: Morris runs right for two yards
Analysis: The play was designed to run to the left, but there was nothing there. Morris tried to bounce it to the right, but as he was making his cut, he was tripped up by linebacker Na'il Diggs, who dove headfirst through the line. Nice play by Diggs.
Play 13: Third-and-4, New England 32
Description: Brady's pass to Tate falls incomplete
Analysis: Brady was under center for the third consecutive play and went play-action to Morris. Brady made a quick read to gown down the left sideline to Tate, who had about a half-step on Fletcher. It would have had to have been a perfect throw, and it sailed long. Brady got great protection from the line, which included Morris and Gronkowski, so it's tough to tell if Moss or Welker would have broken free if Brady held the ball a little longer. Moss was initially bottled up, but it looked like Welker might have had a break down the right side of the field, although camera angles were inconclusive.
There wasn?t really one underlying theme to the struggles, but the offense obviously never found its rhythm. Brady missed some reads — particularly in Plays 1 and 3 — Moss dropped a pass and the offensive line missed some blocks. On the whole, the line definitely needs to play better than it did during those 13 plays.
The Patriots made some corrections as the game progressed, and they scored touchdowns on four consecutive drives after those initial four possessions.