NFL Preview - New England (4-3) at St. Louis (3-4)|
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Rams hope that their flight to London is the
only air show they see this week.
The Rams look to contain Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' top-ranked
offense on Sunday as the two clubs do battle at England's Wembley Stadium in
the latest addition of the International Series.
This Sunday will mark the sixth regular-season game to be played in London and
11th overall to take place outside of the United States. While the Rams make
their first trip to Wembley Stadium, the Patriots have made the trek before.
New England bested the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-27 on Oct. 25, 2009, getting
308 yards and three passing touchdowns from Brady.
The New England signal-caller hooked up with wide receiver Wes Welker 10 times
in that game for 107 yards with a score.
"It will be a tough game, but it will be memorable for a lot of reasons,"
Brady said of this year's edition of the game in London. "I certainly remember
our last trip, so it will be a nice experience for all the players kind of
In addition to trying to shake off jet lag, the Pats hope to improve on a
subpar 29-26 overtime win against the New York Jets last weekend. New England
yielded 13 fourth-quarter points to its AFC East rivals before getting a 43-
yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski as time expired to force the extra
Gostkowski then capped New England's overtime drive with a 48-yard field goal
and New York was unable to extend the game on its ensuing drive as ends Rob
Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham combined for a sack on Jets quarterback Mark
Sanchez. Ninkovich jarred the ball loose on the takedown and recovered to seal
the Pats' third victory in four games that gave them sole possession of first
place in the division at 4-3.
"We talk about playing 60 minutes, it took a little bit more than that today,
but the players did a good job," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "In the
end, we made enough plays to win."
It was the opposite for Rams, who trailed by four points at halftime in their
recent matchup with the Green Bay Packers before eventually falling in defeat
St. Louis came into the game ranked fifth against the pass, but saw Packers
quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw for 342 yards with three scoring strikes. That
led to the Rams' second straight defeat and first in four home games this
"It's a tough one," admitted St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, who passed
for 255 yards with a touchdown and interception. "I thought we did a fairly
decent job in the first half. We came out cold in the third quarter, just
didn't really get anything going. We've just got to do a better job of
Bradford and company next look to grab the edge in their all-time series with
the Patriots. The two teams have split their 10 regular-season meetings,
though the Pats have won the past two.
The Patriots played host to the Rams in the last encounter on Oct. 26, 2008,
picking up a 23-16 triumph in a game that Brady missed because of a knee
New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels served in that role for that
meeting, his last season with the Pats before spending two years as the head
coach of the Denver Broncos. He was fired from that role following the 2010
campaign and spent last season as the offensive coordinator for the Rams
before his return to the Pats.
New England also defeated St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002, the
first of three championships in four seasons for the franchise.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Patriots' offense continues to be one of the top units in the league,
averaging an NFL-best 436.1 yards and 31.0 points per game. After gaining 381
yards of offense versus the Jets, the Pats have now reached at least 350 total
yards in 16 straight games to match the longest such streak in NFL history
first set by the St. Louis Rams in 1999-2000.
Brady, meanwhile, has logged at touchdown pass in 39 straight games, the
third-longest streak in league annuals and tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming
off a two-touchdown performance that lifted his season total to five.
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd should be motivated for this game after spending
part of last season with the Rams following a trade by the Broncos. Lloyd
hauled in 51 passes for 683 yards and five scores with St. Louis before
signing with New England this offseason.
"They do a great job, it's obvious," said Rams head coach Jeff Fisher of the
Pats' offense. "Everybody is on the same page. Even the new pace they're
playing with. When you have 75 more rushing attempts than the league average,
you're playing at a high pace and that's what they're doing. Our young defense
has obviously not faced it this year."
All this is staring at the Rams, who slipped from fifth to 14th in the league
against the pass after struggling against the Packers.
Still, St. Louis has yielded only four touchdown passes to quarterbacks not
named Aaron Rodgers and has received eight interceptions from its secondary.
Six different players have nabbed a pick, led by cornerback Cortland
"You know, he competes his butt off and he's smart, catches the ball well.
He's a seventh-round pick, so you just are always fighting for your life out
there. Even though he's had a lot of success, you see he wants to continue to
get better and improve and he's still a young player. I have a lot of respect
for him," Brady said of Finnegan.
The Rams, coming off a three-sack performance versus the Packers, have brought
down the opposing quarterback 15 times in their last three games and defensive
end Robert Quinn notched his seventh sack of the year last weekend, tied for
second in the NFC.
St. Louis shook up its offensive line versus Green Bay, with Joe Barksdale
replacing an injured Wayne Hunter at left tackle and Shelley Smith stepping in
for Quinn Ojinnaka, who had started the previous four games at left guard but
was released on Monday.
Bradford will have to be aware of Ninkovich, who has a team-leading four
forced fumbles, all in the past four games.
"I just think Rob can do different things," Belichick said of Ninkovich's role
to the defense. "We ask him to do different things and he can do them. That
gives him value and versatility himself and to our defense and all that."
New England has struggled against the pass this season, yielding 290.0 yards
per game and corners Devin McCourty -- who had a 104-yard kickoff return for a
score versus the Jets -- and Kyle Arrington will have to account for Rams
wideout Chris Givens, whose 56-yard catch last weekend made him the first NFL
rookie since Willie Gault in 1983 to log a reception of 50-plus yards in four
"(Givens is) making a big play here and there," noted Fisher. "We'd like to
try to get him more involved; like to try to get more balls to him but he's
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein could be a x-factor for the Rams. He hit on field
goals of 50 and 43 yards versus the Packers and is 12-for-14 on field goals 40
yards or longer this season.
Games taking place overseas a bit harder to predict due to the travel and
change of routine that takes place.
Extra credit, then, goes to the Patriots, who have done this dance before and
were already the better team heading into the contest. Though the faces aren't
all the same from the club's last trip to London, Belichick should have his
team ready to go.
"I'm not sure how many of our players now were on that trip but I would say
not a whole lot," he said earlier in the week. "There's been a decent amount
of turnover since then. You know, the experience for those of us that went,
you have some idea what to expect. There's something to be said for that."
New England's inconsistent play at times this season has raised some doubts
after the team repeating as champs in a tight AFC East, but as St. Louis
showed in last week's loss to high-flying Green Bay, the NFC West cellar-
dwellers are still trying to find a way to compete with the more elite teams
in the NFL.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 27, Rams 16
10/25 13:32:08 ET