Rams Host Patriots…In London

The Rams were back to business this week trying to find answers offensively. Averaging just 18.6 points per game, they have to find the end zone, period.

Aaron Rodgers was downright magical attacking the Rams secondary a week ago. The Pack finished 9-15 (60%) on 3rd down with all 15 attempts through the air. If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, well Sunday might.

I went back and watched extended highlights from all seven New England games. The Patriots strike fast. They obviously rely on their tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead are 3rd-down machines. But it all starts with #12, Tom Brady. He’s remarkable.

In order to win Sunday, the Rams defense must force turnovers. After a turnover binge early, the Rams defense has gone two straight weeks without one. That’s worrisome considering the Patriots are +11 in the takeaway bin.

Here are my thoughts on Sunday

The Tight Ends. Hernandez and Gronkowski. They’re the best tandem in the NFL, and they give defensive coordinators ulcers. Who can guard them? Well, safeties can’t…too small. Linebackers struggle…too slow. Corners….maybe a Cortland Finnegan on steroids. I don’t know. Maybe attack their injuries. Hernandez is slowed by a troublesome ankle, and Gronk has a vulnerable hip. If you carry either on the fantasy squad in Week 8, well join the party.

Updated 11:15 Aaron Hernandez did NOT make the trip to London after a suffering a setback with his ankle sprain. His absence means look for a lot of Wes Welker.

Keep an eye on the other 39. The pesky Danny Woodhead is just smart. Tom Brady uses him as the modern Kevin Faulk. He lines up everywhere. Brady finds him on 3rd-down when Wes Welker’s covered. His damage doesn’t attract gaudy stat lines, but it’s those 3rd-and-short conversions that completely change a ballgame. The Patriots running game is skeptical. Pick a name, any name: Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden. I mean it’s a changing wheel. But they strive off defenses who respect Brady’s arm threat. Like GB, they can abandon the run quickly, evident in Week 6 when Brady threw 58 passes against Seattle.

The Patriots secondary is a weakness. Opponents are averaging over 290 yards passing. Cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington have both had their share of humble pie. Hell, even the Jets scored 26 points.

Rams WR Chris Givens has a reception over 50 yards in four consecutive weeks which hadn’t been done by a rookie since [former Bears and Raiders receiver] Willie Gault in 1984. Givens has potential; great speed, above average hands, and offers the big-play vertical threat. But his opportunities are limited to 10 catches for some reason. He should double that number on Sunday.

Rams Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer went 4-8 in six seasons as the NY Jets O.C. against New England. In those 12 games, his offense scored 20+ points just three times, and in 2010, they lost 45-3. Not too pretty, albeit probably an unfair comparison.

Where can the Rams generate offense? The Patriots limit opponents’ rushing attack with big Vince Wilfork clogging the lanes. The good news is Danny Amendola practiced this week in London. His return is scheduled after the bye week in San Francisco. But in the meantime, they have to score points. And if they aren’t, I see absolutely no reason the 33rd overall pick Brian Quick can’t get on the field.

Bill Belichick offered his take on the different atmosphere at Wembley Stadium. Of course, in the witty Belichick ‘I don’t give a shit’ humor.

“Possibly the field depending on what kind of condition that’s in. it’s a different kind of crowd, obviously. It’s not really a football crowd. It’s random. There’s some random cheering out there and the wave or whatever, things like that if you’re not really paying attention sometimes – like if I’m on the bench talking to somebody and you hear the crowd go crazy, you think something has happened, but that’s their cheer or their chant or whatever it is. There are some different dynamics like that.”

New England is a SEVEN point favorite. Personally, I wouldn’t touch this game considering the travel. I think we all keep waiting for the Rams offense to have that ‘ah-ha” moment where the light bulb goes on and they score like a typical team does when attaining 460 yards on offense.

This game has all the story lines. London, Belichick, Brady…but wouldn’t it be something if Jeff Fisher’s Rams threw a wrench in the pot. Any given Sunday folks.

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