Running Past the Rams

With 201 under his belt, it’s getting hard to make a case against Tom Brady as the Greatest of All Time.

Yesterday’s win in Gillette fit perfectly into the Brady storyline. He gets to set the record for most wins all time against the team that rocketed his narrative into the ranks of greatness. The Greatest Show on Turf was no match for Brady and the Patriots, and the Jeff Fischer Rams clearly aren’t either after yesterdays outing.

Unable to recognize who the Patriots had at running back going into this week, Fischer’s game-plan was clear. Against what some might consider one of the greatest passing teams of all time (the Patriot dynasty, that is), Jeff thought it was a good idea to out-pass the Patriots. By focusing the defensive strengths in the passing game on defense, Fischer’s strategy was to see right through the typical Patriot offense. With new rookie quarterback Jared Goff in for his third career game, the offensive game-plan revolved around getting the passing game going. After all, opposing defenses have simply stacked the box against the Rams, forcing their top-notch running game to appear mediocre this year. No problem, right? The Patriots secondary is weak… Right???

Wrong. In classic fashion, the boys in blue were two steps ahead. Belichick’s offensive game-plan involved rushing the ball with a steady arsenal of running backs, all players that Jeff Fischer apparently doesn’t know exist, with a stellar 132 yards total by three running backs (Blount, Lewis, and White). Of course, Brady still put up solid numbers as well, managing 269 yards and a touchdown. The game-plan was simple and it’s been similar all year, let’s run the ball and see if we can open up a running game. This year it’s worked tremendously. The offense actually has so many weapons, it doesn’t need to be a pass-happy game. We haven’t seen many pass heavy games all year, it’s been evenly distributed. That’s why the scores have generally been lower than years past. Many fans will be disappointed in not putting up 40 points on the Browns or Rams or 49ers, but it doesn’t mean we’re not as dominant as years’ prior. The around 38 minutes of possession time is another indicator that this is the case. Why score quickly when we can bruise and wear down a defense while we have the knowledge that Brady has a plethora of options to work with?

On the other side of the ball, this was a big win for the Patriots defense. They’ve been rocky all season; it doesn’t really matter who we were playing, a near shutdown victory is something to ride the confidence of. The team enjoyed having Defensive Tackle Alan Branch back into play after the NFL overturned his drug violation suspension early Sunday morning. The Rams found it hard to get a run game going on offense due to Branch’s work in the trenches; Rams star running-back Todd Gurley only managed 38 yards. We saw some nice blitz packages on Sunday as well, as cornerback Logan Ryan had multiple plays showing pressure on the quarterback that ended up in our favor.

All in all, this was a foreseeable win but it’s also a win to takeaway a few points from. For one, the discussion against Tom Brady as the best play ever is getting shorter and shorter. For two, the offensive power is showing in ways we don’t expect it to – through many different options and clock usage. The strategy here was simple, Fischer zigged the way we expected him to and Belichick zagged in return to perfectly counter the Rams team. I guess that’s the difference between a good coach and a crappy coach. But hey, congrats on the contract extension Jeff.

Patriots fans will wait until next Monday to face the Baltimore Ravens, a team that should never be taken lightly.

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