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  • Rams-Pats: 5 Things To Watch

    Rams-Pats: 5 Things To Watch
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Life without Law

    The New England secondary that muscled the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI will not be found Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome. CB Otis Smith, a former Mizzou player, just turned 39 and is out of football. Free safety Tebucky Jones was traded to New Orleans in April 2003. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy, a St. Louis native, was released in September '03 and now plays for Buffalo. That leaves four-time Pro Bowler Ty Law. He's still with the Pats, but is out after suffering a fractured left foot last week. Law is one of the league's best cornerbacks and will be tough to replace.

    "He's a great player ... and he's definitely one of the shutdown corners," Rams QB Marc Bulger said. "But they have a lot of great players, and the structure of their defense is pretty sound."

    The Patriots already are missing veteran Tyrone Poole (knee), so the Rams could face a pair of unproven cornerbacks in second-year man Asante Samuel and undrafted rookie Randall Gay. Samuel was effective last year as the Patriots' nickel back, but is on the small side and sometimes struggles against bigger receivers. Gay was only a part-time starter in college, but played for Bill Belichick disciple Nick Saban at LSU in a Patriots-style defense.

    Gay was shaken up against Pittsburgh, so there's a chance the Patriots could move free safety Eugene Wilson to cornerback and bring Dexter Reid off the bench to safety. But no matter what the alignment, the Rams should be able to exploit the New England secondary if Bulger gets enough time to throw.

    What's up front

    New England has three former first-round picks in its 3-4 defensive alignment in ends Ty Warren and Richard Seymour and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Seymour is one of the league's top young defensive linemen. The two-time Pro Bowler has excellent size (6-6, 310), a huge wingspan, a non-stop motor and good quickness and burst. In short, he's the total package.

    Normally, Seymour lines up on the side of Rams LT Orlando Pace. But he has been known to line up over center on passing downs. The Patriots also move him to the other end, which could be the case Sunday if New England tries to create a matchup advantage with Rams RT Grant Williams. The X-factor for opposing blockers is New England's outside linebackers, mainly Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest and Rosevelt Colvin. The Patriots move them around, which can create confusion and mismatches.

    "They'll use a four-man front, they'll use a three-man front," Rams C Andy McCollum said. "They'll use linebackers as ends - down guys. You've got to be able to determine who's blocking where, and if you consider somebody a rusher, or if you consider him a linebacker."

    As imposing as the Patriots can be, the power-rushing Steelers pounded them for 221 rushing yards last week.

    What's up front, II

    There is no Pace-like presence on an anonymous but effective Patriots offensive line. LT Matt Light is the best of the group, but he's on the small side by NFL standards at 6-4, 305, and must rely on toughness, athleticism and footwork. Light couldn't finish the game after getting shaken up in Pittsburgh, but wasn't listed on New England's injury report for the Rams game. RT Tom Ashworth missed the Steelers game because of a bad back, but is expected to play. The Patriots are an assignment-sound group up front. Rarely does a blitzer get through cleanly.

    "They just play good, fundamentally sound football," Rams DT Ryan Pickett said. "They never blow assignments."

    Tom Brady, Superman

    OK, he committed three turnovers last week against Pittsburgh. But is there a better big-game, crunch-time quarterback in the league right now than Tom Brady? He is the winningest QB in the Super Bowl era (minimum 40 starts), with a 40-13 record and a .755 winning percentage.

    In his fourth season as a starter, Brady already has registered 16 fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks - including that famous one against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

    "You start with his leadership and watch his presence," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "And then you go into the physical part of it. The accuracy. The ability to come from behind and win, and put as many wins together as he has. ... On all the things, on and off the field, I think you have to give him very high marks."

    Dillon & Co.

    The addition of Corey Dillon has given the Patriots the strong running game they lacked in '03. Dillon missed the Pittsburgh game with a thigh injury but is expected to play Sunday. The Rams limited him to 37 yards in seven carries last season, but that was with the Cincinnati Bengals, not the Patriots. In six games this season, Dillon has 637 yards rushing, just 5 yards shy of Antowain Smith's team-leading rushing total in all of '03.

    New England spreads the ball around in the passing game and will take its share of deep shots, particularly to WRs David Givens and David Patten. TE Daniel Graham has a team-high five touchdown catches. Givens has been hot lately, with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, but is questionable with a knee injury.

    After missing four games with an injury, third-down threat Troy Brown returned against Pittsburgh and caught five balls. Bethel Johnson has only five catches but is one of the league's fastest players and a definite long-ball threat.

    "It's somebody different every week," Rams safety Adam Archuleta said.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Rams-Patriots: The Breakdown
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    When the Rams run the ball

    Don't be confused by those early rushing yards the Patriots gave up against Denver. For strategic reasons, the Patriots lined up in their nickel package when the Broncos came out in sets with two wide receivers and two tight ends. They were willing to give up rushing yards in order to limit Broncos tight ends in the passing game. New England's sturdy front seven, which includes five Pro Bowlers, remains tough to beat with conventional running games. The group is fundamentally sound, tackles well and has good gap discipline. Miami had success with an unbalanced line against the Patriots; don't be surprised if the Rams go that way on some carries.

    EDGE: Patriots

    * * * * * * *

    When the Patriots run the ball

    With Sammy Morris (knee) and Lamont Jordon (calf) expected to be sidelined Sunday, the Patriots will use a running-back-by-committee of Kevin Faulk, rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Heath Evans. Evans (6-0, 250) is a fullback by trade, but has 151 NFL carries, had 149 carries in college at Auburn, and could be used Sunday in some one-back sets. Faulk is the team's best pass protector and remains a productive third-down back at age 32. But he hasn't had more than 13 carries in a game since 2003. Green-Ellis was promoted from the practice squad two weeks ago and gained 65 yards on 13 carries against Denver.

    EDGE: Rams

    * * * * * * *

    When the Rams pass the ball

    The Patriots normally don't blitz much, but if they see or sense a weakness, they can adjust accordingly. It's the Bill Belichick way. The New England secondary obviously misses cornerback Asante Samuel, who signed a big-money deal with Philadelphia in free agency. The unit has had its ups and downs and has been vulnerable to the big play at times. (Donnie Avery, that's your cue.) The Patriots frequently scheme to protect their secondary. But with or without Steven Jackson, if the Rams can establish any kind of running game to keep New England honest, they should have some opportunities in the passing game.


    * * * * * * *

    When the Patriots pass the ball

    The key for St. Louis will be to force neophyte quarterback Matt Cassell into predictable passing situations. Because when he has to throw downfield, the sacks pile up. Last season with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots yielded only 21 sacks. They've already given 26 in six games this season. Even so, the left side of the Patriots' offensive line remains formidable: Left tackle Matt Light, left guard Logan Mankins and center Dan Koppen are all Pro Bowlers. There could be pass-rush opportunities on the right side, however, where Rams castoff Mark LeVoir is expected to start again for the injured Nick Kaczur. LeVoir figures to need some help against...
    -10-26-2008, 05:15 AM
  • RamDez
    Pats try to avoid another collapse (pats press)
    by RamDez

    The Patriot Ledger

    You might recall the last time the New England Patriots tangled with the St. Louis Rams.

    OK, who are we kidding? The images of Super Bowl XXXVI are seared into your memory - Ty Law returning an interception 47 yards for a touchdown; David Patten elevating in the end zone for a TD catch just before halftime; and Adam Vinatieri splitting the uprights at the final gun.

    Since the winners get to write history, what often gets overlooked from that 20-17 victory is the fourth quarter, when the Patriots nearly staged the greatest choke job in Super Bowl history by blowing a 17-3 lead.

    St. Louis' ‘‘Greatest Show on Turf'' offense, dormant for the first 45 minutes, erupted late. Partly that was because it was tough to keep Kurt Warner and company down for too long. Partly it was because the Patriots' offense went AWOL in the second half, leaving the tiring New England defense no time to catch its breath.

    Nearly three years have come and gone between that game and Sunday's belated ‘‘rematch'' at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis (4:15 p.m., Ch. 4). There is one carryover, though - should the Patriots' defenders' tongues be dragging on the carpet again, disaster will likely follow.

    As you no doubt have heard, the Patriots' secondary is in shambles with starting cornerbacks Ty Law (broken foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) sidelined. That puts a high priority on limiting the exposure of their backups (some combination of Asante Samuel, Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson) to the Rams' high-octane offense.

    The Patriots' offense could be a huge help there, but only if it doesn't duplicate last week's effort in Pittsburgh when Tom Brady's guys held the ball for just 17 minutes, committed four turnovers, and - in a decisive four-possession stretch in the first half - ran only eight plays, none of which generated a first down.

    The Patriots' B team defensive backs can't give up any big plays if they're lounging on the sidelines, so hogging the ball instead of handing it right back to the Rams becomes imperative.

    ‘‘We are going to do everything we can to try to give our defense some help in terms of trying to stay on the field,'' vowed Brady, who accounted for three turnovers (two INTs and a fumble) in the 34-20 loss to the Steelers that snapped the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak. ‘‘... You don't want to go three-and-out and turn the ball over against (the Rams). You want to be able to control the clock.''

    That sounds like a plea for Corey Dillon to get healthy. The Patriots' leading rusher, who sat out the Pittsburgh loss with a thigh injury, could be the New England secondary's best friend on Sunday, especially with No. 1 receiver David Givens (knee/questionable) joining the usual WR suspects (Deion Branch and Troy Brown) on the injury report.

    In the good news department,...
    -11-07-2004, 03:03 AM
  • RamDez
    He's got it covered Patriots' Samuel ready for Rams
    by RamDez
    He's got it covered

    Patriots' Samuel ready for Rams

    By Joe Burris, Globe Staff | November 6, 2004

    FOXBOROUGH -- To hear Patriots coach Bill Belichick tell it, the St. Louis Rams aren't necessarily prone to subscribe to the adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," when it comes to their offensive game plan. He said as far as play-calling is concerned, New England's opponent tomorrow won't run a particular formation on consecutive downs even if it does succeed.

    "The Rams don't have many tendencies because they make it a point of never running the same play twice," Belichick said yesterday.

    Therefore, regardless of how New England's secondary fared in a play where Torry Holt ran a slant pattern and Isaac Bruce went long, the Patriot defensive backs might as well forget about it as they move on to the next down. Belichick was asked if that meant St. Louis had as many as 70 formations in their playbook.

    "It's more like 300," he said.

    It will present quite a challenge for a Patriots secondary looking to bounce back from last Sunday's debacle in Pittsburgh, where All-Pro cornerback Ty Law suffered a broken bone in his left foot that will sideline him 4-7 weeks. That means the two starting cornerbacks are on the injured list, as Tyrone Poole is out with a knee injury.

    After its troubles with Pittsburgh wideouts Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward, the New England defense must face an offense that ranks sixth in the NFL in total yards (375.4 per game). Led by Bruce (44 catches, 635 yards, 1 touchdown) and Holt (37 catches, 491 yards, 4 TDs), St. Louis ranks fifth in the league in passing offense (264.1 yards per game).

    What's more, running back Marshall Faulk is a perennial pass-catching threat, placing third on the team with 28 receptions for 216 yards. Faulk leads the Rams in rushing with 111 carries for 465 yards and 3 touchdowns, and this season has been bolstered by the exceptional running of rookie Steven Jackson (46 carries, 260 yards, 1 TD).

    Asante Samuel, who has been the Patriots' starting right cornerback since Poole's injury, said the Rams merely offer another challenge.

    "You've got Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and all those guys are very fast and they run very good routes," said Samuel. "They've got good hands and they play real good ball. This is the NFL, you never know what you're going to get. You can get [particular plays] twice or you may not get them twice.

    "Every game is a different kind of challenge, so you have to just approach it by watching film and figuring out what to do."

    After starting for the first time this season Oct. 10 against Miami, Samuel had 3 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and a forced fumble in the Oct. 24 win over the Jets. He had three tackles and a forced fumble in last Sunday's loss in...
    -11-07-2004, 03:04 AM
  • RamDez
    Patriots Notebook: Injuries raising doubts by Frank Tadych (pats press)
    by RamDez
    Patriots Notebook: Injuries raising doubtsby Frank Tadych

    Wide receiver David Givens, one of 11 players on the Patriots injury report, was listed as questionable again on Friday.

    Foxborough, Mass. - The Patriots didn't report any changes to their injury report Friday, which isn't good news. The Patriots again listed 11 players on the report, including wide receiver David Givens, who sustained a knee injury in last week's game against Pittsburgh and listed as questionable for the third straight day.

    Givens was one of nine players who missed a portion of team practice Friday. Givens has been quarterback Tom Brady's primary target this season, leading the Patriots in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (544) while joining David Patten as the only receivers to play in all seven games.

    "I think Givens will be all right," head coach Bill Belichick said, electing not to elaborate any farther.

    Givens joined fellow receivers Troy Brown (shoulder) and Deion Branch (knee) on the injury report this week. Brown, who also missed the season opener due to a knee injury, saw his first action in four weeks against Pittsburgh, finishing with five receptions for 59 yards. Branch, who hasn't played since a knee injury Week 2 against Arizona, made an infrequent visit to the locker room during the media's open session Thursday. Brown, listed as questionable, and Branch, who is doubtful, both missed portions of team practice for the third consecutive day on Friday.

    "I'm straight," Branch told reporters. "You'll see me soon."

    Despite the overall rash of injuries, especially at receiver, Belichick wasn't looking to make excuses heading into Sunday's game in St. Louis. The only other receivers on the Patriots roster are Bethel Johnson and Kevin Kasper, both of whom play mainly on special teams.

    "I think everybody has a job to do and regardless of who the people are, who the 45 active players are, it is their responsibility to be ready to go and do that," Belichick said. "From a player's standpoint, their job is the same every week-get ready to play and play well in the situations that they are called on. When we go to the game we expect everybody to be ready to go and perform at their highest level."

    As for the rest of the injury report, cornerbacks Ty Law (foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) are out and will not play Sunday. Offensive tackle Tom Ashworth (back), running backs Corey Dillon (thigh) and Patrick Pass (thigh), and linebacker Larry Izzo (knee) are all listed as questionable after missing portions of team practice again Friday. Ashworth, Dillon and Pass did not play last week.

    Quarterbacks Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are again listed as probable.

    A player who is listed as doubtful is described as having at least a 75 percent...
    -11-07-2004, 03:04 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Busted at 21
    by DJRamFan
    A continuation of Patriot streak is not in cards
    By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Their baseball brothers, the Red Sox, are proof that all streaks must end, winning the World Series last week after an 86-year drought. So as if to balance the slate, the sports gods yesterday looked down upon New England and said, "Do not be greedy."


    Thus, the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak ended. The Team That Could Not Lose finally met its match in the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-20, before a record-breaking Heinz Field crowd of 64,737.

    There were no excuses from anyone in the Patriots locker room as to why they lost for the first time since Sept. 28, 2003, to the Steve Spurrier-coached Washington Redskins.

    That's because the Steelers played very much in their tradition, dominating the trenches, creating mistakes, and smashing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the mouth every chance they got.

    "I wish we could play again tomorrow," said New England defensive end Willie McGinest. "We're not going to make any excuses, like blame the refs, or injuries, or anything like that. It's disappointing we got our butts kicked and got outplayed. We have to come in tomorrow and look in the mirror and make sure each and every one of us can see what we did to add to this. It's not the end of the world. We have time to come back from this."

    The Steelers forced turnovers -- four of them -- which led to Pittsburgh scores. Two were caused by linebacker Jerry Porter, who played an emotional game, saying he was fired up by words McGinest uttered to him before the opening kickoff.

    If that was the case he made the Patriots pay big time, and young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (18 for 24 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.4 rating) looked as calm and collected as a guy named Bradshaw in picking apart the wounded Patriots secondary.

    They didn't make excuses, but the Patriots were missing starting running back Corey Dillon, had to use a makeshift offensive line with starting right tackle Tom Ashworth out with a back ailment, and then lost left tackle Matt Light, who got the wind knocked out of him.

    The Patriots also lost cornerback Ty Law to a foot injury in the third series of the game, and when rookie free agent Randall Gay replaced him, the Steelers went right at him and made the Patriots pay.

    But in the past, the Patriots had never missed a beat because of injuries.

    "We've lost players to injuries before," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "We play as a team. Whoever is in the game has to do their part. That's the way we do it around here."

    With Dillon out, New England ran the ball six times for 5 yards, forcing Brady to throw it 43 times. The defense allowed the Steelers to romp over them...
    -11-01-2004, 09:48 AM