By Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –
LONDON — The St. Louis Rams got some sightseeing in during their week-long stay in the England. Among other things, they saw the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. They saw historic Trafalagar Square and walked the streets of central London. But they didn’t see that red, white, and blue truck that hit them — otherwise known as the New England Patriots.
After a promising start, the Rams were outscored, outplayed and humiliated by the Patriots in a 45-7 loss Sunday before 84,004 at Wembley Stadium. It was a long way to go to play so poorly.
The Rams, now losers of three in a row, fell to 3-5 and have an extra week to stew about it as they now enter their bye before returning at San Francisco on Nov. 11.
The Patriots, who pulled quarterback Tom Brady with 8 minutes 20 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, improved to 5-3. Adding insult to injury, they topped 350 yards of offense for the 17th consecutive game, breaking a record they had shared with the Greatest Show on Turf — the 2001 Rams team they defeated in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Things started promisingly enough for the Rams, who took the opening kickoff and came out in the no huddle. Just five plays into the game, Sam Bradford found wide receiver Chris Givens deep for a 50-yard touchdown pass. It marked the fifth consecutive game Givens had caught a pass of 50 yards or more, setting an NFL rookie record.
Givens split two Patriots defenders on a post pattern using what looked like an extra gear to accelerate into the clear. But Givens suffered a toe injury early in the game and was sidelined for much of the half, although he returned in the second quarter. By the time he returned, the game had gotten away from the Rams.
Meanwhile, the Rams could do nothing to slow Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the New England passing game. The Patriots scored TDs on their first five possessions — including all four in the first half. That included TD passes of 19 and 9 yards to former Ram Brandon Lloyd, who gave Janoris Jenkins fits, and seven yards to tight end Gronkowski, who gave Rams safeties and anyone else who got in his path fits.
Gronkowski looked like a rugby player out there, bouncing off would-be tacklers for extra yardage with his 6-6, 265-pound frame. Meanwhile, the Rams forgot to pack their pass rush for the trip. When they rushed four, Brady had plenty of time. When the Rams blitzed, he carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey, frequently throwing to the area vacated by the blitzer.
And if things weren’t bad enough for the “home” team at Wembley, there were the pass interference penalties — three of them in the first half. All came on third down, and all were against Bradley Fletcher, keeping New England’s first and fourth TD drives alive in the opening half.
The Rams’ defense finally held on New England’s sixth possession, at least in terms of avoiding a touchdown. But Stephen Gostkowski’s 26-yard field goal made it 38-7 Patriots with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter.
After the Rams’ opening score, they didn’t make it into New England territory again until their fourth possession late in the first half. On the first play following the 2-minute warning, Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein lined up for a 53-yard field goal but never got his leg on the ball. Holder Johnny Hekker bobbled the snap and was forced to scramble for his life.
Hekker was tackled for a nine-yard loss with New England taking over at its 45, giving Brady a short a field for the Patriots’ fourth TD drive of the game just before the half. It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter, by which time the Rams were down by 31 points, that New England was forced to punt.
It was after that stop by the St. Louis defense that the Rams’ offense crossed midfield for the first time in the second half. Stalling at the New England 37 one play into the final quarter, Fisher figured what the heck and decided to go for it on fourth-and-6. But the Rams went backward with Bradford sacked for an eight-yard loss and the Patriots took over on downs.
With Barry Richardson leaving late in the third quarter with a suspected concussion, it was Chris Williams who got beat at right tackle. Williams had joined the Rams on Sunday night. Richardson was later cleared to play.
New England’s scoring “drought” lasted only one series, with Brady throwing a 14-yard TD pass to Gronkowski making it 45-7 New England with 11:20 to play.
It was the most points scored on the Rams since 2009, when Fisher’s Tennessee Titans thrashed Steve Spaganuolo’s inaugural St. Louis team, 47-7 on Dec. 13.