Here are three things we saw as New England notched win No. 10.
Life without Rob Gronkowski
In the wake of the Patriots’ 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams, it’s so far, so good. But do you really feel satisfactory using the pitiful Rams as a litmus test for how the Patriots might fare without Rob Gronkowski? Oh sure, it’s not like the Rams are useless defensively. Los Angeles did come into the game ranked 12th in the NFL allowing 21.5 points per game, ninth in allowing 339.8 yards per game. But those rankings were useless on Sunday, even against a team minus its biggest playmaker.
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At some point during the first quarter (first drive, maybe?), the Rams collectively surrendered this game to the Patriots, who spread the ball out to every other weapon not named Gronkowski in their offensive arsenal. Quarterback Tom Brady found emerging rookie Malcolm Mitchell eight times for 82 yards. He found Julian Edelman eight times for 101 yards, and hooked up nicely with Chris Hogan, who came down with a magnificent second-quarter touchdown catch.
With his faithful tight end done for the remainder of the season after undergoing back surgery on Friday, Brady hardly looked the way of his successor, Martellus Bennett, finding him only twice for four whole yards on the afternoon. More importantly, Brady looked a lot healthier than the hobbled version we watched play against the New York Jets a week ago, and completely comfortable without Gronkowski, a subtraction that has, understandably, given him some fits in the past. Thanks to the Rams, but the Patriots might, indeed, be more well-equipped this season to lose Gronkowski than they have been in the past.
Fishing for a reason
Hat tip to Kerry Byrne of Cold, Hard Football Facts, who pointed out early during Sunday’s game, after LaGarrette Blount had already scored the first touchdown of the day for New England, that Bill Belichick’s Patriots had outscored Jeff Fisher-coached teams 111-7 over the previous eight quarters (59-0 over the Tennessee Titans in 2009, 45-7 over the Rams in 2012) and one possession between games played between the two coaches.
Well, now it’s 137-20 over the last 12 quarters. Belichick’s latest rout of Fisher comes in the hours after we learned that the Rams awarded their head coach, within a handful of losses of becoming the coach with the most losses on his resume in NFL history, with a two-year extension. This despite the fact that the Rams, now relocated back in L.A. (you’re welcome, St. Louis), are only 4-8, and 31-44 over five years under Fisher.
The Rams front office has applauded Fisher’s consistency during and after the move from St. Louis. If that means they’re shooting for another, Jeff Fisher-trademarked, 7-9 season like they had in 2015, well, they still need to go 3-1 the remainder of the way. The team we watched on Sunday doesn’t have a shot at such lofty goals. But until somebody finds the photos Fisher has under lock and key, it doesn’t appear like much will change. Have fun, L.A.
No. 201 and counting
It wasn’t really much of a question that Brady would break a tie with old foe Peyton Manning on Sunday and become the NFL quarterback with the most wins (201) under his belt. More remarkable is wondering where such a mark will end: 220, 250, 300? OK, not likely. At age 39, Brady is aiming for his seventh Super Bowl appearance and fifth NFL title. By February, he could be up to 208, should the Patriots sweep the remainder of the regular season and go on a Super Bowl run. By the time he does finally retire, he’ll have an NFL record on the same level as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, one that will, in all likelihood, never be broken.