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Sunday, October 28, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Patriots 45, Rams 7

By Mike Reiss



LONDON -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 45-7 victory over the Rams at Wembley Stadium:

PatriotsRamsWhat it means. The Patriots arrive at the halfway mark of the season with a 5-3 record after a decisive effort. Leading into this game, quarterback Tom Brady called the team’s record mediocre. This performance, arguably the team’s best of the season, provides momentum heading into the second half.

Toughness shines through. The Patriots came to London a banged-up football team. They didn’t travel with seven players, then declared starting left guard Logan Mankins inactive before kickoff. They also had some key players with illness over the week. Given those factors, this is the type of effort that speaks to the team’s physical and mental toughness as well as its depth. Hard to nitpick this one.

Tom terrific once again. On Friday, Brady joked that it might be time to switch back to his old helmet because he wasn’t happy with his performance the past two games with a new one. He switched back, and he looked like the Brady of old. Of course, it’s never that simple. What essentially made Brady so effective in this game was the time he had to throw -- a credit to the protection up front -- and the Rams’ inability to cover tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was a lethal combination. It almost looked too easy at times. The key matchup for the Patriots was the three-receiver grouping against the Rams’ nickel. This was an offensive explosion, with Bill Belichick’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on the second drive, an aggressive call that paid off and set the tone for the day.

Gronkowski spikes everything in sight. On Saturday at a Fan Fest event, tight end Rob Gronkowski stole the show by spiking a microphone. In Sunday’s game, he had two spikes -- to go along with two “creative” celebrations -- after touchdown receptions. He was a force with 8 receptions for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Blitz and pressure from defense. When the Patriots created distance from the Rams in the first half, a big part of it was third-down defense. Linebacker Brandon Spikes blitzed up the middle to help produce the first stop, and defensive end Chandler Jones also was disruptive. It was an attack mode that we haven’t seen as much of from the Patriots. The defense was impressive.

Injury situations to monitor. Starting right cornerback Kyle Arrington left in the first quarter with a head injury and did not return. Sterling Moore took his place. ... Slot cornerback Marquice Cole left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, going back to the locker room for further evaluation and not returning. ... Receiver Wes Welker limped off the field in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. He had his left leg elevated on the bench as he was re-taped, but he did not return. ... Reserve defensive lineman Ron Brace left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return. No injury was announced.

What’s next. The Patriots don’t play again until Nov. 11, when the Bills come to town. The team’s return home from this trip could be affected by weather conditions, so there might be some unexpected extra time in London.