Rams-Patriots observations: First look at Bradford

Although I didn’t use my tickets to Overreaction Theater, acknowledging that it is preseason, here are some first half observations and quick thoughts from the football game between the Rams and Patriots:

  • Sam Bradford made his first start for the St. Louis Rams, and certainly didn’t nothing to hurt himself in what many believe could be his first, and last, push to supplant A.J. Feeley as the starter. In our first extended look at Bradford against a first-team defense, along with Steven Jackson in the backfield, he displayed his accuracy and arm strength and generally struggled only on occasions when he was pressured and/or blitzed. That’s to be expected. Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams used plenty of play-action, two tight end sets and max protection — especially early in the game — to protect Bradford. Even so, he made the majority of his throws, and showed patience and moxy while running the two-minute drill at the end of the half. Bradford led the Rams to 15 first downs and 20 points in six first half drives, completing 15 of 21 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. It has to be considered a very good step forward for Bradford.
  • The Rams have an open competition at wide receiver, and Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson started against the Patriots. Danny Amendola worked in the slot with the first-team offense. Avery, who had a nice crack-back block to spring Steven Jackson for a 9-yard run and later put a double-move on rookie Devin McCourty on a 32-yard reception, would seem like the No. 1 option in St. Louis. Avery’s night ended on a bad note when he was carted off the field just before the half.
  • Left wondering if Bill Belichick offered any answers as to whom is first in line among Patriots running backs. Sammy Morris got the start, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting in on the second series. Laurence Maroney, who has said he has a lot to prove, was noticeably missing — meaning he was on the sidelines — during the first half. Morris also saw some time in the role of fullback, and was excellent in blitz pickup.
  • It was tough not to notice Patriots WR Brandon Tate, who displayed his speed on two long kickoff returns to start the game (starting with 97 yards for the opening touchdown) and started opposite Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Tate finished with two receptions for 17 yards.
  • It was a short night for Jackson, who rushed for 22 yards on five carries on the Rams’ first drive of the game before calling it a night. The Rams are looking to establish the No. 2 spot behind Jackson, and most of the work went to Kenneth Darby, who had 12 rushes for 33 yards at the half.
  • The Patriots went to — you guessed it — Welker on the first offensive play from scrimmage. Welker had a quiet night after that, save for a 39-yard reception during the second quarter. He played the entire first half with the rest of the starters.
  • Not only is Rams rookie TE Michael Hoomanawanui up for nomination as one of the best names in the NFL, he had himself a game on Thursday night. His stat line reads four catches, 53 yards, two touchdowns and a beautiful one-handed catch.
  • The Rams offensive line looked improved, most noticeably tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold, who held their own.
  • Offensively, the Patriots struggled in all phases until their second-quarter scoring drive. In the three drives before that, the Patriots went three-and-out three times and gained one first down.
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