Not a whole lot of positives to take from tonight. Tom Brady’s numbers (18-of-22, 273 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) were outstanding, but largely compiled after many of the Rams starters were out, and neither the offense nor the defense inspired much confidence before the break. Here’s our look at who’s up and down …
WR Sam Aiken: Made a tackle of special teams, was on the first punt and punt return units, and led the club with four catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. Overall, as he battles for a roster spot at crowded position, Aiken’s not going down without a fight.
TE Rob Gronkowski: He followed up another strong week of practice with a big game, dragging Rams MLB James Laurinaitis into the end zone for the offense’s first touchdown, hitting for 32 yards down the seam in the third quarter, and then scoring a 20-yard touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter. It seems like he and Brady are building a strong rapport, and Gronkowski appears to at least one elixir for the team’s old red-zone woes.
WR Brandon Tate: Showed burst and vision — even though he didn’t need to shake anyone on a perfectly-blocked return — on a 97-yard runback of the opening kickoff, then followed it up with a 43-yard return. Tate also was responsible for the Patriots only first down of the first quarter-and-a-half, pulling in a 10-yard catch.
OLB Tully Banta-Cain: The pass rush was anemic, against a patchwork line, so Banta-Cain has to assume some blame for that. And the outside linebacker also drew roughing-the-passer and offsides penalties.
CB Darius Butler: The second-year corner whiffed badly in the open field to give Brandon Gibson passage for a 20-yard touchdown. One reason that drive made it that far was because an illegal contact penalty Butler committed on a third-and-9 extended the possession. To Butler’s credit, he’s admitting his faults.
CB Devin McCourty: The rookie had a real rough night, getting beat early for a 32-yard catch by Donnie Avery, and toasted right before the half by Laurent Robinson (a bad Sam Bradford throw prevented a 27-yard touchdown).