The fireworks started early when Brandon Tate ran the opening St. Louis kickoff 97 yards back for a touchdown. After that, it should have been a breeze for the Patriots offense.
But somebody forgot to tell the defense that there was a game to play, too.
While Tom Brady was composing an offensive symphony to rival Beethoven and Tarkenton, Vince Wilfork, Gerald Warren and Leigh Bodden, among others, kept hitting the snooze button. The Rams recorded 26 first downs -- 18 of them through the air against the Patriots defense that has been the team's bright spot of late, converting 67 percent of their 3rd- and 4th-down chances.
The Rams finished the game with 462 total offensive yards, 189 of them complements of Bradford, who went 15-for-22 with two touchdowns. SB Nation blog Pats Pulpit further details the struggles of the Patriots' defense, which weren't aided by the home team's inability to generate any kind of rushing attack.
With presumed opening day starter Laurence Maroney manning the pine all game, a trio of BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk combined to rush for 28 yards on 11 carries -- a far cry from last week's performance where Morris and Fred Taylor each recorded over 50 yards and a touchdown.
As has been the case since the breakout 2007 season, the Patriots offense was supposed to be the featured entity in the game, and they didn't disappoint. Brady went 18-for-22 for 273 yards and three touchdowns, commanding a drive late in the second quarter that featured three separate highlight-reel plays:
The first was a 39 yard post play that was thrown on a rope to Wes Welker. The second play started with the pocket collapsing on Tom Brady. Brady fell to the ground, only to realize that he actually had time to throw. So Brady got up, delivered a rope to the sidelines that was caught byAlge Crumpler, who had to dive, drag both feet, and maintain possession of the ball to make the catch. The third highlight reel play came shortly after. Tom Brady found rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski crossing over the middle. Gronkowski had linebacker James Laurinaitis draped on his ankles, yet Gronkowski kept driving his legs, and literally jumping his way six yards into the end zone.
The brilliance wasn't just Brady but how the Pats' aerial attack utilized its tools; seven Patriots had catches, six of them had multiple catches, and almost everyone displayed a flair for the dramatic.
But in a game where the offense showed what it's capable of, the running game never materialized against what was last year's 27th-ranked rush defense. The Patriots fell victim to the same plague that was their undoing last year: an inability to run the ball with a lead kept the defense on the field far too long, and in the end, they didn't have enough in the tank to hold on.