The New England Patriots moved to 5-2 on the season with a 23-16 win over the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams were playing without 60 percent of their offense with Steven Jackson inactive while New England was in week one of getting used to life without Rodney Harrison in its defensive backfield. The Rams never really adjusted while the Patriots defense did.
Particularly in the second half, New England rushed Marc Bulger into incompletes while Matt Cassel continued to improve. Cassel had a couple tough luck interceptions but overall, he had one of his best game in terms of moving the ball, finishing 21 of 33 passing for 267 yards and a touchdown.
The ever reliable Kevin Faulk was key to the win as both Sammy Morris and Lamont Jordan were inactive. Faulk chipped in with 60 yards rushing on 13 carries, 4 catches for 47 yards and a game-winning touchdown grab.
]()Randy Moss had yet another 100-yard performance with 7 receptions for 102 yards.
The Rams opened the game by driving down to the Patriots 9-yard line but after three cracks from there, including a nice tackle by Ellis Hobbs for a 2-yard loss on a Pittman run, St. Louis settled for a 20-yard field goal.
New England saw the Rams hand and raised them four points with an opening possession touchdown drive. Cassel was 4 of 5 for 48 yards, spreading the ball around underneath and converting two third downs with completions to Wes Welker. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the ball carrier from 2 yards out for the score.
The Rams got the ball back along with the lead. Five plays into his next series, Bulger looked deep to Donnie Avery for 69 yards and a touchdown. Hobbs and James Sanders were in coverage and neither had a good play on the ball. The touchdown came just as play moved into the second quarter and already Avery had four catches for 113 yards.
Later in the quarter, the Rams Jacob Bell got flagged for holding and Adalius Thomas sacked Bulger for a loss of 13 followed by Richard Seymour doing the same 2 yards back to end a St. Louis drive. New England got the ball back at the 20 and looked to score at least once more before the half.
With catches by Moss for 16 and Faulk with an 18-yard catch and run, Cassel managed his team to the Rams 12 but stalled there. Stephen Gostkowski was good on a 30-yard field goal attempt to tie the game at 10 with 1:49 left in the quarter.
New England had yet another shot before time ran out. A second Thomas sack for 13 yards forced the Rams to punt from their 6-yard line with 40 seconds left to play.
On the punt, St. Louis was flagged for an ineligible man downfield after Welker returned the kick to midfield. The Patriots opted to make the Rams re-kick instead of having the ball at midfield with 29 seconds. After the second punt, New England netted four yards but lost 10 seconds off the clock. With 19 seconds to play, Cassel immediately hit Moss as he crossed the field and Moss sprinted for 30 yards to the 16 and out of bounds. Next it was Faulk for a 7-yard catch. Now on the 9, Cassel had 6 seconds to work with. Risking losing a chance to kick a field goal, Cassel put up a fade to Moss which went incomplete out of bounds just as the clock hit one second left. With Gostkowski's chance intact, he hit on his 27-yarder to give New England a 13-10 lead and the ball going into the third quarter.
The Rams did their best to turn the Patriots possession advantage around by attempting an onsides kick to begin the second half. The ploy was successful with Travis Minor recovering at the St. Louis 41 but the drive went three and out and New England got the ball back at its 10 after the punt.
]()Things were looking good for Cassel after converting a third and 9 with a 19-yard pass to Welker. After Faulk carried for 4 yards, Cassel looked to Moss but the pass bounced off Moss and OJ Atogwe came up with the interception, returning it to the Patriots 43.
Despite Torry Holt's two catches for 8 and 11 yards, the Patriots defense held the Rams at the 26 yard line and Josh Brown was good on a 44-yard field goal to tie the game at 13.
Again, Cassel was beginning to move his team on his next series. But after completing a 30 yard pass to Welker, he looked to No. 83 again. This time Welker fell down with Fakhir Brown trailing him by a step and Fakhir came up with Cassel's second pick at the Rams 42.
St. Louis couldn't capitalize on New England's second turnover but the Patriots weren't moving the ball either. After stopping St. Louis and getting the ball back, New England turned it over on downs after trying Green-Ellis on fourth and 1 from the Rams 36. Green-Ellis got tripped up in the backfield and St. Louis had the ball for the fourth time in the half as the third quarter neared its end.
Bulger opened the drive looking deep to his top target of the day, Avery, and connected for 44 yards to the New England 20 with Hobbs in coverage. Bulger later picked up another first down with a 7-yard pass to Antonio Pittman but inside the 10 the Patriots red zone defense stopped the Rams and the damage was limited to three to make it 16-13, Rams with 12:25 left in the game.
At the 8:22 mark, New England tied the game at 16 with a 41-yard field goal. The scoring drive began at the New England 48. Faulk started things out with a 14-yard run and then Cassel hit Moss over the middle for 12 yards. On first and 10 from the 26, Cassel went for it all and lofted a perfect pass over Moss' shoulder in the end zone. Moss, however, couldn't come up with the ball and the touchdown, and New England eventually settled for the three points.
Throughout the day, the Patriots defense showed good pressure on Bulger and Ty Warren continued that on the Rams next possession. His 5-yard sack on first down put the Rams in a hole they couldn't dig themselves out of and St. Louis punted back at its 15-yard line.
Despite getting sacked for an 8-yard loss on first down himself, Cassel looked undaunted in hitting Moss for 23 yards on the next play. He mixed Moss catches with Faulk runs until the 15-yard line when he went pass to Faulk, a little fade in the end zone that Faulk made a nice adjustment for to grab before he went out of bounds.
With 3:13 left to play and up 23-16, New England needed a defensive stop. At third and 10 from the Rams 37, it looked like New England had that stop. Bulger's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and deflected downfield. Sanders went up for it and should have had the interception but he got hit, couldn't get control and the ball went right into the hands of Dante Hall for a 13-yard gain and a first down at midfield.
A 19-yard completion to Hall moved the line of scrimmage to the 33. From there, though, the Patriots started sending the heat. Despite not sacking Bulger, Seymour and the rest of the line were making him hurry and may have forced a false start on Richie Incognito to bring up third and 15 from the 38. That's when Bulger looked Keenan Burton with lots of Patriots ready for the play. Deltha O'Neal was the most ready and his interception and return of 47 yards to the Rams 37 sealed the win for New England.