It was the game Patriots fans were hoping for all year - a start to finish victory in which the Patriots won all three phases. With the win, the Patriots advance to 5-3 at the midway point of the 2012 season, and maintain a half-game lead over the Dolphins in the AFC East.
On offense, the Patriots were unstoppable from the get-go - striking immediately after the defense allowed a 50 yard Sam Bradford to Chris Givens touchdown on the opening drive. Tom Brady had a terrific game, completing 23 of 35 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns. There were questions all week about how the offensive line, without Logan Mankins, could hold up against St. Louis' young and dynamic front four - and they held up very well. Brady wasn't sacked once, and was only hit a couple of times total.
Brady's favorite target on offense was tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski picked up 146 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches - easily his best game of the year. The Patriots also received solid contributions from Stevan Ridley, who gained 127 yards and a touchdown on fifteen carries. Ridley ripped off huge chunks of yardage throughout the game, including a 41 yard carry that set up a field goal in the third quarter.
Defensively, the Patriots didn't allow a point after the opening drive. The Rams did connect on that one deep pass - but the Patriots played it safe the rest of the way, and Bradford didn't have a chance to take many shots down the field. The Patriots conservative approach were also a reason that Bradford had suc a high completion percentage (23/31). Overall, there weren't any stellar performances on defense (aside from the defensive ends - Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich), but it was a solid team performance and something to build on.
The Patriots still have some things to work on heading into the bye week, and will definitely benefit from the extra week off to get healthy. Today, we saw exactly how good this Patriots team can be. The question now, can the carry the momentum from today into a more consistent second half of the season?
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Chat Update: Per requests from readers, we'll hold the chat at 7:00 PM ET on Tuesday instead.