Here are the players and people that stood out from the New England Patriots 26-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Winner: QB Tom Brady
Mr. Brady didn’t have the prettiest game, but he recorded his 201st career victory. Here’s former Falcons, Jets, and Vikings great Brett Favre taking time away from competing in The Hunger Games to send his congratulations
The record is only for quarterbacks, though. It’s very possible that the overall record is out of reach because the current record holder is still playing, and actually achieved the record this season with zero fanfare.
Adam Vinatieri: 218 career wins— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 5, 2016
Gary Anderson: 214
Jerry Rice: 210
Tom Brady: 201
Peyton Manning: 200
Morten Andersen: 200
Brett Favre: 199
Brady should be able to pass Anderson and Rice next season (or at least in 2018), but Vinatieri is still plugging along. Unless something terrible happens, or the Colts just implode, Vinatieri is going to play long enough to maintain his lead ahead of Brady.
But wouldn’t that be fitting? We could be living in a world where the two players with the most wins in NFL history are Brady and Vinatieri.
Winner: RB LeGarrette Blount
Blount picked up 88 yards and a touchdown against a stingy Rams defense, bringing his season total to 957 yards and 13 touchdowns. Blount needs just 51 rushing yards to set a career high, or 34 total yards to set a career high in yards from scrimmage. He needs two more rushing touchdowns to set a Patriots franchise record.
Oh, and today, December 5th, is his 30th birthday. Happy birthday to a player arguably on pace for a top 5 rushing season in Patriots franchise history.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
The Patriots needed a player to step up on offense with TE Rob Gronkowski out for the year and Edelman answered the call with 101 receiving yards on 8 receptions. This was his first 100+ yard game of the season and he is averaging 93 yards from scrimmage over the past four weeks. It’s clear to say that he’s finally healthy and over his foot injury, just in time for the home stretch.
Winner: WR Malcolm Mitchell
Mitchell has also emerged just in time for the final weeks of the regular season. Mitchell added 82 yards on 8 receptions as Brady and the Patriots tried to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible to negate Rams DT Aaron Donald.
Mitchell now has 317 receiving yards on the year and has averaged 74 receiving yards and a touchdown over the past three weeks without Gronkowski and with Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan limited. Mitchell is going to be a crucial part of the offense over the next few weeks until everyone regains their health.
Loser: WR Danny Amendola
First, hopefully the ankle injury is just a sprain, preferably mild, and he can return in just a few weeks. Without Amendola, the Patriots only have Edelman, Mitchell, and Chris Hogan at wide receiver.
Second, how unfortunate was the circumstance of the injury? Amendola has waited for an opportunity to take the field all season. He’s provided crucial red zone and third down conversions for the offense. Even against the Rams he converted two third downs on his three receptions.
And then some rookie muffs his first catchable punt return of the day and the coaching staff asks Amendola to field punts. Then a Rams gunner rolls up on his ankle, removing him from the game. That’s just sad to see.
(Also, how many lives does Cyrus Jones have in the kicking game? I’ve never seen Bill Belichick give a player so many chances after fumbling the football.)
Winner: OG Joe Thuney
Rams DT Aaron Donald is one of the most disruptive players in the NFL. He had three tackles and one quarterback hit on the day after lining up against rookie left guard Joe Thuney.
Now Thuney wasn’t on an island. He had help from center David Andrews all game. The offense drew up some quick passing plays so Thuney wouldn’t have to hold off Donald for very long. The four other offensive linemen arguably had better days in a vacuum.
But Thuney did it. He limited the Rams best player all day and he deserves praise.
Winner: ED Jabaal Sheard
4 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, and 3 passes defended, including the tipped that was intercepted by Kyle Van Noy. Sheard might not have the same starting role as he had earlier this year, but he made an emphatic case for more time this week.
In fact, Sheard, Chris Long, and Rob Ninkovich all made strong cases for playing time, while Trey Flowers continued to play at a good level. Maybe it was the level of competition, but the Patriots edge players excelled.
Winners: LB duo Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy
And so did the linebackers. McClellin led the Patriots with 6 tackles and added a 7-yard sack. He’s been playing at a solid level next to Dont’a Hightower on running downs. Kyle Van Noy ranked third on the team with 4 tackles and added an interception, and had a special teams tackle.
More importantly, Van Noy played with an energy and excitement that the defense hasn’t had in a while. He and McClellin are forming a solid linebacker depth chart behind Hightower and they’ve put together a few straight strong performances.
Winner: CB Malcolm Butler for the first 58 minutes
Over the first 58 minutes of the game, Butler allowed just 2 receptions on 6 targets for 12 yards, with two pass break-ups and an interception. Rams #1 receiver Kenny Britt had zero yards on 4 targets through the first 58 minutes and Butler was a major reason why...
Loser: CB Malcolm Butler after the final 2-minute warning
...but then the final two minutes of the game were a disaster by the Patriots defense. Britt turned Butler around on a 4th and 11 and picked up a huge 66 yard gain. Butler thought Britt was running a simple out route at the sticks, so Britt faked the out and just ran straight down the field before being tackled at the 1-yard line.
You can be certain head coach Bill Belichick will be harping on playing a full 60-minutes in meetings this week.
Winner: DC Matt Patricia
Give credit where it’s due, Patricia called an excellent game. The Rams had 25 total yards in the first half. Twenty-five!! That doesn’t happen without a great game plan and fantastic execution. The Rams first half included four three-and-outs, an interception, and a kneel-down to end the half.
The Rams offense generated just 72 yards until their final drive. They had just 5 first downs until their final drive. Their only score before the final drive was a field goal where the Rams offense started at midfield and only needed a couple first downs to get in scoring range.
And the breakdown on the last drive wasn’t Patricia’s fault, it was poor execution by Malcolm Butler.
Patricia dialed up the pressure and he didn’t let the rookie quarterback get comfortable in the pocket to find easy zones. Let’s see if Patricia can continue to call a great game for the rest of the year.
Winner: K Stephen Gostkowski
Did Gostkowski get his groove back? When the Patriots went for it on 4th and 1 from the 34 yard line (what would be a 51-yard field goal attempt), I thought it might be an indication of the Patriots confidence in Gostkowski. I was wrong.
Gostkowski connected on all six of his kicks, including a pair of 45-yarders and a 48-yarder. He was also excellent on kickoffs. Maybe the entire Patriots team is hitting their stride at the same time.
Losers: Rams fans
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher extension just signed a 2-year extension. Here’s a list of some coaches that have posted a winning record more recently than Fisher (2008, 13-3 with the Titans).
2009: AZ Ken Whisenhunt, MIN Brad Childress
2010: KC Todd Haley, TB Raheem Morris, NYJ Rex Ryan
2011: DET Jim Schwartz
2012: CHI Lovie Smith, MIN Leslie Frazier
Since 2008, Fisher has gone 8-8, 6-10, 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9, and is now 4-8. How the heck does he have a job?