LA-NE grades: Malcolm Butler, Tom Brady impress in win over Rams
New England Patriots 26, Los Angeles Rams 10
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the New England Patriots’ 26-10 Week 13 victory over the Los Angeles Rams:
Quarterback grade: Jared Goff, 40.5
Foxborough debut far from a success
By the conclusion of the early Sunday games, only Dallas QB Dak Prescott and Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers had eclipsed Rams QB Jared Goff’s average time to throw of 2.86 seconds. The two issues with these averages are that, first, the other two quarterbacks currently rank within the top-eight at the position on the season in scramble attempts—which should be attributed to them utilizing their unique athleticism to extend plays—whereas Goff has scrambled after dropping back to pass twice in 105 dropbacks. The second issue arising from the average timings is that Goff would have seen an increase to his passer rating on the 15 dropbacks when he was in the pocket for less than 2.5 seconds (34.3) if he would have simply spiked the football (39.6).
For the sake of accounting, four of the 30 passing attempts by Goff were dropped, but three were deflected by New England defenders, and two were intercepted. Goff excelled passing to the outside, right of the numbers (7-for-13, 111 yards, one touchdown), but the wheels emphatically fell off between and to the left of the numbers (4-for-15, 33 yards, two interceptions). The reoccurring pattern during Goff’s very brief stint as the starting quarterback has been his inability to find success when under pressure. In Week 13, Goff completed 4-of-17 attempts for 16 yards, threw one interception, and woefully equated to a 15.1 passer rating. Better days are ahead as the first-overall selection from the 2016 draft develops trust in his offensive line and comfort in the face of pressure.
Top offensive grades:
OT Greg Robinson, 79.2
WR Brian Quick, 71.7
G Cody Wichmann, 68.0
RB Todd Gurley, 67.3
OT Rob Havenstein, 57.8
Offensive gameplan a complete disaster
The Rams’ offense held the ball for 8 minutes and 9 seconds by the end of the first half, accounting for 25 yards of offense, and one first down. The offense then succeeded in leading the time of possession battle in the third quarter, collecting three first downs, but the quarter would also end with Los Angeles failing to convert a single third down on eight attempts through three quarters. The passing woes were highlighted above and, in addition, the ground game generated an average of 2.8 yards per attempt and an embarrassing 0.31 yards before contact per attempt.
Top defensive grades:
CB Trumaine Johnson, 79.5
SCB Lamarcus Joyner, 79.4
DI Aaron Donald, 76.7
SS T.J. McDonald, 72.2
LB Mark Barron, 71.6
Defense forced to contend with a hand tied behind their backs
Not only was the Rams’ defense facing the difficult challenge of working against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, they were also doing so without anything resembling an offense. The Patriots utilized a dink-and-dunk passing strategy, with 30-of-43 attempts targeted at less than 10 yards. It should come as no surprise, then, that Patriots QB Tom Brady ended the game leading all quarterbacks who had played up to that point in Week 13 with both a 2.09 average time to throw. The result left the amazing abilities of DI Aaron Donald mostly negated, with zero time with which to work and earning his lowest grade of the season. Three of the top-five defensive grades for the Rams came from the secondary, qualified by tackling receivers on underneath throws, and cleaning up running plays.
Quarterback grade: Tom Brady, 80.3
Brady plays game-managing role
As has already been described, the Patriots attacked the Rams’ defense with underneath routes and screens to a fault. The New England defense stymied all efforts from the Los Angeles coaching staff to prove they had, in fact, traveled with an offense to Gillette Stadium—outside of the final drive, garbage time busted coverage on WR Kenny Britt—and resulted in the offense designing plays to run out the clock. The resulting victory enabled Patriots QB Tom Brady to take a backseat role and additional time for the knee injury he acquired in Week 11 against San Francisco to continue to mend.
Top offensive grades:
RG Shaquille Mason, 81.8
RT Marcus Cannon, 80.8
LT Nate Solder, 79.4
WR Julian Edelman, 79.3
C David Andrews, 78.3
Quasi-breakout for rookie receiver
TE Martellus Bennett (37.1) flopped in his replacement of the recently-injured Rob Gronkowski, catching two-of-four targets for 4 yards, and posting a team-low run blocking grade (32.0). Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (71.7) from Georgia opened some eyes in response to a heavy workload, catching 8-of-10 targets for 82 yards, most of which was collected within the coverage of rookie CB Michael Jordan (49.5) out of Missouri Western State, who played the first 53 snaps of his NFL career.
Top defensive grades:
CB Malcolm Butler, 88.6
SLB Kyle Van Noy, 82.9
FS Devin McCourty, 80.1
ED Trey Flowers, 78.9
CB Logan Ryan, 76.6
Shutdown defense trucks through Rams
Even accounting for the busted coverage on Rams WR Kenny Britt on a 66-yard go-route to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass, CB Malcolm Butler played an excellent ballgame. During his other 50 snaps on the field, Butler would limit his coverage responsibilities to securing two-of-six targets, 12 yards, deflecting one pass, and intercepting another. SAM linebacker Kyle Van Noy recorded a hit on the quarterback, three tackles, two stops, and an interception, while edge defender Chris Long accounted for four pressures, one hit, and a sack. The defense, as a whole, dominantly limited the Rams to 197 yards and 4.4 yards per play.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Malcolm Butler, CB, Patriots
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