The Rams may be 3-4 and at the start of rebuilding phase under former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, but don’t expect the Patriots to take them lightly in London.
After all, the Rams beat two teams — the Seahawks and the Cardinals — that the Patriots could not, and three of their four losses have come by 4 points or fewer. Included was the Rams putting up 476 yards in a 3-point loss to the Dolphins, who have a solid defense.
The Rams ran well (22 carries for 108 yards) and stopped the run (2.7 yards per attempt) in their 30-20 loss on Sunday to the Packers. That’s normally a recipe for success. Unless you’re facing a red-hot Aaron Rodgers.
Tom Brady will need a similar performance if the Patriots are going to enjoy the long plane ride back Monday morning.
A look at the Rams:
Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is no stranger to the Patriots after coordinating the Jets the previous six seasons, and he’s running similar schemes with multiple tight ends and will use a fullback. Quarterback Sam Bradford (59.8 completion percentage) is a good player with a strong arm, but he’s playing behind one of the least talented lines in the league, and his receiving corps is poor now that Danny Amendola is out with a shoulder injury. Bradford’s accuracy has taken a step back, probably because he’s now on his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons. It will be interesting to see if he suddenly finds his groove against the Patriots, like everyone else has. Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau should get combat pay for what he’s done with this unit, which features former Falcons right guard Harvey Dahl and center Rob Turner, who was a backup for the Jets. The Rams made wholesale changes on the left side of the line against the Packers with tackle Joe Barksdale and guard Shelley Smith. Both journeyman surprisingly kept Clay Matthews at bay. Right tackle Barry Richardson wasn’t wanted with the Chiefs after starting for two seasons, and he’s probably the weakest link. The Rams have a nice combo at running back with Steven Jackson rounding back into form, and rookie Daryl Richardson bringing a boost of quickness. The Patriots likely will make shutting them down their first job. The receivers: rookie Chris Givens (4.39 speed), Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Austin Pettis, and rookie Brian Quick are inconsistent, but can surprise. The Rams like to use double moves and threaten the deep part of the field, and change the pace with bubble screens. Maine native Matthew Mulligan is a solid blocker, and Lance Kendricks plays the Aaron Hernandez role.
With Gregg Williams suspended because of the Saints bounty scandal, Fisher is using former coordinators Chuck Cecil and Dave McGinnis to work with Blake Williams, Gregg’s son. They tried to play press man against the Packers — they’ll likely try the same against the Patriots — but had to bail out of it because of the Packers’ quickness and Rodgers’s quick release. The defensive line is ascending and will be a handful with ends Robert Quinn (seven sacks, 20 total quarterback pressures) and Chris Long (four sacks, 34 pressures). The Packers chipped them a lot with the backs. Former Dolphin Kendall Langford and first-round pick Michael Brockers are physical at tackle. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is terrific and will always be around the ball. Weakside backer Jo-Lonn Dunbar is barely over 6 feet, but he’ll stick his nose in if he’s not picked up. Rocky McIntosh can still play. The Rams are much-improved at cornerback with free agent Cortland Finnegan, and rookie Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins guesses a lot on the left side and Finnegan has a tough time in the slot but is physical. So is nickel back Bradley Fletcher. At safety, former Eagle Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl both struggle in space. They will be physical in the run game.
Rookie Greg Zuerlein has a huge leg and was 2 for 2 against the Packers after missing three vs. Miami. Rookie punter Johnny Hekker is averaging 49.0 yards. The Rams rank 25th and 23d in punt and kickoff returns, respectively.Greg A. Bedard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard.