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Patriots vs. Rams: Drawing Up a Game Plan for New England

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Patriots vs. Rams: Drawing Up a Game Plan for New England
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The New England Patriots are making the Transatlantic flight to the United Kingdom and are hoping that the St. Louis Rams won't make a Transatlantic flight against their secondary. 

That is just one of the major keys to Sunday's game, as it has been for the Patriots this season already: the big play.

Can the Patriots stop anyone from picking up big plays against their secondary? That's one of the questions that will be in focus in this week's matchup against a Rams offense that hasn't created many explosive plays in the passing game, but certainly has the potential to do so with some speedy wide receivers on their roster.

But while eliminating the big plays will help, there's obviously much more that goes into it than just that.

Here are some measures New England can take to make sure it comes back to the United States with a winning record instead of sitting at .500 for what would be the fourth time this season.

 

Expose the Blitz

Over the past two weeks, the once-stout Rams defense has given up completions on 51-of-66 passes (77.28 percent) for 527 and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

Their numbers in that time have been even worse when blitzing, according to ProFootballFocus.com, giving up completions on 20-of-24 pass attempts for 185 yards and two touchdowns while generating three sacks with the blitz.

As seen in the video above, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill easily diagnoses a pair of blitzes and is able to get a touchdown, nearly two, as a result.

There will clearly be opportunities for the Patriots to do some damage against the Rams blitz. They didn't blitz often to start the season, but have sent extra rushers after the quarterback on at least 30 percent of drop-backs in five consecutive games.

As statistically stellar as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been this year, he's been even better against the blitz.

The Rams may be inclined to scale it back a bit with the blitzing this week, but when they do blitz, Brady's mastery of finding the open receiver and getting the ball to his hot read on a blitz could be a deadly weapon.

 

Force the Rams to Sustain Drives

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

"Bend-don't-break" has broken. It's a weekly ritual where we wonder whether another low-octane offense can look like the high-flying 2007 Patriots against the 2012 version of their defense.

New England has given up 39 pass plays of 20 yards or more, which leads the NFL. What that stat doesn't tell you, however, is that the Patriots have given up 12 to the Seahawks and Jets in the past two weeks alone, and that neither of those offenses had much success with the deep ball prior to running into the Patriots.

Well, the Patriots are gearing up for yet another opponent that struggles to create big plays in the passing game, as the Rams have just 17 pass plays of 20 yards or more on the season, which is tied for 24th in the league through Week 7.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has already praised Rams wide receiver Chris Givens for his exceptional top-end speed, and his four receptions of 40 or more yards are indicative of just that.

But this is about more than just putting a stop to the big plays; it's about forcing the Rams to do what they've struggled to do all season, which is to sustain drives that result in touchdowns. Football Outsiders' drive statistics point out that the Rams rank in the bottom 10 in the league in yards per drive, points per drive, touchdowns per drive, average line of scrimmage and drive success rate.

The only area where the Rams do well, which could actually give the Patriots some problems, is with their ball security. They only turn it over on 11.1 percent of their drives, and as we know, the Patriots live and die by the turnover.

But not all hope is lost for New England to get stops on the Rams.

As Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe points out:

...nearly all of those big completions (pass plays of 20 or more yards) have come during scoring drives, 31 of the 38, leading to 18 touchdowns and five field goals. That’s 141 of the 163 points the Patriots have allowed thus far this season.

Not only have the Rams struggled to sustain drives, but New England's penchant for giving up big plays has resulted directly in its inability to keep opponents off the scoreboard. If it can just limit the big plays, it substantially increases its chances of winning on Sunday.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.

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