There may be better ways to head into a bye week . . . but, boy, it's hard to think of any.
The Patriots offense hummed along as usual, or maybe even a little better; Tom Brady directed scoring drives (five straight touchdowns, and then a field goal) on each of the Pats' first six possessions. But you've come to expect that, or at least something like it.
Here's what you didn't expect: The Patriots defense, after surrendering its obligatory 50-yard touchdown pass on the game's first drive, clamped down on St. Louis in its best effort since Opening Day at Tennessee. New England held the explosive Steven Jackson to a mere 23 yards rushing, took away the deep ball (the touchdown notwithstanding), and -- straight from the who'da-thunk-it? department -- held the Rams to 4-of-13 on third- and fourth-down opportunities.
The resulting 45-7 victory on a rainy evening at Wembley Stadium in London -- so one-sided that Ryan Mallett even got fourth-quarter playing time in relief of Brady, his first-ever NFL action -- sends the Pats into the bye week at 5-3, the same record they had after eight games last year. The 2011 Patriots, of course, wouldn't lose again until the Super Bowl. And the notion that the 2012 version can run off 10 (or 11) straight wins, unthinkable prior to today, may still be unlikely but . . . well, maybe just not so unthinkable anymore.
"It feels good to finally put one game together as a team," said Vince Wilfork. "Doing a lot of things correctly, just playing good football all the way around . . . Guys can see that when we play together, and don't hurt ourselves, we can be a dangerous football team."
Brady directed the Pats to 474 total yards, their record-breaking 17th straight game of 350 or more yards. It was highlighted by touchdown drives of 78, 83, 78, 56, 80 and 55 yards, not to mention:
A pair of touchdown passes from Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski, who a) caught 8 balls overall for 146 yards and b) came up with a pair of highlight-reel spikes after his two scores, one of which was an uncanny imitation of the Queen's guards.
A 127-yard rushing effort from Stevan Ridley, including a career-long 41-yard run.
Two TD receptions by Brandon Lloyd, on his only two catches of the day.
On the defensive side, the Pats got sacks from Chandler Jones and -- who else? -- Rob Ninkovich, and interceptions from Alonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson. Ninkovich even had another fumble recovery, but it was wiped out by a penalty.
"We had a real good day today," acknowledged coach Bill Belichick.
That they did.