Patriots put forth complete effort in 45-7 rout of Rams


Patriots put forth complete effort in 45-7 rout of Rams

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.

Talking points: Patrice Bergeron is best player on ice in Bruins' win


Talking points: Patrice Bergeron is best player on ice in Bruins' win

Here are the talking points from the Boston Bruins' 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars where Patrice Bergeron scored two goals.

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.