October 30, 2012

NFL: Pats back home after rout over Rams

BY HOWARD ULMAN AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The toughest part of New England's trip to Old England might have been getting home, and even that journey wasn't as rough as feared.

click image to enlarge

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks across the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium, in London, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

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The Patriots beat the brunt of Hurricane Sandy into Boston on Monday one day after routing the St. Louis Rams 45-7 in London. They landed at Logan Airport at about noon, having moved up their departure before the heaviest rain and wind struck the area.

"I can't believe we got on that bird," linebacker Brandon Spikes tweeted.

They did and returned safely, and in first place in the AFC East, with the best offense in the NFL.

"We knew how important this was to us," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said of the win. "Going into the bye week at 5-3 and winning two key games to get us going, we are right where we want to be."

The Patriots had a good time in London, some of it centered around Rob Gronkowski.

At a fan event in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, the fun-loving tight end spiked a microphone at the urging of a voice in the crowd. On Sunday, he imitated the stiff-legged walk to mimic a local tourist attraction -- "a British palace guard," he said -- after one of his two touchdowns, then spiked the ball on the Wembley Stadium grass.

All nice memories for the Patriots as they head into their bye week.

Then they'll prepare to play another team they crushed away from home, the Buffalo Bills. That was a 52-28 win in the fourth game of the season in which they scored touchdowns on six straight second-half drives.

On Sunday, the Patriots scored on their first six drives -- five touchdowns followed by a field goal.

They also dealt another blow to St. Louis, breaking its NFL record with their 17th consecutive game with at least 350 yards on offense. The Rams set that from 1999-2000. The next season, the Patriots beat St. Louis 20-17 for the first of their three Super Bowl championships.

If they match their league-leading 447.5 yards per game for the rest of the season, they'll overtake the Rams again, this time for second most yards in a season with 7,160. Only the New Orleans Saints, with 7,474 last year, gained more.

New England rolled over St. Louis even though tight end Aaron Hernandez missed the game when his right ankle injury flared up after playing the last two games following three games on the sidelines.

The defense was pretty good, too, much better than in its previous two games -- a 24-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and a 29-26 overtime win over the New York Jets.

It allowed another big play in a rash of them this season -- a 50-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to Chris Givens on the game's first series, covering 80 yards.

"I think early in the season, that kills us, giving up a big play. Then we (would) put our heads down, give up another one," safety Devin McCourty said. "I thought we did a good job (Sunday) of putting that play past us, then playing great defense after that."

The Patriots held the Rams to no points and 246 yards the rest of the way as they avoided late-game problems that have plagued them.

"Everybody stuck together," Wilfork said. "It feels good finally to put one game together as a team, doing a lot of things correctly, just playing good football all the way around. It is just a stepping stone. Guys can see that when we play together, and don't hurt ourselves, we can be a dangerous football team."

(Continued on page 2)

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