October 29, 2012

NFL: Pats put on show in London

LONDON (AP) -- The Patriots showed that old England is their domain as well.

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TAKE THAT: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, center, celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams during the first half Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London.

AP photo

After the Patriots gave up an early 50-yard scoring play, Tom Brady responded by leading five straight touchdown drives Sunday and New England (5-3) ran over the St. Louis Rams 45-7 in the NFL's annual regular-season game at Wembley Stadium.

"I hope they enjoyed the game today, all the fans," Brady said, "I know it got out of hand there, but that's how the Patriots like it. So it was a fun game for us."

Yes, for one night at least, the Pats -- Expats on this occasion-- were back to blowing away opponents. According to Brady, though, there's still plenty of room for improvement.

"We've got a long way to go. ... We certainly haven't played our best football yet," he said. "Coach says the season doesn't start until after Thanksgiving, and it isn't even Halloween yet."

This offense is looking quite scary, though.

New England had at least 350 yards of total offense for the 17th straight game, breaking an NFL record set by the Rams in 1999-2000, back when Kurt Warner was leading "The Greatest Show on Turf."

This was arguably the greatest show put on by a team in London since the NFL started staging regular-season games here in 2007 -- or at least the most dominating. New England gave the British crowd a first-hand look at the league's top-ranked offense.

Brady led four straight touchdown drives for a commanding 28-7 lead by halftime, and then hit Brandon Lloyd for a 9-yard score to start the third quarter.

Brady passed for 304 yards with four touchdowns and tight end Rob Gronkowski caught eight passes for 146 yards and two scores. Lloyd also had two touchdown catches, while Stevan Ridley ran for 127 yards and a score as the Patriots put themselves atop the AFC East heading into their off week.

The Rams (3-5), who also will be off, are last in the NFC West after losing two in a row.

The Rams struck first when Sam Bradford hit Chris Givens with a 50-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game -- exactly the kind of statement the team hoped to make to ruffle the favored Patriots.

But St. Louis, which arrived in London on Tuesday, three days before the Patriots, to get better adjusted to the time difference, was the team that looked jetlagged the rest of the way.

"You can't ask for a better start to the game. First time we touched the ball we go down and score," Bradford said. "It just all fell apart from there."

After the Rams took the lead, Brady led a 78-yard drive to tie the score with a 19-yard pass to Lloyd. On their next drive, coach Bill Belichick opted to go for it on fourth down at the 1-yard line, and Shane Vereen broke into the end zone.

It was the only fourth down the Rams forced until the middle of the third quarter, when the Patriots had to settle for a 26-yard field goal to make it 38-7.

In between, Brady hit Gronkowski on a 7-yard touchdown pass and Ridley had another 1-yard run into the end zone 10 seconds before halftime.

Gronkowski celebrated both his touchdowns with theatrical spikes to fire up the crowd, doing a high-stepping strut before the first one to mimic a local tourist attraction. That led to questions about what the move was called, a Changing of the Gronk, a FrankenGronk, or what?

"That was a 'Palace Guard,"' the tight end joked.

Even Brady was a bit perplexed.

(Continued on page 2)

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