Poor play of Pats’ defense bigger surprise than Sam Bradford

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his team play against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter of their NFL preseason football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts August 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

I haven’t done a Google search yet, but I can only imagine how many, “Should Sam Bradford start Week 1?” topics are floating around the web after the rookie’s performance in the Rams’ 36-35 win over the Patriots in Foxboro last night.

The third preseason game is when starters usually play an entire half and maybe even some of the third quarter. So for Bradford to look as poised and as comfortable as he did completing 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns against New England’s starting defense was impressive. Whether or not he gets the opportunity to start as a rookie is a hot topic right now – as it should be.

But the biggest takeaway for me last night wasn’t the play of Bradford, but how poor the Patriots’ first-team defense looked.

Yes, as previously noted, Bradford was outstanding. He completely picked apart New England’s defense at times, finding holes in the Pats’ soft zone to move the ball up and down the field. The Rams’ offense also capitalized when they reached the Patriots’ side of the field, amassing 17 unanswered points at one point.

It has become common knowledge that the Patriots don’t have much of a pass rush, but after watching the game last night the problem might be bigger than anyone thought. On most occasions, the Pats seemingly could only generate pressure by overloading one side of the field and blitzing. They usually sent a safety too, which is a nice wrinkle to throw at a quarterback on some occasions but teams shouldn’t get in the habit of doing it because it obviously leaves one less guy in coverage.

There isn’t a coach in the league that comes up with better defensive schemes than Bill Belichick. But even he admitted last night that he has to go back to the drawing board. Individually, guys like Jerod Mayo, Ron Brace, Brandon Meriweather, Brandon Spikes and Pat Chung shined in some areas, but the defense was brutal as a whole.

Belichick has two weeks to figure things out before the games start to count.

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