By Mary Paoletti, Tom E. Curran and Danny Picard
Preseason game No. 3 is in the books and everyone knows the score: Rams 36, Patriots 35.
Hows about some some bottom-line game notes that won't show up on the stat sheets?
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAY/WORST COVERAGE: Brandon Tate returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a 12-second touchdown run. For a writer who was supposed to be documenting Brady drives, Tate totally blew up that effort.
BEST SECOND UNIT D: Cornerback Terrence Wheatley and safety Brandon McGowan weren't playing with New England's top defensive unit on Thursday night against the Rams, but they didn't sit back and cry about it. Instead, the two defensive backs fighting for roster spots made big plays in the second half that helped the Patriots take their first lead since Brandon Tate's 97-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff. Those plays included a Wheatley tackle that forced a crucial punt in the third quarter, and a McGowan interception in the fourth. Both plays led to Patriots touchdowns.
BEST SHOW OF IMMATURITY: There's no cheering in the press box but apparently there's giggling. When Bradford capped off a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive with a five yard TD pass to a Rams tight end, tittering rippled through the box the first time the announcer said "Michael Hoomanawanui." And they (we) did it again the second time he said it too. And the third. (Still counting.) Hilarity dropped off about the time when Hoo-si-watsi caught his second touchdown pass.
WORST IDEA WITH THE BEST RESULT: On a first quarter fourth-and-1 the Patriots shied away from the aggressive move and instead opted for a punt. The result? A fantastic boom by Zoltan Mesko. The Pats pinned it, eventually, on the 4.
BEST GRAB: And here's Hoomanawanui yet again. On a St. Louis first-and-10 quarterback Sam Bradford targeted the tight end in traffic who pulled the ball in with one hand. Pass complete; 13 yards.
BEST END: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski finished the game with two touchdowns on three receptions for 66 yards. His most impressive touchdown came in the second quarter, when he took full advantage of his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame by outmuscling Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis to get into the end zone, and cutting St. Louis' lead to 17-14. Laurinaitis was on the ground, holding onto Gronkowskis left leg for dear life, yet, Gronkowski was able to escape the tackle, and hop far enough where his dive was able to get the ball over the goal line for the touchdown.
BEST LUCK ON THE WORST COVERAGE: With 12 seconds left in the first half, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford looked to the end zone from the Patriots' 27. There he found wide receiver Laurent Robinson ridiculously open and Devin McCourty running to get back in the frame. Luckily for McCourty, Bradford threw the ball closer to the cheerleaders than the end zone and the Rams were off the board.
WORST HAIRCUT(S): Zac Robinson debuted a sweatband shaved around his skull. Ted Larsen got some lightning bolts carved into his . . . mullet. Rob Gronkowski got a mohawk. And Thomas Welch was relieved of his hair completely. Some creative rookie hazing inflicted by clippers? Or are the Patriots using the contrast to further stress the fact that Brady looks like a 1980 Pert shampoo model? Either way, it was ugly.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomecurran
Mary Paoletti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Mary_Paoletti