For the second time in four days, the New England Patriots faced off against a team from Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium. After dismantling the Chargers 45-0 a few days prior, they returned on Thursday Night Football to play the 8-4 Rams, a rematch of the Patriots’ 13-3 win in Super Bowl LIII. The Rams lived up to their billing as an NFC contender and took care of the Patriots 24-3. Here is my breakdown of the loss, which all but eliminates the Patriots from playoff contention.
The Patriots have been limited offensively this season due to a quarterback with a banged-up shoulder, an unexplosive receiving corp and an inconsistent running game. Facing one of the top-ranked defenses in the Rams with only three days to prepare was a daunting task. As expected, the Rams’ defense dominated the offense as Kenny Young returned a Cam Newton interception for a touchdown, held the team to three points and only 220 total yards.
Newton connected with Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd for long completions of 31, 30 and 25 yards but could not get into a rhythm through the air, finishing with nine completions in the game. Aside from his pick-six, he was under duress from the Rams’ pass rush all game long as he was sacked four times. Jarrett Stidham came in to finish off the game in the fourth quarter, but he also got sacked twice while only throwing for 27 yards on five completions.
It was the worst performance from the offensive line since their Week 5 loss against the Denver Broncos 18-12, a game in which Newton was also sacked four times. To make matters worse, the offensive line did not help open up the running game either as Damien Harris was held to only 50 yards rushing, the fourth-straight game he ran for under 100 yards. The line also could not block for Newton while running the ball as late in the second quarter, Newton was stopped for a loss on a run on fourth-and-goal, a play which killed any real chance the team had of making the game competitive.
It is clear the Patriots are no longer contenders for the playoffs as they dropped to 6-7. This loss proves the offense needs a complete overhaul as the Rams’ defense completely shut the Patriots down. The Patriots now have the third-worst passing offense and the ninth-worst total offense as adding weapons and drafting a young quarterback to develop as the main offseason priorities.
The defense played a solid game given the circumstances. The offense was not giving them any help and was constantly asked to keep the Patriots in the game. The Rams, as is typical under head coach Sean McVay, marched right down the field and scored a touchdown with incredible precision. After that, the defense held the Rams to 10 points of offense.
Undrafted free agent cornerback from Washington, Myles Bryant, made the play of the game defensively as late in the first quarter, he wrestled the ball away from Rams’ receiver Robert Woods for the interception. While this play set the Patriots up with great field position, Newton threw a pick-six three plays later, representing the gap in the quality the two units displayed throughout the game.
The Patriots held Rams’ QB Jared Goff to 131 yards passing, a season-low for him. While an impressive feat, the defense did not have the same success in stopping the run as rookie running back Cam Akers broke out under a national television audience with 171 yards on 29 carries. Akers blazed his way through the Patriots’ defense with ease to help put the game out of reach in the second half. While the defense was overall solid, the inability to stop Akers was a big reason the Rams controlled this game from start to finish. Like the offensive side of the ball, the defensive line was ineffective outside of a sack by Byron Cowart. The secondary continues to be great but their front seven could also use some bolstering this offseason as well.
While the Patriots have a lot of work to do in the coming offseasons to rebuild their roster, one aspect which they do not need to work on is special teams as once again, the unit put up a solid performance. Gunner Olszewski continues to be a dependable playmaker for this team as he returned punts for 19 and 21 yards, setting up the offense with good field position. Nick Folk made his one field goal attempt, and punter Jake Bailey had one of his best games of the season with a 71-yard punt to pin the Rams inside their 20-yard line in four of his six punts.
As the Patriots start to build for the future, the Patriots will head to Miami to play the Dolphins, a place where they have lost five of their last seven games. This will mark the first of three consecutive division games to end the season as they finished 1-3 against the NFC West and 3-3 against their non-divisional AFC opponents.