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After Further Review: Rams set immediate tone vs. Pats

The five plays and situations that defined the Patriots' lackluster loss to the Rams.


The Patriots fell into an early deficit against the Rams and were unable to ever get control of the game, with an inability to stop the run at the forefront of their problems in their seventh loss of the season.

For a team that needs a critical set of factors to pull out victories, the Patriots could not make enough plays and couldn't avoid the mistakes that prevented them from ever getting on track. Untimely penalties and the lack of finish in the red zone were the biggest culprits for the offense.

When combined with the defensive performance and it was as disappointing an outcome as New England has had this season, and it's one that puts some of the final nails in their playoff coffin.

Here are the plays that defined the game early on, as the Rams set the tone and allowed the Patriots but one last hopeful gasp before putting the clamps down in the second half.

Rams come out firing

It's not often that the entire course of the game is set in the first three plays but in this game, the Rams gave a preview of what was about to unfold immediately out of the gate. Their two biggest plays of the game would come within those first three plays.

The first play, a play-action bootleg to Tyler Higbee for 25 yards, caught the Pats defense expecting a run. Jared Goff made the easy throw, but it was the run-after-catch that saw Higbee dragging multiple Patriots defenders for extra yards that was most ominous. When the Patriots defense doesn't come to tackle, their problems are compounded.

The defense followed that play with John Simon jumping offsides, before watching Cam Akers take an off-tackle run 35 yards for the Rams longest play of the game. This was the play type that would haunt the Patriots all game long, as Akers put up 171 rushing yards and averaged nearly six yards-per-carry. It was the third-highest team rushing total New England has allowed this season.

Two big plays and a penalty summed up how things were going to go for the Patriots defense on the day, and despite getting a third-down, goal-line stop, the Rams showed they were ready to be as aggressive as they needed to be, going for it on fourth down and taking the touchdown lead in under four minutes.

Usually, overreacting to the first drive of the game is silly, but in this case, it pretty much told you all you needed to know about what was about to go down.

Enel Powerful Play of the Game: Bryant briefly makes things interesting

With the Patriots offense failing to produce a first down on their first two possessions, the defense hung on in the first quarter, getting some help from an intentional grounding penalty that allowed them to hold the Rams to a field goal on their second possession. Even a third-and-16 was nearly converted by Los Angeles.

There's no secret how much the 2020 Patriots need auxiliary scoring and it looked like they almost got back into the game with an interception by rookie Myles Bryant. Ruled down upon review, it was still a game-changing play by Bryant who played 16 snaps in the contest as he continues to carve out a role on passing downs.

The undrafted rookie, who joined a loaded position group this summer, still found a way to not only make the team but now contribute, coming through with the biggest play of his young career by showing great closing speed and aggressiveness on the ball.

There weren't many bright spots in this game for the Patriots, but any time a rookie shows up and makes a play it's a good sign for the future and this game's Enel Powerful Play of the Game.

Pick six, point of no return

At the start of the second quarter, the Patriots sat at the Rams 19-yard line down 10-0 after an impressive 12-yard run by Damien Harris. Thanks to Bryant's interception, the offense had a chance to do what they do best, take advantage of complementary plays, and get back into the game. But that was not how this game was going to unfold.

The offense was aiming to set up a screen pass to Damien Harris, but pressure off of the right edge forced a quick, off-target throw by Newton that Harris never even saw because he was knocked off track by Aaron Donald, who was all over the place all game long. Rams linebacker Kenny Young perfectly dissected the play, recognizing the screen and flying to where Newton threw the ball, making the interception and taking it 79 yards to make it a 17-0 game.

Young said after the game he knew the screen was coming, which wasn't surprising given the limited nature of the Patriots offense. Newton had shown much better ball security during the recent spat of wins but it only took one in this game to blow things up. This wasn't totally all on him, but just an overall indictment of what the offense is now and how defenses are getting a good bead on it.

Just like that, the entire game went firmly back into the Rams favor, and really, the 17-point lead was more than enough for Los Angeles, even this early in just the second quarter.

Red zone stop sign

Despite the 17-point hole, the Patriots offense would respond on the next possession, getting a boost from an out-of-bounds kickoff that started them off at their own 40. They'd plod down the field, overcoming a holding penalty with a 25-yard pass to Damiere Byrd.

They'd get all the way down to the Rams' two-yard line before the drive would finally stall. Inside the red zone they'd run seven plays that all picked up four yards-or-less. That stunted performance set up a fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line where the Pats would be aggressive and go for it.

But a long-developing option run was quickly snuffed out for a two-yard loss. Damien Harris might've had a chance had Newton tossed the ball to him immediately but the Rams quickly collapsed on the quarterback. A moment of hesitation and the opportunity was gone.

On the game, the Patriots didn't score any touchdowns on four red-zone trips, but none were more devastating than this missed chance to get back into the game. Later in the half, faced with a fourth-and-2 from the Rams' 11, the Pats chose to take the field goal instead of going for it again.

It wasn't hard to see that this might've been a 17-14 game at the half had the red zone execution translated to touchdowns instead of just three points.

Third-quarter finishing drive

Despite being down 17-3, the Patriots were still in the game on the scoreboard to start the second half. They received the ball with the chance to put together a drive to make it a one-score game, but it was clear the Rams were not letting up. Newton would take two sacks on the drive that hurt them, despite a 30-yard reception by N'Keal Harry.

The Pats drive would flame out just past midfield and they'd be forced to punt to the Rams, who took over at their own 10-yard line. That would set the stage for a 16-play, 90-yard drive that would add the final points to the scoreboard in the game.

The highlight was a 25-yard run by Cam Akers, who opened the second half just like he did the first, by running through and around the Patriots defense. He'd account for 60 of the 90 yards with his hard running on this final scoring drive.

The Pats D struggled to hold their ground and get off blocks all game long, as the Rams exploited them with well-executed run plays. For all the analysis of what went wrong, getting run over is the simplest and most glaring way to lose a football game. They simply lost the battle up front and even when they did get a read on certain plays, it often took them a few extra yards to even get the ball carrier down.

At 24-3, the game settled into a back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter, as the Rams exerted their will one last time with an epic drive to put the game away.

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