The Rams rode a dominant rushing attack, sprinting out to a 17-0 first-half lead, en route to a stifling 24-3 win over the Patriots that drops New England to 6-7 and ends their Los Angeles two-game road trip in disappointing fashion.
After playing turnover-free football in four of the last five games, while being able to overcome two giveaways against the Cardinals, the Patriots' sloppy football ways returned against the Rams, with Cam Newton throwing a pick-six that blew the game open in the second quarter, while Aaron Donald and company were in their backfield all game long.
But the bigger problem was New England's inability to stop the run. Rookie running back Cam Akers put up 171 rushing yards that kept the Rams going up and down the field all game long. The Patriots had few answers for the Rams' ground attack and were physically handled for most of the game.
Here's everything that stood out in a tough loss that will be tough to overcome with just three games remaining in the season.
- It was not the start the Patriots defense wanted, giving up a touchdown drive on just six plays, powered by a first play naked bootleg pass for 25 yards to Tyler Higbee and a 35-yard run by Cam Akers. A strong stop on third-and-goal by J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones was wasted as the Rams converted for the score on fourth down with a sneak by Jared Goff to give the Rams the early 7-0 lead.
- Akers continued to keep things going after a Patriots offensive three-and-out, putting up 70 yards rushing on his first six carries of the game. The Patriots would get to third down, but a quick tempo allowed the Rams to pick up the first down. Credit to Sean McVay for not allowing the Pats defense to get set, that kind of play was missing in their Super Bowl loss. Anfernee Jennings would be subbed out for Tashaun Bower as the defense made some personnel adjustments after their rough start. An intentional grounding penalty by Goff was the first mistake of the game for the Rams, it would force them to settle for a 35-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.
- It was a significant early hole for the Patriots, the kind they haven't been able to climb out of this season as the Rams looked hot out of the gate and the Pats looked as flat as they've been, with poor tackling and mental mistakes. The yardage was 140 to one through the first 10 minutes of the game and the Patriots couldn't muster a response on their second drive, picking up just eight yards. Dalton Keene and Donte Moncrief saw expanded roles in the game for the offense.
- The Rams would get a bit sloppy on the next drive, picking up a holding call that set them back but that wasn't the worst of it for them. Goff escaped an Adam Butler sack to make a manageable third-and-4 after the penalty and it looked like they were going to pick up the conversion before undrafted rookie Myles Bryant ripped the ball from Robert Woods' hands as the tumbled to the ground and returned it for what looked like a touchdown, but upon review, he was ruled down. It was still a monumental play for Bryant who has been seeing increased playing time in recent weeks. The Patriots had nothing going until this point and his pick set the offense up at the Rams 32.
- The good feelings and momentum were short-lived as just three plays later Cam Newton would throw an ill-advised screen pass into traffic that was intercepted by Kenny Young and returned for a touchdown. The 17-0 deficit was quickly overwhelming, but the Pats offense would respond on their next drive with their best yardage of the game. Led by the ground game, they'd get all the way to the Rams three-yard line and, faced with a fourth-down, they'd go for it but Newton's option was stopped short and the Patriots got zero points. The third-down QB draw was particularly predictable and easily snuffed out as the Patriots were unable to get the Rams defense on their heels with anything other than their straight-up ground game led by Damien Harris.
- After a talking-to from Bill Belichick, the defense forced their first punt of the game with just under five minutes left in the first half. The tackling continued to be noticeably off though, as the Rams seemed to always get an extra few yards on every play.
- The Patriots passing offense would find some life on the drive before the half, including a 31-yarder to Jakobi Meyers and a key third-down conversion to N'Keal Harry. It was a tough catch by Harry, who deserved credit for hanging on to keep the drive alive. It was a bit reminiscent of the game in Seattle, where the Pats started throwing the ball with surprising success after falling behind. But the drive would flame out and they'd have to settle for a 29-yard Nick Folk field goal for their first points of the contest.
That's where the half would end, with the Pats forcing another punt but being unable to get any points in the limited time before the break. A heavy dose of mistakes and miscues put the Patriots in a tough position, the kind they hadn't been able to climb out of this season. In recent weeks, they played complementary and clean football but the first half against the Rams was a departure from those performances.
The New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in a regular season game at SoFi Stadium on Thursday, December 10, 2020.
- The Patriots would lose 10 yards on a sack on the first play of the second half, as Newton was looking to take a deep shot off play action. But they'd bounce back on the next play with a 30-yard pass down the sideline to Harry again. The one step forward, one step back would continue though as Aaron Donald would again make his presence felt by beating Jermaine Eluemunor and picking up another sack on the drive. The Pats could not overcome the loss of yardage and be forced to punt.
- After a hot start, Cam Akers got back on track on the Rams' first possession of the second half, going over 100 yards on the game with some powerful runs, capped off with a 25-yard scamper where Akers was untouched through the line. The Patriots struggled to stop the Rams rushing attack throughout the game and it was perhaps the biggest key to the Rams lead.
- Los Angeles would finish off the drive after Akeem Spence jumped offsides on fourth down near the goal line to give the Rams a new set of downs. They'd convert on the next play, with Goff finding Cooper Kupp for the touchdown and a 24-3 lead. It was an unrelenting 16-play, 90-yard drive that ate up almost 10 minutes of the third quarter and effectively ended the game.
- Jarrett Stidham would make another appearance in the fourth quarter, completing five-of-seven passes but also taking two sacks.
New England's offense struggled to produce points without getting a complementary boost from their defense and special teams as they have in recent weeks. The other missing element was the red zone finish that they had against the Chargers, while New England also had five penalties. They fell behind on the first drive and could never get control of the game, as the Rams executed at a high level in all phases, giving the Pats no chance to get back into the game.
With the playoffs likely now out of reach, the Patriots now shift focus to three final AFC East games, which will tell them exactly where they now stack up in a division that they've owned for 20 years.