The New England Patriots playoff chances took a major hit last night, thanks to the Rams wire to wire 24-3 victory. The Rams avenged their Super Bowl 53 loss at the hands of Bill Belichick, thanks to a huge night from their running game and bruising defense that never allowed the Patriots to get on track. Join me as I relive New England’s ugliest loss of the season.
The biggest story of the first half was the Rams defense coming up with huge stops and holding the Patriots to 3 points. The Patriots offense was down 10-0 and had punted on their first two possessions and then disaster struck. New England’s defense had just intercepted Rams’ QB Jared Goff at the LA 32 yard line but three plays later Newton threw an ill advised screen pass that was picked and returned 79 yards for six by LB Kenny Young. Pass rushers Aaron Donald and Leornard Floyd smothered that play, Floyd providing pressure on Cam and Donald covering RB Damien Harris, allowing Young to snatch the pass. Regardless of the great plays by Donald and Floyd on that play, Cam can’t make that throw. Also the offensive line needed to protect him better. A 17-0 hole is a deficit that this team isn’t equipped to come back from.
They answered the next drive with a 12 play, 40 yard answer and drove all the way to the 2 yard line. The problem is the Rams stuffed a Cam Newton QB sneak on 4th and goal. They finally managed a field goal on their next drive but only scoring 3 points on six first half drives simply won’t get the job done. That’s especially true when their defense held Goff and company off the scoreboard after the first two drives. New England’s defense glaring weakness in the half was their run defense, which surrendered 99 yards rushing. RB Cam Akers had a huge first half with 11 rushes for 89 yards. When you have the 18th ranked run defense, that’s a bad sign. The good news is that receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to just 30 yards was great because we’ve seen how explosive this offense can be. Being down 17-3 at the half wasn’t the end of the world but unless the offense started getting to the end zone, this game had the potential to get ugly. To say I was nervous is a huge understatement.
The game only snowballed further in the 3rd quarter when the Patriots punted on their first drive and then the Rams offense went to work to pull away further. They held the ball for 9 minutes and 42 seconds, drove down the field for 88 yards on 16 plays and capped it off with a 2 yard TD pass from Goff to Cooper Kupp, who just got his feet down in the front corner of the end zone. The Rams blew the game open and now lead 24-3. Cam was also sacked three times in that half and the Patriots opened the 4th quarter with yet another punt.
After the teams combined for 3 more punts, Jarret Stidham took over under center for Cam Newton and didn’t fare much better. Gunner Olszewski returned a punt 21 yards to set his offense up at the LA 34 yard line but the Patriots could only manage 18 yards and Stidham’s pass to TE Devin Asiasi was broken up by CB Troy Hill. I could only shake my head in disgust as this offense failed on another 4th down opportunity. New England’s last two drives ended with a punt and another failed fourth down conversion, before the Rams took one final knee to run out the clock. The Rams improved 9-4 and the Patriots fell below .500 at 6-7.
Patriots Offensive Struggles
The Patriots offense was stuck in neutral all night and simply couldn’t do anything right. Getting stopped on 4th down three times, throwing a pick-6, kicking one field goal and punting six times on the night is a perfect formula to lose any game. Also having your quarterbacks sacked six times to kill any momentum everytime they tried to get going hurts. Cam Newton only completed 9 of 16 passes for 119 yards and that critical first half pick-6. Damiere Bryd led all receivers with 5 catches for 48 yards, but at the end of the day the only stat that matters is how many points you scored. Scoring 3 points will almost never win you any games and especially against a playoff bound opponent with a top 5 defense. The Rams were simply more physical than our entire offense from the start and nothing changed all night. I knew it would be a struggle for this offense to get anything going and as I said in my preview, without better effort from New England’s passing game, the Rams were going to win. This was one of the most painful losses I’ve watched as Pats fan, but I saw this coming a mile away with how our offense has played all season.
What suprised me a little bit was the Patriots’ struggles with stopping an opponent’s run game, which reared its ugly head in the form of Cam Akers. He finished his outstanding night with 29 carries for 171 yards. He started his night with six carries for 60+ yards and I knew right there that it would be hard to stop the rest of the night. This defense hadn’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in seven weeks and looked to be improving. Unfortunately, they took a step backwards in this game. Despite that, they were able to keep this game within reach most of the night, only surrendering two touchdowns, by Goff (rushing) and Kupp (receiving), one field goal and picking off Goff once. Unfortunatley the offense never gave them any hope with their inability to consistently move the ball down field. Unfortunately, no matter how tough the defense plays as games progress, the offense is clearly holding this team back and will be the main reason why this team misses the playoffs.
Next up, the Patriots travel to Miami to conclude the season’s final road trip and face another playoff hungry team seeking revenge for their week 1 defeat in Foxborough. Seeing how badly this team handled pass protection tonight and knowing how aggressive Miami’s pass rush is, that’s a scary combination heading into next Sunday’s matchup. Clearly this team will not be in the postseason, barring a miracle and/or better offensive execution, but as I’ve said before they will go down swinging.
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By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com