11 December 2020 06:52
Even though the New England Patriots are shorthanded in terms of talent, you don't expect them to be sloppy. You still expect them to look like they did in their glory days, like when they out-coached and out-executed the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. There are moments, like a 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, when the Patriots perform far beyond their talent. New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers. Cam Newton threw a pick six right to linebacker Kenny Young when running back Damien Harris was held up briefly by Aaron Donald at the line.
The Rams ran 12 times on a 16-play, 90-yard drive that took 9:42 off the clock. The Rams made the Patriots look bad at times. Cam Akers had a breakout game with 171 rushing yards, the most rushing yards for a Rams rookie since Jerome Bettis in 1993. Los Angeles' defense, which has been good most of the season, gave up a few decent gains through the air but the Patriots could not sustain any drives. At that point, with the Rams leading 24-3 and Newton being replaced by Jarrett Stidham, three of New England's pass plays had accounted for 86 yards and the other 38 offensive plays gained 110 yards.
The rookie running back didn't find the endzone on Thursday, but he had his way with the Patriots, finishing the night with 171 yards on 29 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per rush. Akers' dominance on the ground made up for a subpar peformance from Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who completed 16-of-25 passes for 131 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and Akers also helped the Rams win the time of possession battle with his effort. Running the football and managing the clock is one way to place yourself in a good position to win a game in the NFL. Taking the ball away from the other team is another, and the Rams defense has done that better than just about any squad over the last five games. Thanks to a second quarter interception returned for a touchdown by linebacker Kenny Young, the Rams have now recorded at least one interception in five straight games.
The New England Patriots weren't good enough — not in any phase except, perhaps, special teams. In Week 14, the Los Angeles Rams were more talented and better coached. Quarterback Cam Newton got benched, and Jarrett Stidham didn't look much better in relief. (Of course, Newton threw a pick-six a few plays later, and the collapse was on.) But for this play, New England seemed like it could make things competitive. Loser: The Patriots' fourth down defense (So let's make it 3 of 3, shall we?) That penalty was an absolutely brutal mental error from Patriots defensive tackle Akeem Spence, and Rams receiver Cooper Kupp managed a receiving touchdown on the following play. We've seen one this season: remember when Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley stuffed Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake at the goal line in Week 12? That was the kind of play New England needed in this game. The first one was the most important: an option play with Cam Newton and Damien Harris from the 2-yard line. He completely whiffed on Rams defensive end Michael Brockers, who managed a 10-yard sack. The Rams smelled blood and absolutely whooped on New England's offensive line more and more as the game went on, with L.A. defensive coordinator Brandon Staley bringing blitzes that befuddled the Patriots. It's one of those throws he simply cannot throw. The New England Patriots are back below.500 on the season and their playoff hopes are all but dashed following the 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, who move to 9-4 on the year with the win. Last week, Bill Belichick's club was the team doing the thrashing but the roles changed in the Week 14 opener as the Rams dominated from the jump, quickly running out to the 17-0 lead and never looked back. Cam Akers continued his ascent as Los Angeles' top back, notching a career-high 171 yards rushing. On the first drive of the night, the rookie running back accounted for 41 yards on the ground to set up a Jared Goff rushing score. Akers continued that strong play throughout the game as he not only churned yards for L.A. but helped dominate time of possession. The back-breaker in the first half that blew this game open was a pick-six by Cam Newton at the Los Angeles 19 yard line at the 14:46 mark of the second quarter. New England had just picked off Goff and was in a great position to cut into the 10-0 L.A. lead, but that turnover from Newton eliminated any shot of the Patriots making this game close. Newton finished with 119 yards passing and that interception before being benched for Jarrett Stidham midway through the fourth quarter. The second-year quarterback completed five passes for 27 yards to finish the game. The Rams will also take on another AFC East foe as the winless New York Jets will be the latest team to come through SoFi Stadium in Week 15. The Rams were dominant from the get-go in running the football and containing the anemic Patriots offense. Cam Akers had the best rushing performance for a rookie running back for the Rams since Jerome Bettis rushed for 212 yards in 1993. The Rams defense held the Patriots to 3-of-12 on third down and 0-for-4 on red zone opportunities. New England had just 211 yards and averaged 3.9 yards per play. New England was dominated throughout the game, specifically on offense — which was smothered by the Rams defense. Cam Newton was replaced in the fourth quarter by Jarrett Stidham as the Patriots quarterback completed just 9 of 16 passes for 119 yards and an interception. New England's offensive line didn't help, allowing six sacks to the Rams in the second half. The Rams dominated the opening quarter and built a 10-0 lead, even though the Patriots had a chance to get back in the game. A Jared Goff interception in his own territory set the Patriots up with a short field to get a quick score — but Cam Newton and the offense were unable to capitalize. On the first play of the second quarter, Newton threw a pass in the direction of Damien Harris that was intercepted by Kenny Young — a ball he took 79 yards to the end zone to give Los Angeles a 17-0 lead. The Rams defense came up huge on multiple occasions throughout the night, but this play demonstrated the dominance Los Angeles had up front. On a fourth-and-goal at the Rams' 2-yard line, Cam Newton attempted to pitch the ball to Damien Harris — but the Rams defense read the play like a book. Justin Hollins immediately sniffed the pitch out and tackled Newton before he could get the ball out of his hands, holding the Patriots to no points and preserving the Rams' 17-0 lead. The Patriots have a road game against the Miami Dolphins on the same day in Week 15. The Rams beat the Patriots on Thursday night to stay atop the NFC West as we head into the rest of Week 14. New England falls to 6-7 and is likely out of the playoff race in the crowded AFC. The Steelers' first loss of the 2020 season came at the hands of the Washington Football Team, who are now tied with the Giants atop the NFC East. (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)