By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
As good as the Patriots looked on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, the struggles were equal if not more Thursday night. In a 24-3 loss to the Rams that all but shut the door on their playoff chances, New England started slow on both sides of the ball.
While the defense eventually found their footing, the same can’t be said for the offense, who totaled just 220 yards on the night.
Spurred by a 25-yard pass play on their first snap followed by a 35-yard Cam Akers run, the Rams shot down the field on the opening drive. The Patriots’ defense was able to lock down some in the red zone, but Jared Goff scored from the one yard line on a fourth down QB sneak.
New England’s first drive was the exact opposite, with a quick three and out. Los Angeles promptly got back into field goal range extending their lead to 10-0.
After both teams traded three and outs, it looked like the Patriots may have started to pick up momentum. Myles Bryant grabbed the first interception of his career on an acrobatic diving catch, but a play later Cam Newton gave it right back, throwing a pick-six to Kenny Young on a designed screen. One snap into the second quarter, the Rams had a 17-0 lead.
Once again, the Patriots seemed to find their footing, driving 56 yards in 11 plays. Eventually though, it came down to a fourth and short in the red zone, and Newton was tackled in the backfield. New England’s defense got a quick stop to put themselves in a similar spot late in the first half, but this time chose to kick the field goal. At the break, it was 17-3 Los Angeles.
The Patriots got the ball to start the second half, and had a chance to make it a one-possession game with a double-score. Yet they managed just 33 yards on a seven-play drive, and punted the ball away.
That’s when the Rams more or less iced the game. A 16-play, 90-yard drive took 9:42 off the clock and culminated in a Cooper Kupp touchdown. The debilitating drive and score gave LA a 24-3 lead.
Following a few more punts each way and a big return from Gunner Olszewski, the Patriots turned to Jarrett Stidham halfway through the fourth quarter. His first drive lasted seven plays but moved the ball just 18 yards. Different quarterback, but a similar result as the New England offense once again turned the ball over on downs in the red zone.
Stidham would get two more drives, but failed to pick up a first down. The game ended, fittingly, with the Patriots failing to convert on fourth and short as Sony Michel was stopped between the tackles.
Newton finished just 9-of-16 passing, throwing for 119 yards and one interception. Unlike against the Chargers he didn’t add much with his legs, with seven carries totalling just 16 yards. He was also sacked four times.
Stidham was 5-for-7 for 27 yards, and was sacked twice.
Defensively, the Patriots recovered from a rough first quarter and allowed just seven points in the final 45 minutes. They held the Rams to just 3-of-14 on third down.
Damien Harris (back) and Donte Moncrief (thigh) both did not finish the game. Adrian Phillips left at one point as well due to a hand injury, but returned.
With the loss the Patriots drop to 6-7, three games behind the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. They’ll now need to win out and get major help in order to get into the playoffs.
The Patriots will play the third of three straight road games next week in Miami. New England topped the Dolphins back in Week 1, so a win and series sweep would be a major boost to the Patriots’ playoff chances. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., you can catch the broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com