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Patriots vs Rams keys to the game: Josh McDaniels needs to get creative

Related: Film room: Exploiting Jared Goff’s hesitation will again be key for the Patriots

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Coming off one of their most dominant wins in recent memory, the New England Patriots will try to win their third straight game and get above .500 for the first time since after Week 3. In their way stand the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night for a Super Bowl 53 rematch. Although there’s been a lot of turnover on both sides since the two teams last met back on February, 3rd of 2019, it’s always going to be an interesting matchup against an offense as high-powered and creative as the Rams’.

The last time these two teams met, however, it was a defensive showdown with just 16 points combined. With the Rams and Patriots lacking consistency at times this year offensively, all signs point to another low-scoring bout between the two teams.

Coming into the game as 5-point underdogs, the Patriots will look to continue to put their best foot forward on their push for the playoffs and complete the LA sweep on Thursday night.

Get creative

Los Angeles’ most consistent unit this year has been its defense. Led by perennial NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald as the anchor in the middle, and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the secondary, the Rams come into Thursday with one of the league’s best defenses and have made life tough for opponents all season long. With the Patriots coming into the game with the third best rushing offense in football, they will have to find a way to control the line of scrimmage.

In order to do that, they may need to get creative at times to move the ball efficiently. The Patriots have been a pretty one-dimensional team on offense this season, after all, pounding teams on the ground and winning at the line of scrimmage. With Damien Harris and Cam Newton leading the charge, they will have their hands full facing a Rams defense that ranks second in the league against the run.

With the Patriots’ passing game being held for under 100 yards in each of its last two games and 545 combined in the last five, this may be the time when Josh McDaniels opens up the playbook a bit more to help generate some success through the air. Whether that’s playing with a bit more tempo, incorporating play action or screen passes, or using the occasional trick play, Newton will need all the help he can get facing a front seven that is extremely difficult to find success against on the ground.

Contain Aaron Donald

Obviously, this is much easier said than done considering Donald is arguably the most dominant defensive player in the league. However, the Patriots did a great job back in the Super Bowl by double -teaming him at times and not allowing him to disrupt their game plan. The star defensive tackle is known for getting into the backfield and consistently putting offenses in long-yardage situations, something that the Patriots struggle with offensively.

Center David Andrews and guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason — the Patriots’ longest tenured offensive linemen and the core strength of the entire unit — did a great job during that last meeting two years ago but that will certainly be difficult to repeat on Thursday night. Whether it’s double-teaming him or getting the ball out of Cam Newton’s hands quickly before Donald can cause havoc will be imperative for the Patriots to not just move the ball efficiently but also to score points.

Pressure Jared Goff

You never know which Jared Goff is going to show up on a week-to-week basis but one way to beat him and make him feel uncomfortable is to blitz him repeatedly. Brian Flores’ game plan from a few weeks back may be something Bill Belichick and his staff look at to find success defensively: Goff was blitzed on 39 of his dropbacks by the Miami Dolphins and had one of his worst games of the year completing just 53 percent of his passes and turning the ball over four times in the loss.

Goff is 1-4 this year when he’s blitzed more than 20 times and is ranked 26th in the league when under pressure while posting a passer rating of just 42.0. The Rams are a team that likes to play fast and with tempo, so getting to Goff and forcing him off his rhythm and to rush through his progressions can certainly help slow them down and force the turnovers New England will likely need to win the game.

Prediction: Patriots 20 - Rams 17