The return to SoFi Stadium wouldn’t bring the same result for the New England Patriots.
New England fell to the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 24-3 on Thursday night, and to a 6-7 record on the regular season, after shutting out the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday by a score of 45-0.
Here’s a look back as the gap between December and January becomes clear.
Akers slashes through for Los Angeles
Thursday’s opening drive spanned six plays for Los Angeles. It included a play-action bootleg to tight end Tyler Higbee for 25 yards and a handoff to rookie running back Cam Akers for 35 yards. A sneak by quarterback Jared Goff followed on fourth down as the Rams took a 7-0 lead that soon climbed to 10-0.
The Patriots faced the tempo. The sealing of the edges out of “12” personnel. The motioning of receivers. And acres from Akers.
The Florida State product had hit the century mark from scrimmage, with 84 yards coming on the ground, in the first quarter alone. And while the New England defense appeared to settle in before halftime, Akers reappeared behind the blocks. He finished with 194 yards on 31 touches, and with no small part in a possession that absorbed 9:42 of game clock and led to a touchdown by wideout Cooper Kupp versus cornerback Jonathan Jones.
New England moves to the third round at tight end
With incumbent starter Ryan Izzo sent to injured reserve and November acquisition Jordan Thomas sent to the inactives, the lone tight ends on the field for Patriots arrived in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft.
No. 91 overall Devin Asiasi would be back to join No. 101 overall Dalton Keene against the Rams. It’d be the first time the rookies by way of UCLA and Virginia Tech entered into the same game this season.
Neither was on for New England’s initial snap, as first-year offensive lineman Justin Herron reported as eligible. But Keene subbed in for the second and third snaps while Asiasi filed in for his share from there. Albeit uneventfully. They had combined to draw one catch on one target for eight yards prior to Thursday. They went on to combine for no catches on one target against Los Angeles. It arrived on a fourth-down dig by Asiasi versus 2015 Patriots waiver claim Troy Hill.
Undrafted Patriots rookie wrestles for his first NFL interception
On third-and-4 late in the first quarter, an undrafted rookie lined up in man-to-man coverage against Rams wide receiver Robert Woods. And from there, Myles Bryant rolled and ripped the football out of the veteran’s grasp for the first pick of his NFL stay. He ran it back to the end zone for a touchdown that officials overturned upon review.
Bryant had been signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad in September. The versatile defensive back out of Washington played a career-high 33 defensive snaps last Sunday at SoFi.
“Myles has done a nice job for us,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during a video conference this week. “He’s come in and learned a bunch of different positions. He gives us good depth in the secondary and plays in the kicking game. He’s a smart kid, works hard, instinctive, seems to have a good feel for the game and prepares well.”
Revisiting a Rams wrecking ball
A six-time Pro Bowler, five-time first-team All-Pro and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year awaited the New England offensive line. And Aaron Donald hadn’t crossed paths with center David Andrews or guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason since Super Bowl LIII.
That encounter came and went with a hit, a hurry and a handful of tackles for the Rams defensive tackle.
Thursday’s came and went far less quietly. Donald sliced through the interior for a pressure that nearly generated a pick. Prior to then, he had a hand in disrupting the timing on a screen to running back Damien Harris that did become one. And in the third frame, Donald found his 12th sack of the year in a bout with interim Patriots left tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. He later added a half-sack more. Fellow Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers got through both B-gaps and into the sack column twice on the night, as well. New England’s pass protection gave up a season-high six altogether.
Newton’s night behind center ends with 10 minutes remaining
No NFL defense had conceded fewer passing yards per game or fewer passing yards per attempt than the one with horns on the helmets. The Rams entered with an average of 198.3 yards allowed per game and at an even six yards allowed per attempt.
Those numbers would hold against the Patriots. Cam Newton, listed as questionable due to an abdomen injury, threw for 119 yards after throwing for 84 and 69 in his previous pair of victorious starts. He went 9-of-16, had a pass batted at the line and was intercepted by linebacker Kenny Young on the aforementioned screen to begin the second quarter. It netted a 79-yard runback for six.
New England’s offense resided in the red zone three times before intermission and had the turnover, a turnover on downs and a 29-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk to show for it. Those would be the lone points. Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham stepped on in relief of Newton with 10 minutes remaining. The 2019 fourth-rounder stayed in to go 5-of-7 for 27 yards. And the Patriots will now stay below 10 wins for the first time since 2002.