Coming off back-to-back victories and finding themselves right back in the playoff hunt, the New England Patriots had momentum on their side heading into their Week 14 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. Four quarters of mistake-filled football on both offense and defense, however, saw the team lose 24-3 — a defeat that all but ends the team’s chances of eventually ending up in the tournament.
Patriots (6-7) 3 : 24 Rams (9-4)
New England started the game on defense and immediately gave up some big plays. After a 25-yard pass from Jared Goff to Tyler Higbee, the unit surrendered a 35-yard run from Cam Akers to set the Rams up in a goal-to-go situation. The Patriots did settle down to force a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but the offense eventually stayed on the field to score a touchdown when Goff reached over the goal line. [Patriots 0 : 7 Rams]
The Patriots’ defense had a slow start, and so had the team’s offense: two short runs and an incomplete pass from Cam Newton intended for Damiere Byrd forced the unit to go three-and-out and punt the football right back to the home team.
The game did not get any better for New England on the next drive. The defense continued to be outmatched both against the run and the pass, and failed to prevent the Rams from driving into scoring distance yet again. While the team eventually settled for a field goal instead of going for 4th-and-2 in the Patriots’ red zone, it still was able to increase its lead to 10 points. [Patriots 0 : 10 Rams]
Meanwhile, New England’s offensive struggles continued as the next series was again a quick one: short pass, short run, incompletion, punt. The team’s defense followed it up with its biggest play of the night up until that point, however.
Undrafted rookie cornerback Myles Bryant, who has seen increased playing time over the last few weeks, ripped the football out of Robert Woods’ hands for an interception:
Introducing Myles Bryant.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 11, 2020
: https://t.co/jzNh2IYiCT pic.twitter.com/iqux2PYil8
While the return touchdown was overruled, New England still was able to set up shop in prime field position and with a chance to get some momentum back.
On the very first play of the second quarter, however, disaster struck. Cam Newton threw an interception while trying to get the ball to Damien Harris on a screen. The play broke down due to pressure and Harris not getting in position fast enough, allowing Kenny Young to pick off the throw. To make matters worse, the Rams cornerback returned the football 79 yards for a touchdown. [Patriots 0 : 17 Rams]
At that point, the Patriots offense finally started to string some positive plays together and build some momentum. Some strong running by Damien Harris as well as a 25-yard pass from Newton to Damiere Byrd helped the Patriots get into the Rams’ red zone for the first time all game. However, the unit came up short again: three short runs set up a 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line that ended with Newton getting tackled for a loss and turnover on downs on an option run.
While New England’s offense continued shooting itself in the foot, the defense finally was able to stop the Rams on a second straight drive. While it was no takeaway this time, at least the unit forced a punt to give Cam Newton and company another opportunity to finally get something going before the half.
The unit did just that, at least early on. The series started with a 31-yard pass from Newton to Jakobi Meyers to bring New England to the Los Angeles side of the field; it was later kept alive on a 13-yard pass to N’Keal Harry to convert a 3rd-and-5. The Patriots marched all the way to the Rams 17-yard line, but were faced with another fourth down decision at that point. This time, they went for the points and sent out Nick Folk for a 29-yard field goal. [Patriots 3 : 17 Rams]
New England’s defense, meanwhile, followed the field goal with another impressive series to get off the field on a three-and-out. However, Newton and company went nowhere even after a solid 18-yard punt return by Gunner Olszewski. The drive and the half ended on a 33-yard run by James White that also drew a block-in-the-back penalty versus N’Keal Harry. Fitting.
The Patriots’ opening possession of the third quarter started with a 10-yard sack, and got only marginally better from that point on. While a 30-yard pass from Newton to Harry and some good runs by Damiere Byrd helped New England get across midfield, the series eventually stalled again: Jake Bailey had to come onto the field for a third time, setting L.A. up at its own 10-yard line.
The Patriots’ defense did not fare any better on its first drive, despite some good moments to end the first half. However, the Rams were able to once again run the ball at easy versus a defense unable to consistently fill its gaps, set the edge or finish tackles. The result was a 16-play possession that took almost 10 minutes off the clock, saw two more successful fourth down conversions (including one on a neutral zone infraction against Akeem Spence), and ended with a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp. [Patriots 3 : 24 Rams]
Even down three touchdowns, the Patriots failed to generate any momentum on offense. Instead, they went three-and-out again behind a scramble, short run and sack.
New England’s defense failed to stop the Rams on their previous drive, but found more success in the early fourth quarter: the unit held L.A. to a three-and-out, forcing a quick punt. Unfortunately, the team’s lackluster offensive day continued as the unit produced a three-and-out of its own — leading to Cam Newton getting benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham.
The Patriots’ defense forced another punt on the next drive that led to a 21-yard return by Gunner Olszewski, but New England once again came away without any points. Despite taking over at the Los Angeles 34-yard line after Olszewski’s runback, Stidham and company gained only 18 net yards before the series ended on an incomplete fourth down pass in the red zone intended for rookie tight end Devin Asiasi.
Los Angeles did not take advantage of a second turnover on downs, eventually punting the ball back to Stidham and the Patriots offense. However, the unit also failed to do much with it: the young QB was sacked on third down — the sixth takedown given up by New England on the day — leading to another punt.
With the game already decided in the Rams’ favor, the home team added another punt following by a drive that ended with New England effectively running down the clock.