The rollercoaster ride that is the 2020 New England Patriots season rolls along. After decimating the Los Angeles Chargers 45-0 on Sunday, Bill Belichick’s squad rolled back into SoFi Stadium on Thursday and got absolutely manhandled by the Rams, losing 24-3.
The Rams started fast and never looked back, beginning the game with a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive and never giving up the lead. Even when the defense was able to settle down and force a turnover, the offense couldn’t take advantage, as Cam Newton threw a pick-six to put the Rams up 17-3. The second half got underway with an uninspired drive by the offense resulting in a punt to LA, who turned around and squeezed the life out of New England’s defense with a 16-play, 90-yard, touchdown drive that took 9:42 off the clock and essentially ended the game.
It was a night full of disappointment for the Patriots. They had a great opportunity to build off of their best game of the season and really take control of their playoff destiny down the stretch. Instead, they squandered just about every chance they had and allowed their weaknesses to be exploited by a pretty average Rams team.
Without a three game winning streak and some big time help from other teams, it looks like the season will end on January 3rd in Foxborough.
Loser: QB Cam Newton
Say what you will about his weapons and the offensive line, it’s an indisputable fact that Cam Newton did not play well last night. Not only were the numbers bad — he went 9-for-16 for 119 yards and an interception — but he also held the ball on occasions when he had wide open receivers and continued to miss the short throws that he needs to make to be the QB in the Patriots offense; he was even mediocre as a rusher with 2.6 yards per carry on seven attempts.
Despite his poor performance, the two main reasons that Cam Newton belongs under the loser tag tonight are at no fault of his own. First, it’s become evident that the Patriots are not going to change their offense to fit the strengths of Newton. It has been 13 weeks of the same stuff they ran with Tom Brady. Second, despite the lack of talent surrounding him, we know that Newton isn’t doing anything to elevate the offense’s production. Why would you hold onto a 31-year-old quarterback that does nothing to improve your chances of winning? You wouldn’t, and in all honesty, they probably won’t.
Loser: OC Josh McDaniels
Josh McDaniels finds himself next to Cam Newton under the loser tag because, well, he’s the reason Newton is here in the first place. Despite giving him the benefit of the doubt for some reason, McDaniels showed up to SoFi Stadium with the same game plan that they’ve had all season: A litany of run plays on early downs and screen passes that are doomed from the start. He even mixed in a couple of plays that worked enough to get them into the redzone, where he immediately forced four straight runs and turned the ball over on downs.
I know that Josh McDaniels gets some undeserved gaff for his play calling but he turned in a real stinker last night,
Winner: WR N’Keal Harry
N’Keal Harry went full possession receiver last night and it was glorious. After showing some physicality on his touchdown catch last week, Harry played with that same physicality against the Rams. He used his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame on all three of his receptions and even went up and got one on a really impressive play. If they start using him like this, we could be seeing a whole new N’Keal Harry in the future.
Losers: EDGE Anfernee Jennings and EDGE John Simon
The edge of the Patriots defense was a mess all night and it started with Jennings and Simon. On multiple occasions they were washed out of the play by tackles or took themselves out by rushing too far up the field. Rams rookie running back Cam Akers had 171 yards on the ground and started the game with about 10 yards a pop on his first six carries. As the rotations moved along with Chase Winovich and Josh Uche, the defense was able to settle in and make some stops. When Jennings and Simon came back in, the Rams were able to execute better. They looked like a couple of players holding their team back.
Winner: DB Myles Bryant
The rookie came up big last night in his first game with some meaningful playing time. Not only did he make a nice play on a badly thrown ball by Jared Goff and come up with the interception, but Bryant continued to be rock-solid in his time on the field. He’s been pretty much non-recognizable when on the field with the lone exception being his interception. That is pretty much all you can ask for out of an undrafted defensive back.
Loser: OT Jermaine Eluemunor
I could have gone with the easy choice and listed the entire offensive line, a unit that gave up six sacks on the night, but Eluemunor stuck out in all the worst ways. Not only did he look to be a step behind in the run game (the first three runs to the left side of the line went for a combined four yards) but he had a stretch at the beginning of the second half where he gave up two sacks on five plays and single-handedly stalled the Patriots’ drive. They miss Isaiah Wynn badly.
Winner: P Jake Bailey
Not only did Jake Bailey punt a football 71 yards (84 off the foot) but Bailey outdueled perennial Pro Bowler and certified weapon Johnny Hekker. Go tweet his name with the hashtag #ProBowlVote.
Loser: QB Jarrett Stidham
With the offense floundering and the game looking to be out of reach, the Patriots pulled Cam Newton from the game with a little over 10 minutes remaining. Stidham entered the game with his first real chance to show something and gained one first down on three possessions. Even after seeing enough to realize that 31-year-old Cam Newton isn’t the answer, we also know that 24-year-old Stidham probably isn’t either. A squandered chance to gain momentum and a lost opportunity to prove some kind of worth lands him here.