Patriots’ playoff chances take a major hit in 24-3 loss to Rams

The Patriots were throttled by the Rams as Cam Akers ran over New England in a Super Bowl rematch.

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is sacked by Rams defensive end Michael Brockers.
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is sacked by Rams defensive end Michael Brockers. –AP

Los Angeles’ Cam 1, New England’s Cam 0

Rams’ rookie Cam Akers had one of the best games against the Patriots of any running back in recent memory Thursday night, rushing for 171 yards and leading Los Angeles to a 24-3 win over New England Thursday night at SoFi Stadium.

On the other side, Cam Newton was 9-for-16 for 119 yards and an interception before being yanked early in the fourth quarter for Jarrett Stidham.

For the Patriots, Damien Harris had 11 carries for 50 yards, and Damiere Byrd had five catches for 48 yards.

On the other side, Akers provided the bulk of the offense for Los Angeles, while Jared Goff finished 16-for-25 for 137 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Akers’ output was the most for any rookie running back this season, and it was the most rushing yards by a rookie running back against the Patriots in franchise history.

Patriots lose, 24-3 – 11:10 p.m.

That’ll do it.

Stidham in at QB – 10:50 p.m.

Jarrett Stidham takes over with roughly 10 minutes to go in regulation. Newton’s night ends with him going 9-for-16 for 119 yards and an interception.

Happy return – 10:48 p.m.

Olszewski delivers a 22-yard return, setting up the Patriots with pretty good field position — the Los Angeles’ 34 — with 10:12 to go in regulation. It’s still 24-3, Rams.

Harris back up – 10:44 p.m.

Third quarter done – 10:29 p.m.

Rams up 24-3, and they’ll get the ball back after that 3-and-out.

Rams score again – 10:22 p.m.

We’re only in the third quarter and there’s a lot of football left to play, but that last drive for the Rams will be a tough one to bounce back from. Let’s start with the fact that the whole sequence took nearly 10 minutes and featured a ground game that just pounded New England to dust. The Rams’ offense made the plays when it needed to make them, including a healthy dose of Cam Akers and a fourth-down pickup on a QB sneak from Goff to keep the chains moving. After a neutral zone infraction call on New England on fourth down at the Patriots’ 4-yard line, Goff found Cooper Kupp for a 2-yard touchdown pass. If the Patriots could have gotten a stop there at any point, it would have gone a long way toward keeping them in this game. But a 21-point deficit against this defense at this point is probably be too tall an order for the New England offense to overcome.

Phillips questionable – 10:05 p.m.

Halftime takeaways – 9:46 p.m

Two quarters are in the books in Southern California, and the Rams are up, 17-3. Here are a new takeaways:

Cam Newton: 8-12, 89 yards, 1 INT

Damien Harris: 9 carries, 39 yards

Damiere Byrd: 3 catches, 35 targets

Jakobi Meyers: 3 catches, 41 yards

Jared Goff: 11-18, 96 yards, 1 INT; 1 rushing TD

Cam Akers: 11 carries, 89 yards; 2 catches, 23 yards

Tyler Higbee: 2 catches, 34 yards

•For New England, as rough as the first 29 or so minutes were, it could really be classified as a half full of missed opportunities. The Patriots were turned away on a fourth-and-goal, settled for a field goal while inside the L.A. 5-yard line, and turned the ball over after a nice takeaway in the Los Angeles end, all of which came in the second quarter. Those issues were compounded by the fact that the Rams made them pay with 17 early points to help build their lead.

•Honestly, the Patriots were a little flat for most of the first quarter-plus, with Los Angeles jumping to a quick lead thanks to a strong opening quarter and the pick-6 from Kenny Young on the first play of the second quarter to make it 17-0. Harris was probably the most consistent offensive presence for New England over the first two quarters, but Byrd and Jakobi Meyers had a couple of nice moments of their own.

•For New England, the best moment of the first half came late in the first quarter when rookie defensive back Myles Bryant came away with his first interception of the season, a play that gave the Patriots possession deep in Los Angeles’ territory. While going to the ground, Bryant simply swiped the ball from veteran receiver Robert Woods, who was struggling with possession. The Patriots gave the ball back on Newton’s pick-6, but that was a nice highlight for the New England rookie.

Defensively, the Patriots have had the most issues with Akers, who had 99 yards from scrimmage before the end of the first quarter. He was slowed a bit in the second quarter, but it’s still worth noting that O.J. Simpson has the record for most rushing yard in a game against the Patriots with 250 back in 1973. Could Akers threaten the mark tonight? We shall see.

•The Patriots put together a nice drive in the second quarter — trailing 17-0, Newton drove the offense all the way down inside the Los Angeles’ 5-yard line, a sequence that included a really sharply executed 25-yard pass play to Damiere Byrd. But the quarterback was stopped on fourth-and-goal in a sequence that looked an awful lot like their last offensive play ins the loss to the Seahawks, leaving it 17-0 midway through the second quarter.

•Two special teams notes from the first half: Folk kept his streak alive with a 29-yarder at the end of the first half, and Gunner Olszewski looked close to breaking a punt return late in the second quarter.

•The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half. Time for a statement possession to get back into this one.

New England finally on the board – 9:37 p.m.

The Patriots finally scored on a 29-yarder from Folk with 1:04 left in the half to make it 17-3. Interesting decision to kick the field goal instead of going for it on 4th and two in the red zone — we’ll see if that impacts this one down the road. But on that offensive series, there were signs of life from the New England offense. It started with a 31-yard pass play to Meyers, and a few plays later, added a 13-yard connection with N’Keal Harry on a third-down that kept the chains moving. It wasn’t perfect, but if you’re a New England fan, the response of the Patriots’ offense on that sequence was at least a little heartening. It’s 17-3 with just over a minute left in the first half.

Pats turned away – 9:17 p.m.

The end of that offensive series looked a lot like what happened at the end of the game against Seattle — a nice, steady drive that ended with the quarterback stopped on the goal line. Until that point, it was the sort of response that New England was looking for — a nice, sustained drive that would have cut the lead to 10 midway through the second quarter. But they came away with nothing. Now, it’s on the defense again to get the ball back. It’s 17-0 with 6:48 left in the first half.

Pick-6 makes it 17-0 – 9:05 p.m.

Well, that was maybe the worst possible sequence there for the Patriots. Kenny Young made a terrific pick on Newton and took it back for a touchdown. Just a backbreaker of a turnover for a New England team that was close to getting back into the game. Now, it’s 17-0 with 14:46 to go in the half. This one has the potential to get out of hand very quickly.

End of one quarter – 9:01 p.m.

The Patriots are down 10-0 after one, but they have the ball on the Rams’ 19. Big opportunity to get back into the game here.

Pats get the ball back – 8:58 p.m.

Big play there, and a possible momentum swing in New England’s favor. Myles Bryant just straight stole the ball from Woods on that sequence. Just a really nice pick — the definition of a takeaway. It’s the first of the season for the young defensive back. It gets the Patriots on the board, and it serves as a good way to potentially shake Goff’s confidence. Anyway, New England has the ball on the LA 32 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.

One more note on Akers – 8:49 p.m.

Most rushing yards against the Patriots in a game? O.J. Simpson, with 250 yards on 9/16/73. Cam Akers has 83 with four minutes left in the first quarter. The Rams are going to get the ball back here after Jake Bailey’s second punt of the night. Needless to say, not a great start tonight for the Patriots.

Akers rolling – 8:43 p.m.

With just over five minutes left in the first quarter, Cam Akers has 99 yards from scrimmage. A 35-yard field goal from Gay gives the Rams a 10-0 lead with 5:16 left in the opening frame.

For starters – 8:36 p.m.

Defense: Wise, Guy, Cowart, Simon, Jennings, Bentley, Gilmore, Jackson, Dugger, Phillips, D. McCourty

Offense: Newton, Harris, Johnson, Byrd, Meyers, Herron, Eluemunor, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Onwenu

Rams score quickly – 8:28 p.m.

Bad start for the New England defense. A 25-yarder from Goff to Higbee — on a bootleg — got the Rams stared quickly. That was followed by a 35-yard run play for Cam Akers which got LA into the red zone. A few plays later, Goff scored on a 1-yard plunge on 4th and goal — it’s 7-0 with 11:21 to go in the first quarter. (One guy who gets a thumbs down right out of the gate was John Simon. He missed a tackle on the 35-yard gain on Akers and was hit with a neutral zone infraction.)

Time for football – 8:20 p.m.

The Patriots win the toss and defer.

Official Price Prediction – 8:12 p.m.

We went over an awful lot of reasons to take the Patriots in this one in our gambling preview, and I won’t revisit those reasons here. (Scroll down if you want an explanation.) But I’m feeling the Patriots tonight. This is a good matchup for a New England team that is playing its best football of the season. It’s not going to be easy, but I think the Patriots have enough in all three areas (including special teams) to pull this one out. I’ll say New England wins, 24-20.

A few numbers to watch – 7:57 p.m.

•The Patriots’ franchise record for most rushing yards by a quarterback is 539 from Steve Grogan in 1978. Cam Newton is currently at 435 rushing yards. Grogan also set the franchise mark for rushing touchdowns from a quarterback with 12 in 1976 — Newton currently has 11.

•Damien Harris is now poised to be the 10th different running back to lead the Patriots in rushing in the last 15 seasons. He also has a *shot* at being New England’s first 1,000-yard rusher since LeGarrette Blount in 2016. Harris would need to average 90 rushing yards per game the rest of the way to hit the 1,000-yard mark. (For what it’s worth, Bill Belichick has never had a running back rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Antowain Smith came the closest, with 1,157 yards in 2001 and 982 yards in 2002.)

•It’s fair to compare the 2020 team to the 2008 edition for a few reasons other than the fact that there’s no Tom Brady under center. The construction of both running games is similar. The 2008 team had five guys — Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, LaMont Jordan, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Matt Cassel — rush for 250 yards or more. If Sony Michel can hit 250 (he’s at 208 right now), the 2020 Patriots would have four, with Michel, Damien Harris, Cam Newton and Rex Burkhead. (The 2008 team is the last New England roster to have five different players rush for 250 yards or more in one season.)

Pats’ offense – 7:55 p.m.

Pats still an underdog – 7:35 p.m.

The line for this one started with L.A. as a 6.5-point favorite, and has slipped as low as 4.5 points over the course of the week before settling in at 5 over the last day or so. It’s still a lot of points for a New England team — Odds Shark notes the Patriots are 10-5 against the spread under Belichick when they were spotted six points, including six wins. Also keep in mind that New England is a good Thursday team — the Pats are 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 Thursday night games. Toss in the fact that New England is 6-0 straight-up and 5-1 against the spread in its last six games vs.Los Angeles, and I’m feeling a Pats’ win here. We’ll get a prediction just before kickoff.

Rams inactives – 7:23 p.m.

Inactives released – 7:17 p.m.

The Patriots have just announced their inactives for tonight’s game. Here they are, and here’s what it all means:

Strong safety Terrence Brooks: A healthy scratch. I would say it’s nothing he’s necessarily doing wrong, but a case of both Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips playing very well, especially over the last few weeks.

Defensive tackle Isaiah Mack: Another healthy scratch — wasn’t on the injury report all week.

Running back J.J. Taylor: The undersized back has been up-and-down all year — when he’s been healthy, he’s been a nice spark for an occasionally sluggish offense. Tonight, he’ll sit — New England must feel pretty good about its depth at running back.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer: The least surprising decision of all — the veteran has been the third quarterback behind Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham for the bulk of the season, and that’s the case again tonight.

Tight end Jordan Thomas: The odd man out/healthy scratch in the tight-end shuffle. New England brought back Asiasi and moved Izzo to IR. So it’ll be Asiasi and Keene tonight at the position tonight for the Patriots.

In addition, it’s worth noting that cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones are active after getting banged up last week against the Chargers.

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Hey old pal – 7:08 p.m.

Pats activate Asiasi – 6:50 p.m.

Going to be interesting to see how the Patriots operate at the tight end position tonight. New England activated Devin Asiasi and placed Ryan Izzo on IR earlier in the day, which could mean pairing Asiasi with Dalton Keene, with Jakob Johnson working in an H-back sort of role. Not saying we’re going to see a wholesale overhaul of the position and Asiasi is going to catch a bunch of passes. Just going to be intrigued to see how they’ll operate and who might get the bulk of the reps without Izzo (who has been TE1 by default this year) in the lineup.

Back to work – 6:30 p.m.

Our guy Jim McBride is on the scene on Los Angeles.

Pats’ fan rooting guide – 6:25 p.m.

The Patriots need to keep winning if they want a shot at the postseason, but they could also stand to benefit from help from other teams around the league. If you’re a New England fan, who should you root for this weekend? Here’s a look at some key games from a Patriots’ perspective (all games Sunday unless noted):

Broncos (4-8) at Panthers (4-8): Denver’s playoff chances are dimming, and a Carolina win over the Broncos would pretty much finish them off. Fewer distractions for New England to worry about, especially one like Denver that would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Patriots. Verdict: Panthers.

Texans (4-8) at Bears (5-7): Same goes for this one — the Texans are pretty much cooked. If you’re a New England fan, you want as few potential foes left alive as possible. Verdict: Bears.

Titans (8-4) at Jaguars (1-11): Not saying this is feasible, but New England could certainly benefit if Jacksonville found a way to knock off Tennessee. Verdict: Jaguars.

Chiefs (11-1) at Dolphins (8-4): It might go against every fiber of your football being, Patriots’ fans, but you need to pull for Kansas City here. If the Chiefs beats Miami and the Patriots find a way to beat the Rams Thursday night, New England will be just a game behind the Dolphins. Verdict: Chiefs.

Steelers (11-1) at Bills (9-3): Another case of strange bedfellows. The Patriots would benefit if Pittsburgh can travel to Buffalo and beat the Bills. If New England can beat the Rams, those two outcomes would represent a sizable step in making that final New England-Buffalo game in Foxborough a big one. Verdict: Steelers.

Colts (8-4) at Raiders (7-5): A toughie in that these are two teams slightly ahead of New England in the playoff race. Barring a tie, the best possible scenario for New England is for the Raiders to find a way to win and bring Indy back to the pack a bit — Vegas is so wildly inconsistent, we’d bet on a backslide over the final three games that would ultimately leave them out of the playoffs. Verdict: Raiders.

Ravens (7-5) at Browns (9-3): When it comes to this Monday might matchup, the Patriots would be best served if Cleveland can knock off Baltimore. Combined with a New England win, that would put the Patriots in the thick of the race for that last playoff spot. Verdict: Browns.

Back to football – 6:15 p.m.

Welcome back to football, everyone! Tonight, we’ve got the Patriots and Rams in a Super Bowl LIII (and XXXVI) rematch, live from Southern California. New England (6-6), which has won four of its last five, will be looking to stay hot as it continues a playoff push. Los Angeles (8-4) will be angling for its fifth win in its last seven games while keeping pace in the NFC West. We’ll have everything you need to get ready for the 8:20 p.m. (EST) kickoff, including news from SoFi Stadium, inactive analysis, betting news, a look around the league at the other games this week that will impact the Patriots’ playoff chances, and much more. But first, it’s the pregame reading list:

Here’s your pregame reading list:

Chad Finn: The Rams are a complete team, but the Patriots have been finding a way

What NFL experts are predicting for Thursday’s Patriots-Rams game

Russell Wilson explains how long it took him to stop thinking about Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl XLIX interception

Many of Super Bowl LIII’s stars won’t be playing in Thursday’s Patriots-Rams rematch

Watch: Tony Romo does impressions of Tom Brady, other NFL legends

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