Coming into Thursday night's game, the New England Patriots were trending in the right direction and looking to make a move into a playoff spot by winning out. After last night it feels they are now questioning if Cam will even be the quarterback for next week. Bill was not entertained by any of these questions by simply stating “Cam is our Quarterback”(Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.). The quote perfectly reflects the performance the Patriots had on Thursday night. Both sides of the ball did not execute, and it never felt like they had a chance after the first drive.
Cam Newton has been struggling through some injury issues according to medical staff (Photo By: Patriots Wire)
Cam Newton played a poor game when they needed him most. Entering the game, the Patriots had to have had a sense that they were going to need to air out the ball a little if they wanted a chance at beating the Rams. That did not happen with Newton only completing nine passes out of the 16 attempts he had. The Rams also did well containing Newton as a runner, for he only picked up 16 yards on seven rushes. They knew that if they kept Newton in the pocket, he would eventually make a mistake. The game was pretty much over in the second quarter when the Patriots had a chance to make it a one-score game and ended up turning it over for points.
They were down 10-0 and in the middle of a good drive when Newton made a poor decision on a screenplay to the running back. The play was read very well by the Rams defense, and Newton threw it right into their hands. Linebacker Kenny Young was the one who came up with the pick and had a clear path to the end zone as he was not touched on his way there to make it 17-0. The struggle to score in the red zone made it impossible for New England to make this a competitive game. They were 1 for 4 on the game, and the one score was a field goal before the half ended. You better have a good defense in this league if you want to win games where your offense only puts points on the board once while being in the red zone 4 times.
The more games they play, the more film the other teams have of them, and when you only have a couple of options down in the goal line, it makes it easy for other teams to defend. This is what it looked like on the 4th & goal play where Newton was stopped behind the line of scrimmage. The defense stacks the box knowing that most likely Newton is running or whoever the back is on that play, which gives the Pats a tough time to put up 6. The offensive line doesn’t get off the hook as they did not help Newton's cause much. They allowed him to get put under pressure all night. He was sacked four times, but it felt like ten. Without Cam having comfort in the pocket, he will never be able to have success in the passing game. It was a poor performance from the line as a unit, which was shocking after the dominance they have had in the past weeks.
The only positive sign for the offense was running back Damien Harris and how he has continued to run the ball well. He did not get many carries as they were playing from behind all game but averaged about 5 yards a carry. Receivers Byrd and Meyers each had multiple grabs, but this was all they could do with not getting many targets. Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham came into the game for the second straight week, but this time because they were getting blown out. He completed some passes and got the ball out quickly. Which raised the question of whether he should be the starter for next week's game in Miami. With the extra few days for Bill to think about it, maybe things will change, but I believe he has faith in winning out the season still, and Cam is the best option for that.
Bill Belichick has committed to Cam Newton week after week in post-game press conferences (Photo By: Patriots Wire)
The defense got tested early, as LA received the ball first and picking up 25 yards on the first play from scrimmage on a pass to Tyler Higbee. After an offside from New England, they then picked up 35 yards on the ground from Cam Akers, who was a problem for the Pats D. This brought them to inside the 10, and the Pats forced them to a 4th & goal at the 1-yard line. It was an easy touchdown for Goff as he jumped right over the center to break the plane. This was an easy drive for them, and they had another dominant possession later on in the game for 16 plays that resulted in a touchdown. Akers had a career night against the Patriot's defense as he picked up 171 yards on the ground. The offensive line was a real help to the dominant night for Akers as he was not touched until many yards past scrimmage on several carries. The defense missed some tackles, which caused so many runs to be for big yards.
The pass coverage was not terrible, allowing less than 200 yards. The Rams passed when they had to, which was not much but did not have any big plays in the air. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods were pretty quiet all night regarding yards, but Kupp did catch the only touchdown pass in the game for two yards that capped off the big 16 play 90 yd drive. Overall, they need to be better because you can’t allow so many yards on the ground, or you will be on the field a lot. They will need to be a lot better at stopping the run and allow the pass coverage to make plays on 3rd downs. This is their way to get turnovers as they did on a bad pass from Goff, which gave their offense great field position. Only allowing 17 points on the night does not look bad, but unfortunately, the offense wasn’t able to help them at all. They just got to do better stopping the run.
Player of the game:
This was an easy and obvious pick, Cam Akers for the Rams, who tore it up all night. He has been 1 of 3 backs the Rams have been featuring this year, but this night he was the clear number 1. He did get help from the O-line, but to his credit, he ran hard all night and was a big reason the Rams were able to win this game. I would expect him to be their guy from now on and into the playoffs as he is capable of having another big night similar to Thursday.
Next Week Outlook:
Next week's game is on the road again against the Dolphins. They have been a surprise for many this year being in front of the Patriots in the division at 8-4. They are coached by former Pats defensive coach Brian Flores. He has done a great job with the team, in particular, the defense. They have forced a lot of turnovers this year, which is not a good thing for the Pats as they have not held on to the ball as much as Bill would like. The offense will have a tough test, and I believe that it's time for a QB change. You are most likely are not making the playoffs, and you might as well get an idea of what you have in Stidham now than waste next year to see what he's like. It gets old when you can't win and pass for less than 150 yards almost every game. I love Cam, but he seems hurt, and he is not the answer for the Patriots. I think the Dolphins will win this game as their defense will give the Pats troubles all game. We will see who the starter will be, but I think regardless they will struggle to score. I do have trust in the defense playing well, and hopefully, they come up with points and give the team a chance. They have to stop the run to have a positive enough impact, and I think they will do all they can to force the rookie Tua to throw the ball. Seldom does a rookie QB have success against the genius, but here I think the Pats personnel will just not be enough to beat Miami on the road. We will see come next Sunday if the Patriots can keep their season alive if it's not already dead.
Author: Cameron Quinlan