FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots return home Sunday afternoon to host the Los Angeles Rams — a team with a lackluster offense and a formidable yet inconsistent defense.
Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know about the Rams:
They can’t score.
The Rams rank dead last in the NFL in points per game with 15.5. They also rank 31st in yards per game and 29th in both passing yards per game and rushing yards per game. Suffice it to say, their offense is not particularly dangerous.
Todd Gurley has regressed.
The 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year has taken a big step back as an NFL sophomore. After he averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season, Gurley’s average is down to 3.2 this season — a drop from eighth among NFL running backs to 38th. Speaking Wednesday in a conference call with New England media, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the issue is not with Gurley but rather with L.A.’s offense as a whole, which has scored 10 points or fewer in four of its last five games.
Jared Goff still is developing.
Despite being taken first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, Goff is miles behind fellow rookie quarterbacks Carson Wentz (drafted second overall) and Dak Prescott (154th) in terms of development. There’s a reason he sat behind Case Keenum until Week 11. The Cal product showed promise in his second pro start, however, completing 62.5 percent of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns in a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday. Patriots safety Devin McCourty cautioned against underestimating an inexperienced player.
“I think sometimes, (youth) is a little overrated,” McCourty said Wednesday. “You look at a guy like Dak Prescott in Dallas. I’m sure everybody keeps going in saying, ‘He’s a rookie quarterback.’ But it’s all about winning football games. That’s what you have to focus on. … You can’t be out there thinking that just because a guy’s a rookie, he’s not a good football player.”
Of course, Prescott has led the Cowboys to a 10-1 record, while the Rams are 0-2 with Goff at the helm.
Their defensive front is fearsome.
And it’s led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who followed up a Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2014 with an All-Pro season last year. Donald, whom Patriots coach Bill Belichick called “one of the most disruptive players in the league,” leads the team in sacks with six and has the ability to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. L.A.’s defensive line also features Robert Quinn (four sacks) and former Patriots first-round pick Dominique Easley (2 1/2).
L.A.’s defense hasn’t shown up on a consistent basis, however, allowing 28 points or more in five games and 14 points or fewer in five others.
Bill Belichick adores their punter.
The Rams do have strong special teams units, and Belichick spent much of his Wednesday news conference heaping praise on L.A. punter Johnny Hekker. Hekker is a three-time All-Pro whom the Patriots coach called “a tremendous weapon” and “as good a player as I’ve ever seen at that position.” And Belichick is a guy who knows his punters.
The Rams also boast explosive return men in Tavon Austin and Benny Cunningham. Cunningham ranks fifth in the league in kick return yards and fourth in kick return average this season.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images