The 2020 New England Patriots are the most unpredictable and frustrating team of Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach.
Just when it looked like the Patriots had figured things out after consecutive wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers, any forward momentum was immediately halted in the Rams’ first offensive series Thursday night, when Los Angeles marched down the field on a decisive scoring drive.
It was all downhill from there and the Patriots lost 24-3, essentially knocking themselves out of playoff contention, barring a miracle.
Here are our top takeaways from Thursday’s loss.
All advanced stats via PFF unless otherwise noted.
Cam Newton went 9-of-16 passing for 119 yards with an interception. Jarrett Stidham was 5-of-7 for 27 yards.
Adjusted completion percentage
Of Newton’s seven incompletions, two were dropped, one was batted at the line of scrimmage and one was thrown away. He had a 78.6-percent adjusted completion rate.
None of Stidham’s two incompletions were dropped, thrown away, batted, spiked or came when he was hit while throwing, so his adjusted completion rate was 71.4 percent.
— Wide receiver Damiere Byrd had both of the Patriots’ drops. Only Byrd, among Patriots wide receivers, had above average separation on the game, according to Next Gen Stats’ charting. League average is 2.86 yards.
Byrd: 3.7 yards
Jakobi Meyers: 1.67 yards
N’Keal Harry: 1.63 yards
Devin Asiasi: .34 yards
— Harry made two nice contested catches on the evening.
— Newton was 1-of-2 for 30 yards on deep passes. Stidham only threw shallow passes.
— Newton’s interception came on a failed screen attempt to running back Damien Harris. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who registered two sacks and two hurries, held up Harris on what Newton called an anticipation play. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t blame Newton on the interception and said he didn’t know why the QB would have chosen to throw the ball into the ground rather than where he expected Harris to be on the route. So, there’s that.
— Newton certainly wasn’t good, but all of the Patriots’ issues don’t rest squarely on his shoulders, and his pass protection was rough.
LT Jermaine Eluemunor: two sacks, hurry
RG Shaq Mason: two sacks, hurry
RT Michael Onwenu: sack, two hurries
LG Joe Thuney: sack, two hurries
QB Cam Newton: sack
RB Sony Michel: hurry
C David Andrews: hurry, holding penalty
RB James White: hurry
— Tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, left tackle Justin Herron and Harris were clean in pass protection.
— This was by far the Patriots’ worst game in pass protection.
— Herron played just seven snaps, rotating with Eluemunor at left tackle with Isaiah Wynn on injured reserve.
Harris led the Patriots with 50 rushing yards on 11 carries before leaving the game with a back injury.
Newton: 5.8 yards after contact per attempt, avoided tackle
RB Damien Harris: 2.18 yards after contact per attempt, three avoided tackles
RB Sony Michel: 2 yards after contact per attempt
RB James White: 1.33 yards after contact per attempt
QB Jarrett Stidham: 1 yard after contact per attempt
— The Patriots’ offensive line was significantly better run blocking than pass blocking against the Rams.
— Defensive tackle Michael Brockers terrorized the Patriots’ offensive line with five defensive stops plus two sacks and a hurry.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff went just 16-of-25 for 137 yards with a touchdown and interception.
SS Adrian Phillips: four catches on seven targets, 42 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 3-4, 23 yards
CB JC Jackson: 3-4, 23 yards
CB Jonathan Jones: 3-3, 18 yards
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 1-1, 16 yards
LB Anfernee Jennings: 1-1, 8 yards
OLB John Simon: 1-1, 7 yards
SS Kyle Dugger: 0-1
OLB Josh Uche: 0-1
CB Myles Bryant: 0-1, INT
— Rams head coach Sean McVay showed a real hesitance to allow Goff to throw. Goff threw just one deep pass and made four intermediate throws all game.
— Bryant made a fantastic play on his interception to close quickly on Rams wide receiver Robert Woods and pry the ball away.
— Uche looked like a natural in coverage while also registering a QB hit. Jones (22 snaps) and cornerback Jason McCourty (16 snaps) both played limited roles. Jones came into the game with a neck injury. JC Jackson (hip, knee) led Patriots defenders in snaps despite coming into the game as questionable with multiple injuries.
DT Adam Butler: four hurries
DT Byron Cowart: sack, hurry
DE Deatrich Wise: QB hit, hurry
Uche: QB hit
DE Tashawn Bower: hurry
Simon: neutral zone infraction
DT Akeem Spence: neutral zone infraction
— OLB Chase Winovich played a limited role with just 24 total defensive snaps (38.1 percent). It was his lowest snap count since Week 8. OLB John Simon took on a bigger role because the Rams went so run-heavy, and the Patriots clearly don’t trust Winovich as a run defender. Simon has struggled this season, however, so it didn’t ultimately matter who was out there.
— Butler continues to bring pressure since coming off of a shoulder injury that knocked him out of Week 11.
— Uche needs to play more down the stretch. He’s the Patriots’ most explosive front-seven defender.
The Patriots let up 186 yards on 36 carries with a rushing touchdown. Rookie Cam Akers picked up 171 yards on 29 carries in a breakout performance.
Bentley: five stops
Phillips: five stops, missed tackle
Wise: three stops
Cowart: two stops
OLB Chase Winovich: two stops
DT Lawrence Guy: two stops
Dugger: two stops, missed tackle
Simon: two stops, two missed tackles
Butler: missed tackle
Jennings: missed tackle
Gilmore: three missed tackles
— The Patriots were really bad against the run early but did settle down, to some extent, after the first quarter outside of a long third-quarter scoring drive. The Patriots probably aren’t as good against the run as they might have looked in Weeks 11 to 13 when they faced the Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers.
— With the postseason out of reach, there’s no reason to play Winovich just 24 total defensive snaps. If he’s going to be a big part of the defense moving forward, then they need to play him through his growing pains in run defense. It’s not as if players like Simon and Jennings are doing a bang-up job setting the edge in his stead. The Patriots’ defense, in general, is better with Winovich on the field. Winovich was on the field for just one of Akers’ big runs, a 9-yarder, when the Rams ran away from him. He also made a 2-yard stop on a run by Darrell Henderson. Every other big run by Akers came when Winovich was on the sideline.
— The Rams carried the ball 11 times for 28 yards, including Jared Goff’s QB sneak touchdown, with Winovich on the field. The Rams carried the ball 23 times for 150 yards when Winovich was on the sideline.
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