You won't see a Bill Belichick team look much sloppier than Patriots did in loss to Rams

·4 min read

Even though the New England Patriots are shorthanded in terms of talent, you don’t expect them to be sloppy.

You still expect them to look like they did in their glory days, like when they out-coached and out-executed the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

That Patriots team is long gone. There are moments, like a 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, when the Patriots perform far beyond their talent. They were 6-6 coming into Thursday night’s game, and they don’t have a .500 roster.

But on Thursday night it fell apart.

There were numerous uncharacteristic mistakes in a 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Cam Newton got almost nothing going and got pulled with about 10 minutes left. The Patriots are 6-7 and all but done in the AFC playoff race.

Many fans will shed no tears for the Patriots. They have been good for a long, long time and everyone has been ready for them to take a tumble. On Thursday, everyone saw how far they have fallen this season.

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Patriots look bad in ugly loss

There were many examples of the Patriots making bad mistakes that you just don’t see from a Bill Belichick team.

Cam Newton threw a pick six right to linebacker Kenny Young when running back Damien Harris was held up briefly by Aaron Donald at the line. They ran an ugly option play on fourth down near the goal line that was easily swallowed up for a loss. The Rams had a sack early in the third quarter in which there was a totally blown assignment that allowed Michael Brockers to sack Newton without being touched. It’s one thing to let Donald beat you off the line — which happened plenty on Thursday night — it’s another when a mental error leaves a lineman unblocked for an easy sack.

Then came the type of drive that the Patriots have rarely given up under Belichick. The Rams ran 12 times on a 16-play, 90-yard drive that took 9:42 off the clock. They were dominated up front on that drive, and the entire game. When the Rams had a fourth-and-1, a hard count drew defensive tackle Akeem Spence offsides. That trick works once in a while on fourth-and-short. It seemingly never works against the Patriots.

This isn’t a good Patriots team. They have stayed on the fringes of the playoff race due to Belichick and grinding out some close wins. When the Patriots aren’t sharp, it gets really ugly. And they were not sharp on Thursday.

Rams in the mix for a division title

The Rams made the Patriots look bad at times. Cam Akers had a breakout game with 171 rushing yards, the most rushing yards for a Rams rookie since Jerome Bettis in 1993. Los Angeles’ defense, which has been good most of the season, gave up a few decent gains through the air but the Patriots could not sustain any drives. New England had just nine first downs early in the fourth quarter. At that point, with the Rams leading 24-3 and Newton being replaced by Jarrett Stidham, three of New England’s pass plays had accounted for 86 yards and the other 38 offensive plays gained 110 yards.

Los Angeles is having a nice season, and improved to 9-4 with the win. They came into Week 14 tied with the Seattle Seahawks for the lead in the NFC West. Given the Rams’ balance, they could make a run in January.

If the Rams make the Super Bowl again this season, Belichick and the Patriots won’t be waiting for them at the end. New England’s offense is broken, with little skill-position talent and a quarterback in Newton who has struggled badly to pass the ball this season. The defense is a shell of what it was last season. Belichick can do only so much.

On Thursday, the team playing the Rams hardly looked like any Patriots team we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the past two decades. It was an ugly reminder that no dynasty can last forever.

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