Cam Newton and the Patriots, coming off a 45-0 win, looked downright horrendous against the Los Angeles Rams.
Cam Newton, Patriots Offense
One of the Patriots' downfalls in this game was their Red Zone Offense. The Patriots failed to score a TD inside the Rams' 20 4 times, and only 1 time resulted in a field goal. There were many examples of these failures including the following. On the ensuing possession after an interception, the Patriots squandered an opportunity to cut the Rams lead to one score. From the 19 yard line, QB Cam Newton was picked off by Rams CB Kenny Young on an odd screen pass to RB Damien Harris. Harris was not even looking in Newton's direction when the ball was thrown.
The Patriots' problem did not seem to be turnovers. It seemed to be more a problem of lackluster offensive performance and questionable play calls. Down 17, the Patriots could've kicked a chip shot field goal to cut the lead to two scores. Instead, the call was to run a Quarterback draw play with Newton. The run was easily blown up, and probably expected, as Newton had run the ball 5 times already over the duration of that drive. The Patriots offensive did not produce many more opportunities, resulting in a measly 3 points.
The Patriots' defense wasn't much of a help to the anemic offense. From the start of the game, it was clear the defense was in trouble. The Rams first 3 instances at the line of scrimmage went as follows. 25-yard completion, 5 yards via penalty (encroachment/offsides by DE John Simon), and a 35 yard run by rookie RB Cam Akers. The Rams would score a touchdown that drive, which would end up being all the points they would have needed to defeat the Patriots. Subsequently, Akers finished with an impressive 171 yards and showed his viability as the Rams feature back.
The only highlight that came from the Patriots defense was an interception by CB Myles Bryant. Bryant, an Undrafted Free Agent signing, made a great play to snatch the ball from Rams WR Robert Woods. Sadly, that gift of a possession, starting in Rams territory, would go to waste when QB Cam Newton threw an interception, as mentioned above. The defense forced multiple punts in garbage time, but by that time the game had already been decided.
Following this loss, the Patriots' playoff chances have taken a large hit. According to multiple sites, the Patriots have about a 6-12% chance to make the playoffs. After trying out some scenarios, I think I have discovered the most realistic path for the Patriots.
However, this scenario requires the Patriots to win all of their remaining games. The Patriots face some fairly good opponents in the Dolphins and Bills. But of course, here's how my ideal scenario plays out. In this scenario, the Patriots finish as the 7th seed at 9-7. In this scenario, the Patriots, Raiders, Dolphins, and Ravens all finish 9-7. If this were to occur, the Patriots would have the ultimate tiebreaker, because to finish 9-7, they would have beaten Miami twice. They have also already beaten the Raiders and Ravens, giving them the advantage. The only somewhat unrealistic outcome in my scenario is the Ravens losing to the Giants. The Giants have been on a good streak, and have even beaten the Seahawks. It seems completely possible they could surprisingly beat the Ravens. This situation is ideal but unlikely.
In all reality, the Patriots are out of the race barring some sort of catastrophe. This season looks to be a failed experiment. I think the Patriots will either spend this offseason searching for a new QB or try to improve one of their own by promoting Jarrett Stidham or re-signing Cam Newton. There are also rumors that Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels may leave following this season. This could be spun as a good thing, to get a new coordinator to work with Newton/Stidham or a new QB. But it is probably a bad sign for the Patriots' goals to be a competitive team.
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Images via AP Photo