Rams 24 Pats 3

LA is damn good.

Jim Rome
December 11, 2020 - 9:13 am
Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers

USA Today

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The New England Patriots played the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53. The New England Patriots played the Los Angeles Rams last night. But let’s be very clear, regardless of what happened the first time around, and regardless of what any of the Rams might think and say,  – that was not a Super Bowl rematch last night. Nowhere close. 

Tom Brady is in Tampa. So is Rob Gronkowski. And the Patriots are a hollow version of the team that won six rings.

You could throw all the rematch questions you wanted at the Rams and they might bite a little, but they know that wasn’t a rematch. Nobody’s getting rings for winning on a Thursday night in December against a .500 team. There is no banner going up in the rafters of the new stadium that reads: Won a game in Week 14.

The Billy Joel sold-out concert banner in MSG thinks a Week 14 banner is lame.

But that doesn’t mean that last night wasn’t somewhat satisfying for the Rams. It was. And it should be in particular for Sean McVay. Because the Rams coach raked himself over the coals after losing to New England in the Super Bowl and then last night, he worked over Bill Belichick.

That was a very Belichick-like performance from the Rams – punishing ground game and a defense that takes away what you do best and makes you left-handed.

I tried to warn you a couple weeks ago after they beat Tampa Bay on Monday Night – this team is good. Really good.

I think you all forgot about them. I think you all went to sleep on them. And you shouldn’t have.

Because while this isn’t the supercharged, insane offense of 2018 where they could put up 30+ per game in their sleep, this crew is still good. Really, really good.

And last night, it started with the defense. Has there been a better coordinator hire this year than Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley?  Make that future head coach Brandon Staley. 

Because his crew was everywhere last night. There were the six sacks and three points, that’s a pretty good start. And there was a pick six.

Was that a clever move by Aaron Donald to get his paws on the running back before he could get out to where Cam Newton was throwing it? Yes. Was it still a great play by Kenny Young? Hell yes.

I don’t want to over-simplify the game too much, but if your defense scores more points than they give up, I like your chances of winning. I really, really do... And that’s exactly what the Rams defense did. They put seven on the board and only allowed three to a team that just put up 45 on Sunday.

And they followed up that pick six with a goal line stand.

Four plays from the six yard line, zero points. Not just four plays, four runs from the six, and the Rams wouldn’t budge. The Pats biggest strength offensively, hell their only strength offensively, is running: and they ran straight into a freaking brick wall. 

Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who had two sacks, said they heard about the Patriots ground game and they went all Michael Jordan with it, taking it personal: extremely personal: "We knew that they had a really good running game. We just took it personal, defensively we took it personal. We wanted to stop their run game."

And they did, holding the Patriots to 3.7 yards per carry. And when the Patriots can’t run, and they fall behind, you know they’re not coming back. And they didn’t.

And for all the focus on the Rams offense and the ability to put up points in a hurry, last night’s game was summed up in just one drive by the offense: the Rams’ epic 16-play, 90-yard march that ate up nearly 10 minutes of the third quarter. That was a statement drive. Actually, Brockers called it a “swagger” drive.

And it was the ultimate Belichick drive. How many times have you seen the Patriots in December or January bludgeon an opponent with a long drive like that? One play after another, picking up yards, chipping away, moving the sticks and stabbing you in the heart, repeatedly. That’s what the Pats used to do to people. And what the Rams and others do to them now. The Rams got the ball with 11:15 to go in the third quarter. And then beat the Patriots over the head with Cam Akers. Repeatedly.

Remember earlier in the season when the knock on the Rams was that their running game wasn’t consistent? It was consistent last night – consistently smashing the Patriots in the face.

Cam Akers had 29 carries for 171 yards and added two receptions for 23 yards. And it felt like all of them came on that drive. Belichick and his mullet rocking son were powerless against the rookie.

And McVay knew it. Everyone knew it. And he kept calling runs and kept bludgeoning the Patriots. And if you really want to grind Belichick’s gears, how about the sequence that unfolded when LA had a 4th and 1 from the New England 4?

Jared Goff tries to get the defense to jump. They don’t. He calls a timeout. And you think maybe the Rams are going to kick the field goal to make it a three-score game. Hell no. They didn’t come this far to come this far. They came to finish the game.

Again, that was a statement. And it was one that Brockers and the Rams defense felt in a big way: “Going for it on fourth down, that BLEEP goes back to what I said earlier: We play for one another. I think Sean felt it. The O-line was rolling, they were controlling the line of scrimmage and he felt like he could get it. But he also knew that the defense had the O’s back, so if they didn’t get it, we’d go out there and get (the ball) back for them.”

So they come back out of the timeout, Goff goes hard count again, and the Pats jump. LA gets the first down and on the next play, Cooper Kupp scores a touchdown.

24-3. Turn out the lights. Thanks for coming. And at that point, Belichick was probably ready turn off his headset; it’s not like he needed it; it’s not like anything he or any of his assistants were dialing up anything that actually worked.  

How the mighty have fallen. For years, this is what the Patriots did to other teams, not what other teams did to the Patriots. For two decades, the Patriots have been going on soul-destroying drives and wrecking you for your own mistakes. And now other teams do it to them; and last night was just the latest example. 

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, when you write down the list of NFC favorites, you better have Rams on that list. I’m not going to use a cliché like they’re peaking at the right time, but in November and December, they’ve won four of five and those wins are over Seattle, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and New England.

They’ve got the extra rest this week, then some more rest against the Jets next weekend. Rest up and ice up, fellas. You’re going to be playing late into January. Esp. If Jared Goff takes care of the ball. Because with a defense like that, they may very well be the team to beat in the NFC.