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First Look: Rams host Patriots on Thursday Night Football

The Los Angeles Rams (8-4) host the New England Patriots (6-6) on Thursday Night Football looking for their second-straight win following Sunday's victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. is scheduled for 5:20 p.m. pacific time on FOX, NFL Network and Amazon Prime Video.

In advance of the contest, here is your first look at Rams-Patriots on Dec. 10 presented by Bud Light, including notable Patriots additions, some of New England's top statistical performers in Week 13 and key storylines.

Notable Patriots additions

  • Signed former Panthers QB Cam Newton to a one-year deal on July 8. While he hasn't contributed much in the passing game – 190 of 285 for 2,053 yards with five touchdowns and nine interceptions – he's been very effective as a runner. Newton's 11 rushing touchdowns are tied with Washington running back Antonio Gibson for third-most in the NFL, and he's on pace to break his own record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history.
  • Re-signed K Nick Folk. Signed midway through the 2019 season as a replacement for the injury Stephen Gostkowski, Folk made 16 of 19 field goal attempts and 13 of 13 extra point attempts in eight games (seven regular season plus one postseason). That performance was strong enough for New England to bring him back and sign him to the practice squad – along with 2020 fifth-round pick Justin Rohrwasser – this fall following Gostkowski's release in the spring. In 12 games this season, Folk has made 20 of 22 field goal attempts and 26 of 28 extra point attempts.

Top performers in Week 13

Newton completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 69 yards and one touchdown in a 45-0 win over the Chargers, also rushing for two scores. Relieving Newton midway through the fourth quarter, backup Jared Stidham completed 2 of 3 passes for 61 yards and one touchdown in limited action.

RB Damien Harris led New England's backfield with 16 carries for 80 yards, with Newton adding 14 for 48 and RB Sony Michel 10 for 35. New England as a team had 165 net rushing yards, which accounted for more than half their total yards of offense (291).

WR N'Keal Harry (2 catches, 15 yards) was on the receiving end of Newton's touchdown pass, while WR Gunner Olszewski (1 for 38) caught Stidham's.

Defensively, S Adrian Phillips led the unit with 12 total tackles, while CB J.C. Jackson secured his career-high seventh interception of the season. DE Chase Winovich also finished with a pick.

On special teams, Folk made his lone field goal attempt (32 yards) and all six of his extra point attempts. The Patriots' special teams also returned a punt for a touchdown (Olszewski, 70 yards) and a blocked field goal for a touchdown (S Devin McCourty, 44 yards).

Early storylines to watch, and what they mean for the Rams

Complementary football is a goal for the Rams every week, but between Newton and the Patriots run game, the Patriots defense and the Patriots special teams, coming through with such a performance is especially important this week.

Newton is spearheading a New England ground attack which currently ranks third in the NFL at 150.9 yards per game. While the Rams have been able to successfully limit the legs of dual-threat quarterbacks, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton presents a different challenge physically compared to 5-10, 207 Kyler Murray and 5-11, 215 Russell Wilson. Repeatedly trying to tackle a quarterback of that size can wear a defense out if it does not limit him early.

An effective run game helps a team control the clock and limit opportunities for an opposing offense, which makes coming away with points on drives more critical for Los Angeles' offense when it has the ball.

By the same token, L.A.'s defense limiting that ground attack will help take pressure off its offense to produce points and play mistake-free. However, the fewer errors, the better for the Rams' offense, especially against an opportunistic Patriots secondary with Jackson, whose 7 interceptions rank second in the league, and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore.

On special teams, the Rams were able to overcome a pair of miscues against the Cardinals, but the margin of error will be much slimmer this week – the Patriots are coming off a performance in which special teams accounted for 14 of their 28 first-half points.

In short, it's on each phase to come through for the other to give the Rams the best chance to succeed on Thursday.

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