By GREG BEACHAM
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — With rookie Cam Akers running wild for the Rams and his defensive teammates thoroughly stifling the Patriots, Los Angeles got a tiny measure of payback for its Super Bowl embarrassment two years ago.
These Rams even looked good enough to contend for a chance at some actual Super Bowl redemption later this season.
Akers rushed for 171 yards in a breakout performance, Kenny Young returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown and the Rams clinched their fourth straight winning season with a 24-3 victory over the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
Jared Goff rushed for a touchdown and threw a TD pass to Cooper Kupp as the NFC West-leading Rams (9-4) rolled to a one-sided victory in a rematch of their 13-3 Super Bowl loss in February 2019.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them, but it’s a totally different year,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with what occurred a couple of years ago.”
While the Rams’ offense looked sharp, their defense pushed the Patriots (6-7) perilously close to disarray. New England managed only 220 total yards — just 62 in the second half with a series of misbegotten drives.
Cam Newton went 9 of 16 for 119 yards and got sacked four times before the 2015 NFL MVP was replaced by Jarrett Stidham for the final three series in the fourth quarter.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do,” Newton said. “We have to be better, and it starts with me personally. I have to make more plays.”
Five days after the Patriots scored 45 points at SoFi Stadium against the Chargers, New England endangered its push for a 12th straight playoff berth with only its second loss in six games.
When asked if he expected to start next week, Newton replied: “That’s not my call.”
Bill Belichick doused the understandable speculation moments later: “Cam is our quarterback.”
The Rams got a superb game from Akers, the second-round draft pick out of Florida State who has seized a major role in their offense over the last three weeks. Akers’ yards mostly came in big chunks during the biggest rushing game by an NFL rookie this season and just the ninth 150-yard game against a Belichick-coached defense since 2000.
“It’s just (great) watching that guy really assert himself as a big-time player for us,” McVay said. “You can just see this guy is going to be a really special player for us, and this was a great night for him.”
Aaron Donald had 1 1/2 sacks to move into the overall NFL lead with 12 1/2 this season while leading another strong game from Los Angeles’ elite defense, which recorded six sacks and also scored a touchdown in its third consecutive game. The Pats’ third-ranked rushing offense managed just 3.7 yards per carry.
“We knew they had a great running game, that they outphysical-ed people, and we took that personally,” said Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who had two sacks. “If they were going to come in here and run the ball, we were going to stop them.”
New England again struggled to move the ball through the air, and Newton threw his first pick-six of the season to Young, who also had a sack and led the Rams with eight tackles. Stidham went 5 of 7 and got sacked twice after taking over early in the fourth quarter.
Despite their strong recent play, the Patriots have seven losses for the first time since 2002, officially ending their NFL-record streak of 17 straight seasons with at least 10 victories.
The Rams’ opening 75-yard TD drive at SoFi Stadium looked better than anything it did in the Super Bowl. Tyler Higbee and Akers had long gains before Goff leaned over the line on fourth-and-goal for his career-high fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
An intentional grounding penalty on Goff and a poorly thrown pass intercepted by New England’s Myles Bryant kept the Pats’ deficit manageable early. But Young opened the second quarter with an interception by Donald’s disruption up front, taking it all the way back for the third-year linebacker’s first NFL touchdown.
Kupp’s 2-yard TD catch late in the third quarter capped a dominant 16-play, 90-yard drive by the Rams that included two fourth-down conversions.
“It didn’t really matter anything else that happened,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “They were able to continuously run it and get first downs. It takes you out of the play-calling. We were able to do well on third downs, but it didn’t matter because of how well they did in the run game. They took the whole third quarter with the long drive, and we can’t play that way.”
The Rams will have four consecutive winning records under McVay, something the franchise hadn’t done since 1983-86 with Eric Dickerson and coach John Robinson. Los Angeles still hasn’t clinched McVay’s third playoff spot, but his team will sit atop the division with three games to play.
Los Angeles also improved to 33-0 with a halftime lead under McVay.
Patriots: S Adrian Phillips injured his hand at some point near halftime, but he returned in the second half. … RB Damien Harris left the field gingerly in the fourth quarter.
Rams: K Matt Gay played and didn’t miss a kick despite a shoulder injury.
Patriots: Visit the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 20.
Rams: Stay home to host the New York Jets on Sunday, Dec. 20.