Ryan L. Fox
If there was one thing that the New England Patriots lacked in 2021 is a quality win against an opponent with a record of .500 or better. The three wins the Patriots have were against teams that had a record worse .500 (including two against the lowly New York Jets). Looking to get their first win against such an opponent, the team head all the way to the west coast to take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Halloween.
Last year when these two teams met, the Patriots absolutely annihilated the Chargers at SoFI Stadium by the final score of 45-0. This time around, the game was a lot closer. Both teams slogged it out for 60 minutes, the score see-sawing with no team getting a lead no greater than a 10 points. But when the final gun sounded, only one team was able to hold their head up high, feeling confident with a victory over a tough opponent…and it wasn’t the Chargers who were holding their heads high.
The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving the Chargers the ball to begin the game. P Jake Bailey booted the kickoff through the back end of the end zone as QB Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense came onto the field to start their opening drive at their own 25.
On the opening play, Herbert found TE Jared Cook over the right side for 12-yards to the Los Angeles 37 and then two plays later, found WR Keenan Allen deep over the right side for a 41-yard pass down to the New England 16. The Chargers offense then got down to the New England 7 before facing a 4th and 1. On 4th and 1, Ekeler bowled his was over to the New England 5 for the first down. On the ensuing play, Ekeler took the hand off and pushed up the middle, churning his legs before crossing the goalline for the touchdown. K Dustin Hopkins booted the PAT through the uprights as the Chargers got the early 7-0 lead with 10:54 left in the first quarter.
After the kickoff went through the back of the end zone, the Patriots went onto the field for their first possession of the game. After a 3-yard run by RB Damien Harries and an incompletion, the Patriots were faced with a 3rd and 7 from their own 28. QB Mac Jones found WR Kendrick Bourne for 14 yards to the New England 42. Jones then followed that up with a 44-yard bomb to WR Nelson Agholor to the Los Angeles 14, giving the Patriots 1st and 10 in the Chargers red zone.
A defensive holding penalty on 3rd and 11 helped keep the drive alive as the Patriots got all the way down to the LA 1 where on 3rd and goal from there, Harris bowled his way over the goalline for the score. K Nick Folk booted the PAT through to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:26 left in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, the Chargers got the ball back on their own 14 to open the second quarter. Following an incompletion by Herbert on first down, the Chargers were faced with a 2nd and 10 from their own 14. On the ensuing play, Herbert handed it off to RB Justin Jackson, who went left side and burst down the field only to be tackled by CB J.C. Jackson down at the New England 14 to complete a 75-yard run. Three plays later, the Chargers were able to cash in as Herbert found Allen over the middle for the 5-yard touchdown. Hopkins booted the PAT through the uprights as the Chargers retook the lead 14-7 with 12:35 left in the second quarter.
The Patriots got the ball back at their own 25 as Jones and the offense came out back onto the field. On the first play from scrimmage, Jones hit TE Jonnu Smith left side for an 11-yard pass to the New England 36. Later on in the drive, facing a 3rd and 4 from the New England 42, Jones scrambled to the New England 48 for 6-yards as an unnecessary roughness on Chargers S Alohi Cilman tacked on 15 more yards to make it 1st and 10 at the LA 37. On the next play from scrimmage, Jones hit former Chargers, now Patriots, TE Hunter Henry deep left side for a 33-yard pass down to the LA 4.
Following an incompletion on first down, Harris bowled his was down to the LA 1 on second down. After another incompletion on third down, the Patriots were faced with 4th and goal at the LA 1. Rather than kick the field goal, the Patriots elected to go for it. In a surprise move, Jones tried to find WR Jakobi Meyers along the left side of the end zone but the pass went incomplete, giving the Chargers the ball back.
The Patriots defense forced the Chargers to punt as PR/WR Gunner Olszewski returned the ball 22 yards to the LA 36.
Following two pass plays to open the drive up, the Patriots turned to the run game for the next few plays (4 carries for 23 yards), getting the ball all the way down to the LA 6. But instead of relying on the running game to get them the score, the Patriots elected to throw the ball as Jones’ ended up throwing back-to-back incompletions to set up 4th and 5 from the LA 36. Rather than risk another turnover on downs on back-to-back drives, Belichick elected to kick the field goal. Folk booted the 24-yard chip-shot through the uprights to make it 14-10 with 3:29 left in the second quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, the Chargers got the ball back with 1:44 left in the half. They tried to get one last scoring drive before halftime but on 2nd and 10 from the LA 40, Herbert’s pass for Ekeler bounced off his target’s hands and into the waiting arms of Patriots S Adrian Phillips at the New England 48 and returned to the LA 40.
After a 10-yard pass from Jones to Bourne to the LA 30 to start the drive, Jones’ next three passes went incomplete. They wound up settling for a field goal as Folk booted the 48-yard attempt through the uprights to make it 14-13 with 10 seconds left in the first half, which ultimately was the final score of the first half.
The Patriots got the ball to start the second half as Olszewski brought the opening kickoff out of the end zone to the New England 22.
The Patriots came out came out running as they ran the ball four out of five plays of the drive (for a total of 26 yards) to the LA 48. Jones then found WR N’Keal Harry for 15 yards to the LA 33 and then Harris bowled his way over 5 yards to LA 28. On the next play, Harris burst through the Chargers defense for what appeared to be a 28-yard rushing touchdown but the play was nullified by a holding penalty OT Justin Herron and backed the Patriots up to the LA 37. After an incompletion on second down, Jones found Bourne over the right side for 7 yards but the ball was punched out by Chargers SS Derwin James Jr. and recovered by teammate FS Nasir Adderley at the LA 25.
The Chargers ultimately were forced to punt on their first possession of the second half as Olszewski brought the punt back to the New England 39 for a 27-yard return.
With the excellent field position, the Patriots were able to pound the rock with their running backs against the worse rush defense in the NFL. They got to the LA 34 as on the ensuing first down, Harris burst around the left end for what appeared to be a 23-yard run. But the play got wiped away due to a holding call on LT Isaiah Wynn, backing the ball up to the LA 44. The Patriots could only advance the ball up to the LA 30 before settling for a 48-yard field goal attempt. The snap and hold were both good as Folk booted the ball through the uprights to give the Patriots their first lead of the game, 16-14 with 3:39 left in the third quarter.
Following the touchback on the following kickoff, the Chargers got the ball back on their own 25. On the first play from scrimmage, Ekeler burst through the left side and rumbled down the field for 28 yards to the New England 47. He then followed that up with an 11-yard pass from Herbert down to the New England 36. The Chargers got all the way down to the New England 30 but Herbert’s third down pass to Allen went incomplete, forcing them to settle for a field goal. Hopkins booted the 48-yard attempt down the middle as the Chargers regained the lead 17-16 with 39 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
Following a Patriots punt, the Chargers got backed up to their own 6 following a penalty on the punt return. The Chargers were able to move the ball, including getting a 15-yard pass from Herbert to Allen on 3rd and long from their own 7 to the 22. But then a few plays later, Herbert tried to find Cook over the right side but the ball found its way to Phillips, who proceeded to run the ball back 26-yards for the pick 6. Jones then found Meyers in the end zone for the two-point conversion to help the Patriots regain the lead 24-17 with 10:11 left in the fourth quarter.
After another Chargers punt, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 34. From there, they proceeded to grind out as much clock as possible while staying in the field of play. The Patriots got all the way down to the LA 11. Folk came in to boot a 30-yard field goal through the uprights to make it a two-score game of 27-17 with 2:19 left in the game. Although the drive ended in a field goal, the Patriots ate nearly 7 minutes off the clock (6:56 to be exact).
Down two scores and time winding down, the Chargers took to the field at their own 28. Herbert lead a hurry-up offense down the field. While the Patriots were content on not giving up big throws down the field, they left the short field open as Herbert dumped the ball off to his receivers for long run-after-catch plays. The Chargers got the ball down to the New England 24 where on 2nd and 10, Herbert found WR Joshua Palmer in the end zone for the touchdown. Hopkins booted the PAT through the uprights as the Chargers drew close 27-24 with 40 seconds left in the game.
The Chargers then tried to onside kick but Patriots TE Hunter Henry fell on top of the ball at the LA 46.
Jones came in to do one final kneel down to end the game, giving the Patriots the 27-24 victory and putting them at .500 (at 4-4) for the first time since a Week 2 after the team had beaten over the Jets to make them 1-1.
Notable Patriots Players Statistical Standouts
QB Mac Jones: 18-for-35 for 218 yards for a QB rating of 70.9, 4 carries for 10 yards (2.5 yards per carry)
RB Damien Harris: 23 carries for 80 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and 1 TDs; 0 catches (on 1 targets) for 0 yards
WR Nelson Agholor: 3 catches (on 6 targets) for 60 yards
K Nick Folk: 4-for-4 for Field Goals, 1-for- on PATS for a combined 13 points
KR/PR Gunner Olszewski: 1 kick return for 26 yards (26.0 yards per return), 4 punt returns for 80 yards (20.0 yards per return)
LB Matt Judon: 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assist) and 1.5 sacks
S Adrian Phillips: 3 tackles (1 solo, 2 assists), 2 INTs, 1 Defensive Touchdown, and 2 Passes Defended
S Kyle Dugger: 6 tackles (4 solo, 2 assists)
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
75 – The number of yards Chargers RB Justin Jackson accumulated on his long run, the longest play the Patriots have given up since 2017 (an 87-yard touchdown run by RB Melvin Gordon back in Week 8 of that season)
4 - The number of consecutive games this year that Patriots RB Damien Harris has a rushing touchdown in (Week 5 to Week 8)
10:48 – The difference of time of possession during the game between the Patriots (35:24) and the Chargers (24:36)
36.3 – The completion percentage of Patriots QB Mac Jones for the first half (8-for-22)
51.4 – The completion percentage of Jones for the entire game (18-for-35)
163 – The number of rushing yards by the Los Angeles Chargers, the most given up by the Patriots defense this season
8.0 – The total number of sacks by Patriots LB Matt Judon this season after the game
60% - the fourth down conversion percentage for the Patriots this season (3-for-5)
51.9 % - The red zone percentage of the Patriots so far this season (14 TDs on 27 red zone trips)
Did You Know That…
- With the Patriots victory over the Chargers, this marked the 4th win of Bill Belichick against rookie head coaches (2-0 against Robert Saleh of the New York Jets and 1-0 against David Culley of the Houston Texas and Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers)
- Belichick and the Patriots are now 10-2 against opponents coming off a bye since 2011
-With WR Kendrick Bourne fumbling on the Patriot’s opening possession in the 2nd half, that gives the team 6 total fumbles lost for the season (after 8 weeks). They had a total of 5 fumbles lost last year.
My Two Cents
Cent #1: Well in the first half, I counted 2 drives that the Patriots made some questionable calls that
On the first drive where it ended in a turnover on downs, the Patriots were faced with a 3rd and goal and a 4th and goal from the Los Angeles 1. The smart play would have been to just hand the ball off to RB Damien Harris, whom the Chargers had a hard time stopping. But instead, Josh McDaniels decided to throw on back to back plays which ultimately cost the team points. Then on the ensuing possession, the Patriots were faced with 2nd and 5 at the LA 6. Again, the Patriots passed up on the run to go with throwing the ball as both passes went incomplete
Look, there is a time and place to be cute. Within 6 yards or less of the opponent’s end zone is not one of them. The Chargers were the worst defensive teams against the run going into this game (162.5 yards allowed per game). You have a strong, powerful running back in Damien Harris. Let him get behind the big boys upfront and bowl his way over the goalline like he did on the first Patriots touchdown.
Cent #2: What the hell was that challenge call by Bill Belichick in the fourth quarter?
To recap, the Chargers were called for a holding penalty on 2nd and 8 from their own 8. But for some odd reason, Belichick threw the challenge flag and say that the penalty occurred in the end zone. Upon review, the replays showed that the penalty itself took place 5 yards out of the end zone.
Belichick was lucky that his defense bailed him out with that pick six by S Adrian Phillips just a few plays later. Just dumb.
And here’s an extra cent for this week.
Cent #3: Last week, I called the victory over the Jets a ‘Fake Win’ and rightfully so.
This time around, I am giving the Patriots major kudos for their victory over the Chargers. First, they beat an opponent with a record of +.500 for the first time this season (Chargers were 4-2 coming into this game and are now 4-3). Second, even though they were down just a point by half time, the Patriots overcame a questionable first half where they were in the Chargers red zone twice and only came away with 3 combined points. And finally, they played the style that brought them so many championships in the past: hard-nosed running, a stout defense, and forcing mistakes at key spots.
This is the sort of victory Patriots fans should be proud of. Have a cold one Pats nation, you’ve earned this gritty victory.
Fox Fist Bump
I gotta give it to the Patriots pass defense in this one victory.
Coming into this game, the Chargers QB Justin Herbert was averaging about 295.2 yards per game, completed approximately 65.4% of his passes, only threw 4 interceptions, and had a QB rating of 98.8 in 7 games played. In the game against the Patriots, Herbert had his worse game of the season. He ended up throwing for a total of 223 yards and completed just 51.4 percent of his passes while throwing 2 interceptions and had a season low QB rating of 66.7
The Patriots defense not only bewildered Herbet all game long, they were able to knock down some of his passes included a couple at the line of scrimmage. Plus those two interceptions ended up leading to 10 Patriots points. One of those interceptions ended up being a pick six in the fourth quarter by S Adrian Phillips (his second of the game) not only swung the momentum of the game into the Patriots favor, it gave them the lead that they never relinquished. It was just textbook awareness on Phillip's part of knowing where the ball was and making a play, which swung momentum in favor of the Patriots..
Good job all around.
The Meatball of the Game
I name both Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick the Meatball of the Game.
For Josh, he’s a meatball for his poor play-calling on those two goalline chances by the Patriots in the first half. You had the ball deep within Chargers territory, against the worst rushing defense in the NFL, and got a strong back in Damien Harris…and you decide to throw the ball. If the Patriots lost the game, no doubt it would have been McDaniels’ fault.
For Belichick, it’s for that stupid challenge call for a ‘penalty in the end zone’. The hold was at the 5 yard line, not the end zone you blind dumbass. Seriously, old age is definitely creeping up on him and making Bill senile and blind.
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