Ryan L. Fox
In previous years under the Bill Belichick regime, when the calendar year turns to December the New England Patriots have either clenched a playoff spot or were about to going into Week 13. But in 2020, things are a little different as the Patriots are fighting to just stay alive in the playoff hunt.
After getting a big victory at home against the Arizona Cardinals, the Patriots head out on the road for their next 3 games. The first game on the road trip was a late Sunday afternoon game against the Los Angeles Chargers in the City of Angels. But what many thought could have been a closely-tight game turned into one giant blowout. In the words of Julius Caesar, the Patriots came, they saw, and they conquered.
The Patriots ended up getting the ball to start the game.
QB Cam Newton opened up the game with a quick screen pass to RB Damien Harris for 15 yards to the New England 40. From then on, the Patriots offense went to the ground game 9 out of the next 11 plays, including Newton’s 1-yard touchdown dive to cap off the drive. K Nick Folk booted the PAT through the uprights to make it 7-0 in favor of the Patriots with 7:50 left in the 1st quarter.
The Chargers tried to answer back with their own scoring drive. But K Mike Badgley’s 46-yard field goal ended up going wide right as the Chargers came up empty that drive.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Chargers got the ball back on their own 20. Three plays later, they were forced to punt the ball away. Patriots WR/PR Gunner Olszewski caught the ball at his own 30 and then proceeded to outrun the Chargers punt coverage team, eluding them with ease, and ran into the endzone for a 70-yard punt return touchdown. Folk’s PAT made it 14-0 with 14:02 left in the 2nd quarter.
Following a series of punts, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 46. Again Newton lead the offense down the field. The drive almost stalled out but a costly ‘Hand to the Face’ penalty on 3rd and 19 at the Los Angeles 29 gave the Patriots a fresh set of downs and kept the drive alive. The team got all the way down to the Los Angeles 2 where on 2nd and goal from there, Newton ran up the middle for the 2-yard touchdown. Another Folk PAT made it 21-0 with under a minute left before halftime.
Seeing the game getting away from them, the Chargers tried to muster a scoring drive right before halftime. With time running out, QB Justin Herbert quickly drove the offense down the field. They got to the New England 40 and decided to attempt a 58-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. But then Patriots FS/ST Cody Davis burst through to block the kick as the ball bounced to the Los Angeles 44 where it was scooped up by FS Devin McCourty and returned for a touchdown. Once again, Folk booted the PAT through the uprights as both teams went into halftime with the score now 28-0.
The Chargers got the ball to start the 2nd half as they were looking at a 28-0 deficit. But the team’s misfortunes continued on as Herbert’s pass to WR Jalen Guyton was picked off by DE Chase Winovich at the Los Angeles 32.
The Patriots were able to turn the Chargers turnover into points as Newton found WR N’Keal Harry over the right side for a 5-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and goal from the Los Angeles 5. Folk came in to boot his 5th PAT of the game to make it 35-0 with 8:44 left in the 3rd quarter.
Folk tacked on a 32-yard field goal later on in the 4th quarter to push the Patriots lead to 38-0 with 11:20 left to play in the game.
Seeing the game getting out of reach, the Chargers desperately tried to put together a scoring drive of their own. They ended up getting deep into New England territory to the New England 30 but rather than kick a field goal, the Chargers elected to go for it. Herbert ended up getting sacked for a 9-yard loss by DT Adam Butler and the Chargers turned the ball over on downs.
Up 38-0 with just under 8:15 left in the game, the Patriots made a change at quarterback. Newton was done as backup QB Jarret Stidham came in. Stidham opened up with a 25 yard catch-and-run to Sony Michel to the Los Angeles 38. Two plays later, Stidham connected with Olszewski for a 38-yard touchdown pass. Folk booted his 6th PAT of the game to make it 45-0.
The Patriots defense forced the Chargers to turn the ball over on downs on their last two possessions of the game as time winded down. On the Patriots’ final possession of the game, Stidham did two kneel downs in victory formation to run the clock out and give the Patriots the 45-0 victory
Last week, it was an absolutely ugly victory. This week, it was just a sheer dominant performance by the New England Patriots and an absolute drubbing of the Los Angeles Chargers. Not only did they show that they were still a threat to contend with in the AFC, the victory raised their record to .500 (6-6) for the first time since Week 4 this year and helped improve their chances to reach the postseason.
But with a lot of football left to play, you know that the Patriots will celebrate their victory for the remainder of Sunday. But you know that come Monday morning, they will be on to their next game on their 3-game road trip.
Notable Patriots Players Statistical Standouts
QB Cam Newton - 12-for-19 for 69 yards for a QB rating of 87.4, 14 carries for 48 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and 2 TDs
QB Jarrett Stidham - 2-for-3 for 61 yards and 1 TD for a QB rating for 149.3, 2* carries for -2 yards (-1.0 yard per carry) (*=2 kneel downs in victory formation)
RB Damien Harris – 16 carries for 80 yards (5.0 yards per carry)
WR/PR Gunner Olszewski – 1 catch (on 1 targets) for 38 yards and 1 TD, 4 punt returns for 145 yards (48.3 yards per return) and 1 TD
DT Adam Butler – 3 tackles (3 solo, 0 assists), 1.0 sacks, 1 pass defended
DE Chase Winovich – 3 tackles (0 solo, 3 assists), 1 INT, 1 pass defended
LB Terez Hall – 5 tackles (3 solo, 2 assists), 2 passes defended
CB J.C. Jackson - 3 tackles (1 solo, 2 assists), 1 INT, 1 pass defended
FS Devin McCourty - 4 tackles (2 solo, 2 assist), 1 blocked field goal returned for a TD
S Adrian Phillips – 12 tackles (7 solo, 5 assists), 1 pass defended
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
.800 – The winning percentage of Patriots coach Bill Belichick against rookie QBs in his coaching career (20-5)
14 – The number of shutout victories Belichick has in his NFL coaching career (11 with the Patriots, 3 with the Browns)
4 – The number of receiving touchdowns by Patriot receivers for this (2 by N’Keal Harry and 1 by Damiere Byrd and Gunner Olszewski each)
11 – The number of rushing touchdowns Patriots QB Cam Newton has this season, tying him for 3rd overall in the NFL with Washington Football Team RB Antonio Gibson
3 - The number of times in his NFL career that Newton has 10 or more rushing touchdowns in a single season
42 - The number of games that Newton has at least 1 touchdown and 1 rushing touchdown, the most in the NFL since 1950
69 - The number of passing yards by Newton, a new career-low
145 - The number of punt return yards by Olszewski, 2nd most punt return yards in franchise history (156, Mike Haynes in 1976)
Did You Know?
The Patriots-Chargers match-up today marked the first time in over 20 years that neither Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers suited up for the Patriots and Chargers respectfully (Tom Brady was the Patriots QB from 2000-2019 before leaving for Tampa Bay in free agency and Phillip Rivers was the Chargers QB from 2004-2019 before leaving for Indianapolis in free agency).
The last time that these two teams faced off against each other with no Brady or Rivers was all the way back in Week 1 of the 1997 NFL Season. Then Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe lead the team to a 41-7 drubbing of the then San Diego Chargers, who were starting QB Stan Humphries at the time, at home.
While we get closer and closer to the end of the season, this part of the Postgame Notebook is something that Patriots fans should keep an eye on the most.
After Week 13 in the NFL, according to the New York Times’ playoff scenario generator, the New England Patriots now have a 15% chance to make it into the playoffs after their Week 13 victory over the Chargers. They also have a 4% chance in winning the AFC East division (snerk), and less than 1% chance to secure a 1st-round bye and make the Super Bowl (snerk).
Now let’s take a look at our other playoff scenario generator at FiveThirtyEight.com
According to FiveThirtyEight.com’s playoff scenario generator, the results about the same. After their Week 13 victory against the Chargers, the Patriots now have a 16% chance of making the playoffs. They also have 4% chance of winning the division, and less than 1% chance of securing a 1st-round bye and winning the Super Bowl.
Now here’s where things get interesting.
The percentage chances displayed does not include the result of the Monday match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the 49ers as well as the Tuesday night match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys.
So, like last week, there are some scenarios that Patriots fans should be aware of.
Here are the scenarios and percentages according to the New York Times:
Scenario #1: If Bills lose to the 49ers and the Ravens lose to the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances jump up to 19%
Scenario #2: If the Bills win against the 49ers and the Ravens lose to the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances remain the same at 15%
Scenario #3: If Bills lose to the 49ers but the Ravens beat the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances drop to 13%
Scenario #4: If Bills beat the 49ers and the Ravens beat the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances drop to 12%.
Now let’s take a gander at FiveThirtyEight.com:
Scenario #1: If Bills lose to the 49ers and the Ravens lose to the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances jump up to 23%
Scenario #2: If the Bills win against the 49ers and the Ravens lose to the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances rise up to only 20%
Scenario #3: If Bills lose to the 49ers but the Ravens beat the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances just rise up to 17%
Scenario #4: If Bills beat the 49ers and the Ravens beat the Cowboys, the Patriots’ playoff chances drop to 13%.
Scenario #5: If up becomes down, left becomes right, and both the Bills-49ers and Raven-Cowboys tie, the Patriots’ playoff chances drop 15%.
There are a couple more scenarios (i.e. Bills-49ers Tie, Ravens win) but there was really no drastic changes in the percentage results.
Going into their game with the Cardinals, the Patriots were in line for the #15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
After the 45-0 drubbing they put on the Chargers, the Patriots dropped one spot to the #16 pick overall. While this position could change pending on the result of the Dallas Cowboys-Baltimore Ravens contest, it’s safe to say that any hopes of the Patriots ‘Tanking for Trevor’ are gone for good.
So as of today, I dubbed the Tankathon Watch to be over!
Fox Fist Bump
The entire Patriots team deserves a Fox Fist Bump.
For 60 minutes, the team was absolutely on point.
For offense, they didn’t wow anybody in the stat sheets or anybody playing fantasy football. But they played turnover-free football and allowed just 1 sack for the entire game. It seemed like every time they got the ball, it resulted in points (31 out of the 45 points).
For the defense, they absolutely shut down the Chargers offense. They harassed Chargers QB Justin Herbert, forcing him to throw 2 interceptions and kept him off balance all game. They shut down the Chargers’ playmakers on offense (RB Justin Eckler, WR Keenan Allen, and TE Hunter Henry), limiting the team to 258 total yards on offense and kept them off the scoreboard.
For special teams, oh my god! This was true Patriots football. Gunner Olszewski was phenomenal in the return game (145 yards and a touchdown) and Cody Davis’s blocked field goal and Devin McCourty’s return for the touchdown before halftime was the dagger into the Chargers’ heart.
Just absolutely phenomenal all around!
The Meatball of the Game
Honestly, there was nobody deserving of a meatball in this game for the New England Patriots.
Other than giving the entire Los Angeles Chargers organization a pity meatball because they were absolutely atrocious, no meatballs shall be distributed this week.
Play(s) of the Game
Gunner to the House
The Dagger that Ended the Chargers
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