It might not have been pretty but it ultimately was enough to beat the visiting Los Angeles Chargers 21-13: The New England Patriots played a somewhat sloppy contest yesterday but were able to grind it out in the end to improve their record to 6-2 heading – or, when judged by some of the injuries, limping – into their bye week. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the standouts of Sunday's game.
Winner: RB James White
While uneven throughout the contest, the Patriots offense had its moments yesterday – and a lot of them came courtesy of the unit's most productive member. Running back James White finished the game with six touches on 20 snaps and gained a team-high 87 yards from scrimmage; 85 of which through the air as Tom Brady's safety blanket. The Super Bowl hero helped keep the offense on track all game long while simultaneously also standing out as a pass protector.
Loser: The red zone offense
It took a last-second interception for the Patriots to win yesterday's game. The contest could have been decided a lot earlier, though, had the offense been able to turn its trips into Los Angeles' red area into touchdowns instead of field goal attempts. Overall, New England reached the Chargers red zone four times and only one of those resulted in a touchdown. The other three trips all ended with field goals – far from the desired output.
Winner: LB Elandon Roberts
After missing the Patriots' game against the Atlanta Falcons due to an injury, Elandon Roberts was back on the field this week – and he played a big role in the team's quest to a) replace the injured Dont'a Hightower and b) slow down the Chargers' running game. Roberts was active all contest long and finished tied for the team lead with six tackles; he also saw plenty of action as a blitzer against the run and the pass. The 23-year old had a solid overall game and stepped up with Hightower out.
Loser: CB Johnson Bademosi
With Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe out, Johnson Bademosi was again thrust into the starting lineup – but as opposed to the last two games took a step backwards versus the Chargers. Overall, quarterback Philip Rivers targeted the first-year Patriots eight times, completing five passes for 66 yards. Bademosi also was on the wrong end of a 30-yard pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter. And while he not necessarily played a bad game, Bademosi failed to continue his streak of strong performances.
Winner: LB David Harris
After playing only seven defensive snaps over the first six weeks of the season, David Harris was on the field for a season-high 21 against the Chargers. With the above-mentioned Hightower out, the veteran was trusted with a higher workload and he responded well: Harris, who was prominently used as a blitzer, finished with one quarterback hurry and played an important role in the team's lone sack of the day; helping move Rivers out of the pocket and into a loss of 20 yards.
Winner: CB Jonathan Jones
As noted above, both Gilmore and Rowe were out, which again led to Jonathan Jones serving as the number three cornerback. The 24-year old was mostly solid throughout the contest as he registered both a pass breakup on a potential third down conversion as well as the game-winning interception. Jones also stood out on special teams and was a key part in limiting the impact of reigning AFC special teams player of the week Travis Benjamin while also playing a role in forcing him into his second quarter safety.
Loser: DE Cassius Marsh
In the first quarter, the Patriots defense gave up an 87-yard touchdown run to the Chargers' Melvin Gordon. One of the reasons for the big play was a breakdown up front caused by defensive edge Cassius Marsh: The first-year Patriot failed to properly set the edge on the strong side of the formation which in turn allowed Gordon to hit the gap unobstructed while running full-speed into the second level. Marsh finished the game with his lowest snap percentage since week four.
Winner: OT Nate Solder
The Chargers finished with three sacks of Tom Brady and had multiple pressures. Still, it could have been way worse considering how talented of a defensive front the Patriots were facing – and how they have struggled to pass protect earlier in the season. The most pleasant surprise up front was left tackle Nate Solder, who played his best game of the season after an uneven first few weeks. Solder was a key part in helping keep both Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram off Brady and while he was flagged for an illegal block in the back, played a convincing game both as a pass and run blocker.
Loser: K Stephen Gostkowski
Stephen Gostkowski played a big part in the Patriots' victory as he was responsible for 13 of the team's 21 points against Los Angeles. The veteran also came up big in terms of kickoff placement and thus helped limit the opponent's dangerous return game. However, Gostkowski also missed two field goal attempts – in a game as close as yesterday's, those could have been crucial in the end.
Winner: RB Rex Burkhead
James White was not the only running back to come up big yesterday. Rex Burkhead, who was on the field for a season-high 26 offensive snaps, also played a huge part in the Patriots' offensive machinery. The 27-year old gained a combined 83 yards on 11 touches: He carried the football four times for 15 yards while also gaining 68 on a team-high seven receptions. Burkhead appears to be fully back after his injury-related four game absence earlier in the year.