The initial stop by SoFi Stadium brought a shutout for the New England Patriots.
New England powered past the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 45-0 Sunday, improving to a 6-6 record on the regular season with the Los Angeles Rams on the horizon.
Here’s a look back as the West Coast weeks turn.
New England’s offense gets where it wants to go on the ground
Wildcat was featured during New England’s opening drive Sunday. It saw running back Damien Harris take a pair of snaps from shotgun as Cam Newton motioned wide.
But the quarterback would also take his share on a possession that spanned over seven minutes and over 70 rushing yards. The result was Newton’s 10th rushing touchdown of the year on a leap over the top of the Los Angeles defensive line. Newton got his 11th on a draw before intermission.
And before the last snaps from victory formation, the Patriots had amassed 167 ground yards. Harris accounted for 80 on 16 carries while Newton accounted for 48 on 14 carries. The QB went 7-of-10 for 42 yards passing through two quarters and connected with wide receiver N’Keal Harry for a TD dart on a hitch in the third quarter.
In the midst of a veteran year, Herbert resembles a rookie for a day
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had the same takeaway as the rest of those watching Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert’s first 10 starts.
“It looks like he’s going be a good quarterback for a long time,” Belichick said of the No. 6 overall pick out of Oregon during last Tuesday’s conference call. “A lot to work with and I know he’s a smart, hardworking kid that likes football and I’m sure he will continue to get better, as he has this year throughout the course of the season.”
Herbert entered Sunday with 23 touchdowns through the air, averaging north of 300 passing yards per game and at a completion rate of 66.9 percent. But against New England, Herbert would attempt 53 passes to find 209 yards. There’d be blitzes, stunts and twists involved. A sack by Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. set up a missed field goal. Two more sacks came courtesy of defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. Near-sacks by former Michigan linebacker Josh Uche would be in the cards, too. As would interceptions. Fellow Wolverine Chase Winovich dropped into coverage to collect from Herbert as the third frame got underway. Soon after, cornerback J.C. Jackson tacked on his seventh pick of the campaign.
The first Patriots punt return for a touchdown since 2014
It counted this time for Gunner Olszewski. More than once.
The ex-Bemidji State defensive back discovered his first NFL touchdown on a 70-yard punt return in the second quarter against the Chargers. It checked in a week after Olszewski had seen a score called back by an illegal blindside block. And it checked in with key blocks from wide receiver Donte Moncrief and outside linebacker Rashod Berry, whom the Patriots signed to the roster and elevated from the practice squad, respectively, the night prior. Olszewski then broke free for a 61-yard return and caught a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham as the minutes ticked down.
New England’s last punt return for points came courtesy of franchise All-Decade selection Julian Edelman in 2014 versus the Denver Broncos.
Aiming to keep Bosa at bay in L.A.
Fresh off a Buffalo Bills matchup in which he racked up a trio of sacks to go with eight solo tackles, a batted pass and a fumble recovery, Joey Bosa crossed paths with another AFC East club.
The Pro Bowl Chargers defensive end, who went without a game status after being limited in practice by a shin issue, started across from rookie right tackle Mike Onwenu and tight end Ryan Izzo. By the second snap, he loomed over Jermaine Eluemunor on the left side of New England’s offensive line. Back and forth Bosa went. Sometimes quietly. But before halftime, he generated A-gap pressure inside left guard Joe Thuney on a sack by No. 23 overall draft arrival Kenneth Murray. By game’s end, Bosa had three tackles with one for loss.
Sunday marked Bosa’s third career meeting with New England. He’d been held to an assist in the gamebook during the January 2019 AFC divisional round.
The NFL’s top-targeted receiver finishes with 48 yards
A Sunday removed from playing no small part in why Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught five passes for 55 yards, Stephon Gilmore spent time in man-to-man coverage against another No. 1.
Keenan Allen had gotten into the end zone during his previous encounter with the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He had also gotten a pass sent his direction picked off. But heading into Sunday, Allen’s 122 targets and 85 receptions both ranked atop the league.
The veteran route-runner drew 11 throws and turned them into five completions for 48 yards. The first came from the slot on a third-down crosser opposite Gilmore that landed short of the sticks. Gilmore would also deflect a pass intended for 6-foot-4, 220-pound wideout Mike Williams. A total of 11 different Chargers logged catches.
Davis lends his hands on a 58-yard attempt before halftime
Chargers kicker Michael Badgley had yet to have a field goal blocked through 29 career games. That changed Sunday.
A 58-yard try with three seconds to go before the half would be rejected by Patriots special-teamer Cody Davis’ outstretched hands. It’d be returned from there by captain Devin McCourty for a touchdown. The swing extended New England’s lead from 21 to 28 unanswered points.
Davis blocked an extra point last season while a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The March free-agent signing later downed a Jake Bailey punt in the shadows of the Los Angeles uprights.