The New England Patriots played their most complete game of the season on Sunday by thoroughly dominating the Los Angeles Chargers in all three phases en route to a 45-0 victory. The win improves the team’s record to 6-6 on the season — the first time at .500 since ahead of Week 6 — and also helps keep New England alive in the race for a wild card playoff berth.
Patriots (6-6) 45 : 0 Chargers (3-9)
New England started the game on offense and quickly powered its way down the field behind a strong opening script from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as well as some strong running by Damien Harris and Cam Newton. Even a 4th-and-2 was unable to slow the Patriots down, as Newton ran for a new set of downs. Three plays later, he carried the football again — into the end zone from the Chargers’ 1-yard line:
Nick Folk’s ensuing extra point was good as well, giving the Patriots an early seven-point lead. [Patriots 7 : 0 Chargers]
Los Angeles answered the Patriots’ touchdown drive with an opening series that also looked very good, at least early on — one that also included a fourth down conversion along the way. As opposed to New England’s offense, however, the Chargers’ failed to finish their possession with points: after Deatrich Wise Jr. sacked Justin Herbert on 3rd-and-10, Michael Badgley attempted a 46-yard field goal that sailed wide to the right.
The Patriots were unable to build on their momentum and good starting field position on their next possession, though, and went three-and-out.
The home team did not fare any better, however, and also had to punt the football away — a punt that proved costly for the Chargers, as Gunner Olszewski returned it 70 yards for the touchdown:
The extra point was again good, putting New England up 14-0 in the early second period. [Patriots 14 : 0 Chargers]
The team continued to play some impressive complementary football on the next drive, forcing the Chargers to go three-and-out for the second straight drive. While Olszewski did not return the ensuing punt for a score — he caught it fairly — the Patriots offense took the field with a chance to add to its lead. The unit, however, failed to do that despite some positive plays early on during the series.
Nevertheless, Jake Bailey’s 40-yard punt did pin Los Angeles’ own offense at its own 8-yard line. While the Patriots did give up one first down, they were able to get off the field quickly again thanks to some strong pressure by rookie Josh Uche on third down.
With Damien Harris again leading the charge, the Patriots had another impressive drive with time winding down on the first half. All in all, they marched 54 yards in 16 plays — including three third down conversions — and ended the series with Cam Newton finding the end zone for a second time:
Nick Folk’s extra point was good again, and New England up by three touchdowns. [Patriots 21 : 0 Chargers]
With under minute left in the half and no timeouts remaining, the Chargers were able to drive into the Patriots’ half of the field again to settle for a 58-yard field goal. However, New England’s special teams unit came up big for a second time. Not only did Cody Davis get a hand on the kick to block it, Devin McCourty scooped up the football and return it 44 yards for a touchdown:
Nick Folk was again good, giving the Patriots a four-touchdown lead heading into the half. [Patriots 28 : 0 Chargers]
New England started the second half on defense, but was able to get off the field again quickly thanks to a big play by Chase Winovich: the second-year linebacker dropped into coverage on third down and was able to intercept a pass attempt by Justin Herbert to set up the offense in prime field position.
The Patriots offense did take advantage of Winovich’s first career interception. With the running game once again serving as the catalyst, the unit drove up until the Chargers’ 5-yard line. While it was facing a 3rd-and-goal at that point, Cam Newton and N’Keal Harry were able to connect to end the drive in style:
For the fifth time, Nick Folk entered the field for an extra point. For the fifth time, he split the uprights. [Patriots 35 : 0 Chargers]
The Patriots’ defense continued its dominant play on the next series. While the Chargers were able to move the ball into New England territory and possible field goal range, their second drive of the half ended just like the first one: with an interception. This time, J.C. Jackson was able to get his hand on the ball for the turnover.
As opposed to the first interception, this one did not end with Patriots points. Cam Newton and company moved into Chargers territory, but eventually had to settle for a punt — one that was perfectly executed by Jake Bailey and Justin Bethel to set L.A. up at its own 5-yard line.
New England’s defense continued its dominant play on the Chargers’ next possession, forcing a quick three-and-out that once again put both teams’ kicking game units into the spotlight. Gunner Olszewski, after all, had another big runback when he took the ensuing punt 61 yards to the Los Angeles 17-yard line.
The Patriots’ offense, however, failed to fully cash in on the big return: it ran just three offensive plays before having to call for Nick Folk to attempt his first field goal attempt of the day. His 32-yarder as good, though, to increase the team’s lead to 38 points. [Patriots 38 : 0 Chargers]
With the game pretty much out of reach and the defense forcing a stop on fourth down on the ensuing drive — Adam Butler was able to sack Justin Herbert for a turnover on downs — the Patriots decided to make a switch at quarterback: Cam Newton’s day was over, with Jarrett Stidham taking the field in his place. The second-year man was given plenty of opportunity to throw, and he made the most out of it to cap his first drive as he connected with Gunner Olszewski on a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Nick Folk was perfect on his sixth extra point as well to put New England up by 45 points. [Patriots 45 : 0 Chargers]
New England’s defense followed the touchdown with another stop on fourth down — Justin Herbert threw incomplete intended for Keenan Allen with Myles Bryant in coverage — and Stidham and company were back on the field. This time, they did not score but rather run down the clock with three straight Sony Michel rushing attempts before a punt.
The defense forced another turnover on downs, before Stidham knelt out the game.
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