The 2020 season has been a struggle for the New England Patriots. A series of high-profile offseason departures, a lack or preparation time and a Coronavirus outbreak in early October all contributed to the team stumbling to a 2-5 record. Since then, however, the Patriots have won four of five games to improve to 6-6 on the season and stay alive in the hunt for a wild card playoff berth.
The team’s most recent victory might have been its most impressive to date: New England went on the road to take on a Los Angeles Chargers team that may have been just 3-8 entering the contest but lost only one of its games by more than a touchdown.
On Sunday, however, the Patriots completely dismantled their opponent in all three phases en route to a 45-0 victory — the most lopsided one of the season for Bill Belichick’s club. After the game, New England’s head coach talked about how his team’s development over the last few weeks has helped lay the foundation for the recent run of success that culminated in Week 13’s blowout.
“I think our entire team has gotten better pretty much weekly,” Belichick said. “We just do things better than we’ve done before. There’s still plenty of room for improvement — I wouldn’t say we’re there yet by any means — but we just do things better; our anticipation’s better, our reactions are quicker and better. That’s true in all phases of the game. Definitely true on defense, but it’s been the case all the way around.”
New England was able to get contributions in all three phases of the game on Sunday. The offense controlled the tempo of the game and ended up scoring four touchdowns, while the defense forced two takeaways and three additional turnovers on downs while pitching a shutout. The Patriots’ kicking game unit, meanwhile, also had its best day of the season by scoring on a punt return and off a blocked field goal attempt.
“Fundamentals, our execution, our ability to make adjustments and to put in new things that we feel like can help us for a particular game or situation,” said Belichick when listing the things he saw his team get better at over the last couple of weeks. “We just have to keep grinding, just try to get better day by day.
“It’s not going to happen all at once — it didn’t all happen at once — but I think with our work ethic and our attitude and our willingness to try to improve that we’ve been able to do a better job of coaching and playing and playing complementary football, doing things just better individually and collectively as a team. So, hopefully we can continue to do that.”
The Patriots’ recent development has certainly been encouraging, but the question is whether or not it started to kick into a higher gear just a bit too late: New England is back at .500 for the first time since Week 6, but still remains on the outside looking in in the race for the AFC wild card spots with time slowly running out. Then again, things do change quickly in the NFL as New England experienced repeatedly this season alone.
Either way, Belichick and company will continue to focus on themselves and tackle their challenges one at a time — an approach that has helped the Patriots continuously get better and out of their early-season hole. Sunday’s win over the Chargers was the high-point of that progression so far.