Well, that felt unbelievable. From the opening kickoff, the New England Patriots dominated in all three phases of the game. They got their contest against the Los Angeles Chargers started early with a 13-play drive that was capped off by a Cam Newton 1-yard touchdown leap. What followed was a Gunner Olszewski 70-yard punt return score, another Newton rushing TD and a blocked field goal returned to the end zone by Devin McCourty.
The Patriots led 28-0 at the half, scoring 14 points in under a minute to take a commanding lead into the locker room. It was a total team effort, and the second half was more of the same.
When all was said and done, New England had amassed 150+ yards rushing again, with Damien Harris chipping in for 80 while Newton did his part with 48 and two scores. The Patriots’ starting QB also threw a dart of a touchdown pass early in the third quarter to N’Keal Harry to put the final nail in the coffin. Offensive Rookie of the Year Favorite Justin Herbert, meanwhile, looked confused and thrown off all day by passing for just 209 yards and two interceptions while Stephon Gilmore kept the NFL’s most-targeted receiver, Keenan Allen, to just 48 yards.
The Patriots failed to get some help around the league on Sunday with both the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts hanging on by a thread to defeat their opponents, but their 45-0 win certainly was noticed around the league. This Patriots team isn’t finished yet.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
Newton was sharp all day long on Sunday. While he attempted only 19 passes all day, he completed 12 of them for 69 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in heavily in the ground game rushing for 48 yards on 14 carries and, as mentioned above, two touchdowns. The former league MVP led a big 13-play drive to open the game and put the Chargers on their heels early on. Newton had his swagger back on Sunday and was much better than he was a week ago versus the Arizona Cardinals.
If the Patriots want to make a late-season push at the playoffs over the final four weeks, this is the Cam Newton that can get them there.
Winner: WR Gunner Olszewski
It looked like we were watching a young Julian Edelman back in 2012 on Sunday with Olszewski contributing in all phases of the game. To open up the second quarter, he ran back a 70 yard punt to the house to put the Patriots up 14-0. If it wasn’t for the questionable penalty on Anfernee Jennings last week, it would be his second punt return in as many games. Overall, Olszewski had a total of 145 yards on three punt returns and consistently set the Patriots up with good field position the entire game.
Just two quarters after scoring the first touchdown of his career, Olszewski found the end zone fo a second time — this time on the receiving end when he corralled a dart from second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham to put the Patriots up 45-0 late. Olszewski is certainly a feel-good story and someone who’s easy to root for as the undrafted, former Division II cornerback played a huge role in New England’s statement win on Sunday.
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
A week after locking down the league’s most dynamic receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, Gilmore had another big test by facing its most busy: Keenan Allen, who came into the game ranking first in both receptions and targets. Gilmore, once again, took a top receiver in the league completely out of the game by limiting him to just five catches for 48 yards. What Gilmore does on a week-to-week basis is one of the toughest jobs in the NFL and he’s (quietly) doing it once again this season.
Winner: S Adrian Phillips
The situation Phillips has been put into this year has been a tough one having to play a lot of linebacker when he’s considerably undersized for the position. However, coming off a strong game last week with an interception, Phillips turned in another nice performance against his former club with a team-leading 12 tackles while chipping in with several nice plays in coverage. In a year the Patriots have needed an athletic and fast linebacker in the interior of their defense, Phillips has stepped in nicely and provided a big spark to the defense over the last few weeks.
Winner: RB Damien Harris
It’s about time to sharpie Harris’ name in for a “winner” each week. He turned in another nice game on the ground with 80 yards on just 16 carries and set the tone early in the game by putting immense pressure on the Chargers. The entire first half was all Harris breaking through with several big runs in key spots to keep the chains moving and keep the high-powered L.A. offense on the sidelines. When both Newton and Harris are going, this bully-ball offensive approach is tough to stop for opposing defenses. We saw it on display once again on Sunday.
Winner: WR N’Keal Harry
The box score certainly won’t do him justice as he had just two catches for a combined 15 yards, but Harry showed that his red zone ability is still an area where the Patriots can use him. He caught an absolute laser from Cam Newton late in the third quarter for a 5-yard touchdown pass and even though it doesn’t sound like anything special, Harry was physical at the top of his route and won a contested catch for the score.
His skillset may not translate to being a true number one wide receiver in today’s game, but Harry’s big body and ability to go up and get balls can still make him a weapon for the Patriots especially down in the red area.
Winner: CB J.C. Jackson
It’s so relieving knowing the Patriots have two elite cornerbacks that continue to shine on a weekly basis. Jackson, who is starting to hear some rumblings to receive some votes for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, hauled in his NFL-leading seventh interception and made life difficult for former first-round draft pick Mike Williams. Another quality performance by New England’s latest undrafted rookie steal.