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The Lane Breakdown: Patriots’ young talent puts on a show against the Chargers

Related: Patriots vs Chargers recap: New England dominates in all three phases en route to 45-0 win

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The New England Patriots completely destroyed the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon, coming away with a 45-0 victory that was never really close. The Patriots haven’t had a win that convincing in a long time — they dominated in all three faces of the game, and at times made the Chargers look like a Pop Warner team.

Bill Belichick the GM

An interesting storyline this season has been the questioning of Bill Belichick’s drafting ability by many fans and analysts alike. On Sunday, though, many of his recent selections put on a show.

Should we start with Deatrich Wise Jr, who is a starting defensive lineman and has continued to be a solid pass rusher? Or maybe we should talk about Chase Winovich, who continued his strong play with another solid outing, and even had a fantastic interception — the first of his career?

Maybe Gunner Olszewski? We will spend quite a few words on him in a moment, though. Maybe N’Keal Harry, who had a big boy touchdown on Sunday where he ripped the ball out of the air and the defender’s grasp? How about Damien Harris, who looks better and better every week? And that’s not even mentioning punter Jake Bailey or former undrafted free agent J.C. Jackson, who both continue to dominate at their respective positions.

That’s not even talking about this year’s draft: Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche look like absolute studs on defense and the athleticism they both display has been a nice shot in the arm for the Patriots. Offensively, Michael Onwenu continued his strong play, as did Justin Herron, who continued to split time with Jermaine Eluemenor at left tackle. The Chargers had one sack all game, and Joey Bosa was prevented from having a big impact on the game. That’s pretty much all you can ask for from your offensive line when playing against a front seven as talented as the Chargers’.

Special teams

For the second week in a row, the Patriots dominated on special teams. Last week, it was two long returns. This week, it was two touchdowns and another long punt return. For a team that sometimes struggles moving the ball down the field, consistently dominating on special teams and in the field position battle is something that is so incredibly important.

For instance, back in 2001, the Patriots led the league in non-offensive touchdowns. If they are going to continue their march towards the playoffs, continuing to dominate in the kicking game would be a huge help. The punt return game has really improved, as Gunner Olszewski has almost scored in back-to-back weeks now (last week’s was wiped out by a penalty).

Add Cody Davis’ blocked field goal that allowed Devin McCourty, who is somehow still one of the fastest Patriots, to sprint to the end zone with no time left in the first half. With the Chargers getting the ball to start the second half, that 10-point swing went a long way to putting the game away.

Gun Show

He has been the target of a lot of criticism this season, but Gunner Olszewski has really stood out the last two weeks. He has now taken three punts back for great returns in the last two games, and he’s fast becoming an issue for opposing kick coverage teams. He also added his first career receiving touchdown, catching a 38-yard pass from Jarrett Stidham in the fourth quarter. Not bad for a former Division II defensive back who went undrafted.

Gilmore the GOAT

Stephon Gilmore is another guy who has received quite a bit of criticism this year. There were rumors the Patriots were considering trading him, and people questioned if he was really still as good as he showed over the last two years. Well, in the last two games, he has managed to shut down DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen, two of the best receivers in the game. He has reminded everyone that he is still one of the best, if not the best, cornerbacks in all of football.

If Gilmore and the defense continue to play like they did against the Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals last week, this Patriots team is going to be tough to beat.

Still Alive

Once again, the Patriots’ playoff hopes stay alive. Sure, they remain on the outside looking in right now, and the stupid New York Jets could have helped them out if not for a massive collapse, but, they do control their own destiny still. There is not much room for error, but they have now won four out of their last five games and are playing their best football right now. They face a big test this week against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night, but don’t you count them out just yet.

Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.