The New England Patriots’ contest with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday was as big a test as they’ve faced all season. Sure, they faced better teams in the form of the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’ve also been in more dire situations, like entering last week’s matchup against the New York Jets with a 2-4 record. But this week presented itself as a chance for New England to put together back-to-back strong performances. In the words of head coach Bill Belichick, it was an opportunity to “buy into some of the things we’ve been doing.”
Buy into those things they did, as they held Chargers star quarterback Justin Herbert to just 51% passing while intercepting him twice. The offense found their stride late, and was able to successfully take advantage of the Chargers’ defensive deficiencies to come away with the win. You can find your drive by drive recounting of Sunday’s events below.
Final Score: Patriots (4-4) 27 : 24 Chargers (4-3)
October 31, 4:05p.m. ET | SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA | Broadcast information
Patriots Inactives: LB Brandon King, RB J.J. Taylor, TE Devin Asiasi, OLB Ronnie Perkins, OL Yasir Durant, CB Shaun Wade
Chargers Inactives: QB Easton Stick, RB Joshua Kelley, S Mark Webb Jr., FB Gabe Nabers, OT Trey Pipkins III
Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson and veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower will return to the Patriots lineup after missing last week’s game against the Jets. Running back J.J. Taylor and linebacker/special teamer Brandon King will take their places on the inactive list, joining Yasir Durant, Shaun Wade, Ronnie Perkins, and Devin Asiasi who are inactive regulars.
The Chargers have a bevy of reserve players unavailable, the most notable being running back Joshuah Kelley and fullback Gabe Nabers. Star running back Austin Ekeler will be active despite missing the last two practices of the week.
Matthew Slater called heads (of course) and the coin came up heads (of course). New England deferred its choice to the second half. Los Angeles starts with the ball.
Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense started out at their own 25-yard line following a Jake Bailey touchback. They picked up a quick first down on a catch-and-run by Jared Cook that went for 12 yards, before taking a play-action shot where Herbert connected with Keenan Allen for 41-yards to get into the red zone. They were able to force Los Angeles into a 4th-and-1 situation from the New England 7-yard line, but Austin Ekeler converted with a two yard run to get them inside the five. They fed Ekeler again, and he was able to keep his legs driving just long enough for his teammates to push him into the end zone for a touchdown. [Patriots 0 : 7 Chargers]
New England started their first drive with a Damien Harris rush attempt straight up the gut that went for three yards. They picked up a first down with Mac Jones hitting Kendrick Bourne on a quick hitter, before taking a deep shot to Nelson Agholor, who reeled in a perfectly thrown pass for 44-yards.
Going DEEP!— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 31, 2021
: @NFLonCBS / Patriots app pic.twitter.com/fBzN4d7WUx
Inside the red zone, they played the short game —losing yards on a pair of pass plays to their running backs— and would have stalled out if not for a holding penalty on the Chargers defense. With new found life, Damien Harris bullied his way into the end zone from 1-yard out. [Patriots 7 : 7 Chargers]
Joejuan Williams forced the Chargers to start their next drive from their own 17-yard line after making a good special teams tackle on an Andre Roberts return. After being forced into a quick third-and-long, Justin Herbert stood in and delivered a first down strike to Jared Cook to keep their drive alive. On their next set of downs, Herbert got hit on three straight plays, including a Matthew Judon sack, and was forced to punt.
A pair of Rhamondre Stevenson touches gave New England a quick first down on their ensuing possession, but that’s all they would get as Jerry Tillery sacked Mac Jones on third down and ended the drive.
LA’s next possession began at their own 14-yard line, It ended in the end zone. On the second play of the drive, Justin Jackson broke off a 75-yard run that completely flipped the field. Two plays after that, om 3rd-and-2, Herbert hit Allen for a touchdown to regain the lead. [Patriots 7 : 14 Chargers]
New England moved the ball with relative ease on their next drive. Jonnu Smith had a catch-and-run go for 11-yards before Damien Harris and Mac Jones picked up another pair of first downs with their legs. An unnecessary roughness penalty on LA moved New England into Chargers territory where Mac Jones hit the returning Hunter Henry for 33-yards to set the Patriots offense up inside the Charger 10-yard line. The Chargers defense forced a 4th-down, where New England decided to go for it, and failed on a corner fade into the end zone to Jakobi Meyers. The... interesting, play call left New England with zero points on the drive.
Starting from their own 2-yard line, Los Angeles played it safe with the short passing game to try and give themselves some breathing room. New England stood pat and forced a three-and-out, the first of the day on either side.
A great Gunner Olszewski punt return set New England up with the ball at the Los Angeles 36-yard line. After the puzzling play calling by McDaniels down in the red zone, New England remembered that the Chargers couldn’t stop the run and picked up a pair of first downs on the ground with Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden. On 2nd-and-5 at the LA 6-yard line, they went back to the air and missed on two straight pass plays, forcing them to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Nick Folk. [Patriots 10 : 14 Chargers]
Another Jake Bailey touchback set LA up at their own 25-yard line. The New England defense did their job yet again and forced their second straight three-and-out.
With just over 2:00 remaining in the half, New England had a chance to convert the old double-dip and score before the half before receiving the ball to start the third quarter. Instead, they went three-and-out and took just 0:18 off the clock. The Patriots defense decided to give them another chance, intercepting a Justin Herbert pass and setting their rookie quarterback up with better field position than he left with.
Starting their drive at the Chargers 40-yard line with just 0:57 left, Jones picked up just enough yardage to give Nick Folk a chance to cut the lead within one. From 48-yards out, he nailed the kick. [Patriots 13 : 14 Chargers]
LA, leading New England 14-13, kneeled out the remaining 0:10 in the half.
Following halftime, New England had a chance to score on two straight possessions. They began their first drive of the second half at their own 22-yard line, dedicating themselves to the run game and picking up two straight first downs on the ground. Once they crossed mid field, they took a vertical shot to N’Keal Harry who grabbed his second contested catch in as many weeks, this one going for 15-yards. Isaiah Wynn jogged to the locker room following the play and was replaced by Justin Herron at left tackle. Herron was immediately called for a holding penalty, wiping out a long Damien Harris touchdown. On 3rd-and-15, the Patriots gave it away, with Kendrick Bourne losing the Patriots’ 6th fumble of season while looking to gain first down yardage. LA ball.
The Chargers offense picked up a first down on their first play of the following drive, but stalled out soon after as the Patriots’ pass rush forced a pair of deep Justin Herbert incompletions. Following a pair of offsetting penalties, Gunner Olszewski got a good return chance and turned in a 27-yard effort that gave Mac Jones and the offense great field position once again, his third return of 20+ yards on the day.
Isaiah Wynn returned to the game on New England’s second possession of the second half, having missed only three plays. He and the Patriots offense returned to the run game, this time picking up just two yards on their first two plays of the drive. On 3rd-and-8, Jones hit his most reliable target Jakobi Meyers for 14-yards and a first down. Back on the ground, Rhamondre Stevenson took three straight carries for 11-yards and another first down. Following another early down penalty, the Patriots ended up with a 3rd-and-6 situation where Meyers was unable to reel in another Mac Jones overthrow. Nick Folk came back on to try another 48-yard field goal. Nick Folk nailed another 48-yard field goal, this time to give New England the lead. [Patriots 16 : 14 Chargers]
On the first play of their next drive, Austin Ekeler gained 28-yards to move the Chargers into New England territory. One play later, he took a short Justin Herbert pass for another first down. After running a half marathon on the Patriots defense, Ekeler came off the field and the Chargers offense stalled. New kicker Dustin Hopkins came on to attempt and make a 48-yard field goal of his own. [Patriots 16 : 17 Chargers]
New England’s next drive began at their own 25-yard line. A 2-yard pass from Jones to Jonnu Smith took things to the fourth quarter.
On 3rd-and-1, Josh McDaniels drew up another questionable call, having Jones hand the ball off to Brandon Bolden on a draw. It went for negative yardage and New England punted.
Following a blocking in the back penalty on New England’s punt, Los Angeles started their first drive of the fourth quarter with the ball at their own 6-yard line. A first down rush of only two yards and a holding penalty led to a 2nd-and-12 from the LA 4-yard line. That was until Bill Belichick challenged the call, arguing that since Justin Herbert was in the end zone, the holding call should result in a safety. The call on the field held up, resulting in the original 2nd-and-12 from the LA 4-yard line. That didn’t seem to matter because three plays later, Adrian Phillips picked off Justin Herbert and returned it for a touchdown. New England attempted a 2-point conversion to go up 7, and Jakobi Meyers picked it up. [Patriots 24 : 17 Chargers]
PATS PICK-6.— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
Adrian Phillips' second INT of the day! #ForeverNE
: #NEvsLAC on CBS
: NFL app pic.twitter.com/M5zB9bmbHH
Following a backbreaking interception, Justin Herbert came back out hoping to tie the game. A first down incompletion and second down holding penalty set them behind schedule with a 2nd-and-20 from their own 13-yard line. They picked up a 14-yard chunk on second down, but Keenan Allen dropped a would be first down on 3rd-and-6, forcing a punt.
With a lead in the fourth quarter, needing to burn clock, the Patriots offense was seemingly in their element as they worked their way down the field with ease while burning as much clock as possible. 6:52 later, Nick Folk came on to hit his fourth field goal of the day to put the Patriots up 10. [Patriots 27 : 17 Chargers]
With just 2:12 remaining, the Chargers took over at their own 28-yard line needing 10 points to tie the game up. The effectively moved the ball, but had the clock run pretty constantly thanks to some sound tackling from New England’s defense and a big time sack from Christian Barmore and Matthew Judon. Entering the extended red zone with about 1:00 left, Los Angeles took a shot into the end zone where Josh Palmer plucked a ball out of the air for a touchdown. Not so fast says Los Angeles. [Patriots 27 : 24 Chargers]
Needing to recover an onside kick, the Chargers were spurned by another former player, as Hunter Henry came down with the recovery. One kneel down later and New England evens its record to 4-4. [FINAL - Patriots 27 : 24 Chargers]