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Instant analysis from Patriots’ 27-24 win over Chargers

Initial observations from the Week 8 meeting at SoFi Stadium.

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

A season removed from a 45-0 shutout SoFi Stadium, the New England Patriots revisited the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

A 27-24 win would be the result over head coach Brandon Staley’s roster.

Here’s a glance through what went into it as New England turns the calendar to November with a record of 4-4.

New England’s second meeting with Herbert brings two Phillips picks

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert had turned 53 pass attempts into 209 yards and two interceptions against the Patriots in December.

Herbert went 18-of-35 through the air on Halloween for 223 yards. There would be two touchdowns to wide receivers Keenan Allen and Josh Palmer. There would also be as many interceptions.

The Oregon product entered having thrown just one pick over his last four starts. His next came courtesy of former San Diego and Los Angeles safety Adrian Phillips. A tipped pass prior to intermission set up the first of two 48-yard field goals by kicker Nick Folk. And in the final quarter, Phillips gave New England the lead with a runback from 26 yards out. Phillips now has a career-high three picks on the year.

Jones goes 18-of-35 against Los Angeles

Mac Jones had totaled 174 completions, ranking third all-time among rookies through seven NFL starts behind only the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and his counterpart in Los Angeles.

New England’s quarterback would go 18-of-35 passing there. Jones did so for 217 yards with no touchdowns nor turnovers.

Aggressiveness was seen under pressure as Jones found wide receiver Nelson Agholor on a deep post for 44 yards on the first possession. It continued on a fourth-and-goal misfire to a fading Jakobi Meyers. Jones started 6-of-9 through the air before a dry spell going into intermission. He later found Meyers for a two-point conversion.

Patriots test the trend on the ground

No defense around the NFL had conceded more yards per rush than the Chargers’ 5.4 this fall. And over recent meetings with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, running backs had accounted for six touchdowns against Los Angeles.

The trend would be tested on Sunday.

Damien Harris ran for 80 yards and one touchdown for New England’s backfield on 23 carries. It would be his fourth consecutive game with a score, and another was wiped away by a holding penalty after halftime. Behind the starter, Brandon Bolden remained in the third-down role. And behind the veteran, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson got the green light over J.J. Taylor, who logged the initial two touchdowns of his career versus the New York Jets last weekend.

Judon chases way to eight sacks on the season

In the first quarter, Matt Judon gave chase from the left side of the defensive line and hit home on the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Patriots outside linebacker had a hand in another by the closing minutes. He now stands with eight sacks on the campaign.

Judon’s career-high 9.5 sacks arrived with Baltimore in 2019, when the Grand Valley State standout was named a Pro Bowler for the first time.

Arriving on a four-year, $54.5 million pact, Judon would be among a trio in the sack column for New England on Sunday. Defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore accompanied Judon, who would also provide pressure on a third-and-4 throwaway with the goal posts at the back of the Los Angeles offense.

‘They’ve got a couple of guys that could really ruin the game’

Defensive end Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James matched the scouting report.

“Bosa, James — they’ve got a couple of guys that could really ruin the game,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during his Wednesday press conference.

Bosa worked across from both right tackle Mike Onwenu and left tackle Isaiah Wynn on Sunday. His Pro Bowl presence forced New England’s QB up in the pocket on a third-down sack by Chargers defensive lineman Jerry Tillery. Meanwhile, a 2018 All-Pro in James jarred the football loose from Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne for a fumble and also halted a third-down shotgun draw short of the sticks.

Ekeler logs 124 scrimmage yards, TD after two days on the sideline

Austin Ekeler did not participate in consecutive practices to close the week due to a hip injury that left him questionable. But the Chargers running back moved himself into his own fantasy football lineup before Sunday.

Ekeler had recorded 598 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns through 100 touches this campaign. An additional 124 yards on 21 touches would follow against the Patriots.

A fourth-and-1 conversion was logged on the initial series. As was a pile-moving touchdown from five yards away. A season-long run of 28 surfaced later on for Ekeler. He wouldn’t be alone in the Los Angeles backfield. Justin Jackson slipped past Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Co. for a 75-yard pickup in the second quarter.

Ex-Chargers tight end returns

Hunter Henry landed with the Chargers at No. 35 overall in the 2016 NFL draft, and the John Mackey Award winner out of Arkansas went on to amass 196 catches for 2,322 yards with 22 touchdowns during his stay. It concluded as a team captain playing on the franchise tag.

Sunday brought his return.

Henry caught one pass for 33 yards on three targets against Los Angeles, crossing over the middle for a near-score in the second quarter. He headed into the 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff with a touchdown reception in four consecutive games, which marked the longest streak by a New England tight end since Rob Gronkowski. Henry recovered the clinching onside kick with 40 seconds remaining.