There’s just something about these Patriots/Chargers matchups. The Chargers just don’t win these games.
The last time New England lost to the Chargers, they were still in San Diego, Matt Cassel was under center, and Tommy B was home getting nursed back to health from his ACL injury by his supermodel wife. And while everyone between those two teams back in 2008 have long since retired from football — save one, of course — nothing the Chargers have done since then has worked. And it’s nice to see Justin Herbert pick up where his predecessor left off, throwing picks and losing games to a Patriots team who have now won two straight.
- If you for some reason were to only catch half of this game via an odd Halloween time warp where you only saw a handful of plays here and there and missed the other handful of plays, you’d have either thought that the Patriots were godawful or as smart and efficient as you’ve seen them look all year. The stuff that worked really worked, and the stuff that didn’t didn’t, and this was a game that ultimately came down to a few plays.
- Because this one had all the stuff you’ve come to loathe over these past few weeks, particularly on offense: a draw play to Brandon Bolden on third and short, red zone inefficiency, a failed fourth and goal, conservative play-calling, and costly turnovers.
- But it also had the stuff you’ve been hoping to see over the past few weeks: fairly consistent line play, 20+ carries for Damien Harris, a deep shot to Nelson Agholor, and two — count ‘em, TWO! — N’Keal Harry receptions.
- But the offense isn’t really the story of this game, to be honest; Mac Jones had a fairly inconsistent day and this was arguably his worst outing as a pro. He made the plays he needed to make, but he also heard footsteps at times, wasn’t overly accurate on some of his throws, and failed to make the correct read on a couple of occasions. And that’s fine; these games happen, and LA was getting good pressure early. This game was won by a defensive unit that, other than a small handful of plays, got the better of a fairly potent Chargers offense.
- I will say, though, when Austin Eckler harnessed his inner Billy Bob and dragged the entire Patriots unit four yards into the end zone to cap off an 8 play, 75 yard drive to open the game, I was worried we were all in for a very long day. And make no mistake, there are still some issues to be worked out against the run. But of LA’s 163 yards on the ground, 75 of them came on a Justin Jackson run where Hightower overpursued on the cutback, and then another 28 came on Eckler just doing Eckler things. For the most part, New England limited the damage they took on the ground.
- That no Charger cracked 80 yards receiving is a testament to a New England secondary that stuck with their man longer than they should have had to, and that other than Keenan Allen no Charger receiver caught more than two passes is indicative of multiple defensive looks and fronts that never really allowed Herbert to settle.
- All that said, though, this Patriots team could have been up big early, but weren’t. They’re still leaving too many points on the board, and I wouldn’t say that either unit has that killer instinct, that step on your throat and pull your underwear up over your head mentality that they’re going to need once these games really start to matter. I’m hoping that heading to the west coast and taking out a very good Chargers team on the road might represent that statement win that could finally give these guys their teeth.
- Adrian Philips gets the game ball, obviously, as his pick six is what ended up being the deciding factor in this one. But honestly he would have gotten it even if he didn’t force two turnovers; he doesn’t show up much on the stat line, but as the in-the-box safety that helped to dictate the flow of the offensive blocking scheme, he was about as disruptive as you can be without actually making a play. Philips was just such a classic Belichick signing; no frills, no headlines, just a rock solid player who has been positively contributing since day one.
- When New England went up by 10 with just over two minutes to play, I was incredibly confident in the win. And that confidence was shaken only once during that final stretch of the game, when Justin Herbert took an eight yard sack to bring up 3rd-and-18 at the Charger 41. I knew the next play was either going to be a conversion or a 17-yard gain to set up 4th-and-short, and lo and behold.
- Which is as good a time as any to bring up someone who is quietly having themselves one helluva rookie season in Christian Barmore. Eats blocks, gets sacks, hits backs. Someone should put that on a T-shirt.
- I’ve said it before that this Patriots team can hang with anyone in the NFL, and they once again proved that yesterday. I still don’t think they’ve put together a complete game against a team that isn’t the Jets, either. But they’re going to need to get better at putting plays, and games, away.
- At least we have Nick Folk, who is about as close to automatic as you’re going to get right now. I just hope he’s not saving up all his shanks for the second half of the season.
- I’m not actively rooting for it, because he 100% deserves it... but I’d be lying if I said a part of me now wants to see just how long into his career Jakobi Meyers will go before he catches a touchdown pass. If he turns into some between the 20s and two point conversion machine but never makes a touchdown grab, that may be his best bet for making it into the history books.
- Credit to the Patriots fans who turned yesterday’s away game into a home game. Chargers Nation thanked its fans earlier in the week for officially selling out the stadium only to find out that almost every single Sully from Everett has long since gotten the hell out of the northeast and is enjoying himself some sun and west coast Pats games.
- I was harder on Mac Jones earlier in this article, and deservedly so; he struggled yesterday. But he also got the ball back, up seven, with six minutes to play, and engineered a 15 play, 59 yard scoring drive that put points on the board, forced LA to use all their timeouts, and put the game away. That’s not what you expect out of a rookie.
- If Joey Bosa made any plays of note, I don’t remember what they were. Michael Onwenu had him one-on-one for the bulk of the game. I legit wonder what they’re going to do with this line when Trent Brown comes back, because I think that this unit is starting to gel and I don’t think we should mess with it.
- I’m no expert — I’ve proven that time and time again — and I’m on the record multiple times stating that I just don’t know what constitutes a flag anymore in this league. But when the play is blown dead and your quarterback gets bulldozed from the blind side a good four seconds after the whistle, I just think that might be a flag.
- I’m just glad Jones didn’t get up and call him a poopyhead after that, otherwise he would have gotten 15 yards for taunting.
The Patriots are officially a .500 team. They’re one and a half games behind the Bills and currently sit at the 8th seed in the AFC, with the tiebreaker over the 7 seed Chargers. They only play three more teams with winning records, one of which just possibly lost their best player for the year, and two of those three games are at home. Which in 2021 means they’ll probably lose those home games, but it’s still a nice thing to have going for you.