It is hard to view a Week 8 matchup as a “must-win” game but it sure felt like it was for the New England Patriots. Coming into Sunday at 3-4, the Patriots had a big opportunity to continue the momentum they picked up last week and beat a good opponent on the road to get back to .500.
The offense struggled at times versus the Los Angeles Chargers, but the Patriots defense led the way. The unit came up with timely stops and turnovers as the team picked up a big 27-24 win on Sunday while improving to 3-0 on the road this season.
With the Carolina Panthers up next, the Patriots now control their own destiny as they have some favorable matchups coming over the next month. It’s unclear how this season will end up but one thing is for sure: they will be a tough matchup for anyone they are playing down the stretch.
Winner: S Adrian Phillips
It is hard to look past Adrian Phillips being the number one star from Sunday’s win; the safety came up with two huge plays that ultimately gave the Patriots a win. Phillips had two interceptions, one that helped set up a field goal right before half and the other the de facto game-winning pick-six in the fourth quarter.
Phillips was the best player on the field Sunday and might have saved New England’s season with his two big plays.
Winner: RB Damien Harris
Damien Harris has been the Patriots’ most consistent and valuable player on offense over the last few weeks. On Sunday, the third-year back carried the football 23 times for 80 yards and scored a touchdown for the third straight week. In a game that saw rookie quarterback Mac Jones get a bit erratic at times, Harris was able to move the chains and consistently put the Patriots in a position to score points.
Loser: CB Jalen Mills
The Patriots’ number two cornerback struggled again on Sunday as he was beaten for a late touchdown by Josh Palmer. Palmer came over the top and made a tough catch over Mills, who wasn’t able to turn and find the ball
Mills has been better in the slot for most of his career, but he has struggled at outside corner for the last few weeks. With the Patriots thin at cornerback, Mills hasn’t been able to up his play and give the Patriots a solid option across from number one J.C. Jackson.
Winner: DT Christian Barmore
Another week, another performance that has people excited about the potential of the Patriots’ second-round rookie. Christian Barmore was a monster again Sunday by generating pressure from the middle of the defensive line and drawing a big holding call that backed the Chargers up deep in their own territory.
In total, he had four tackles and picked up half a sack on a crucial third down late in the second half. We have seen Barmore’s snap count increase each week and he’s quickly becoming one of New England’s more dominant players along the front seven.
Winner: LB Matthew Judon
Matthew Judon continues to show why the Patriots gave him big money in the offseason. He picked up another 1.5 sacks on Sunday, giving him 7.5 on the season and moving him into the top 5 across the league.
Judon was all over the place for the Patriots against the Chargers, making plays against the run, covering Austin Ekeler when he needed to, and picking up eight pressures. He makes the biggest plays in the biggest of moments and has made it clear that the Patriots defense runs through him.
Loser: WR Kendrick Bourne
It was a tough day for Kendrick Bourne even though he picked up right where he left off last week and hauled in four catches for 38 yards. However, a costly fumble early on in the second half that negated what appeared to be a scoring drive in a close game, Bourne never saw the field again.
His benching Sunday shouldn’t be a long-term issue, though. Bourne has been one of the Patriots’ most consistent chain movers and ability to make plays after the catch.
Winner: K Nick Folk
Nick Folk was perfect again going 4-of-4 on Sunday and even nailing a 48-yarder right before the half to bring the Patriots within one point heading into the locker room. He also was perfect on all of his extra points and improved to a combined 31-for-35 on the season.
With the Patriots offense continuing to gel and gain confidence as the weeks pile up, Folk has consistently been able to help put points on the board and show he’s one of the most reliable kickers across the league.