Big win on Sunday. YUGE! And the experts noticed. To quote Michael Scott, “Oh how the turns tables...”
New England was bumped up an average of three spots after the home win vs. the Jets, and have been given a post-Bolts jolt up another three spots heading into Week 9. Not sure what Nate Davis’ thinking was behind the 12-point swing, but beating the Chargers certainly had the bracing air of a solid win. The Pats won despite Mac Jones not having his best statistical game, Kendrick Bourne turning the ball over and some odd goal-line play calling. And that’s the point. The Pats have won plenty of imperfect games in the Tom-Brady years, but had not been able to do it early this season. Lets hope this is the start of a beautiful upward trend.
Week 9 sends the Patriots to North Carolina to face the 4-4 Panthers. A win here will do wonders in keeping up with the Bills, who fly down to Jacksonville to play the toothless 1-6 Jaguars. It’s all about stacking the wins to stay in the playoff hunt and I’m betting the Pats return home at 5-4 and still on the rise.
Around the AFC East:
9th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Admittedly, it’s a weird résumé, though one that’s significantly improved with a 54-point outburst and road win over the Bolts in past two weeks. New England is also this close to a 7-1 record ... though Pats should be 7-4 once Week 12 and a date with some old friends from Tennessee rolls around. [+12]
13th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Bill Belichick is doing it again. The win at the Chargers was impressive, holding down a very good offense and getting they key turnover when needed, a fourth-quarter pick-six that gave New England a lead it didn’t relinquish. The Patriots are suddenly alive. They look like a different team than the one that allowed Davis Mills to carve them up a few weeks ago. [+2]
13th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): ‘The Contenders’ category. Moved up from ‘The Muddled Middle.’ [+3]
13th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The road victory over the Chargers was impressive and significant. The Patriots have won two straight and three of four. The defense played well against Justin Herbert. It has been true all season and it remains true now: This is a team with possibilities. Do not be overly dismissive of Bill Belichick and the Patriots. [+4]
13th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): If they make it to the single-elimination round, it’s going to get very interesting. [+3]
13th - Nick Wojton (TouchdownWire): Rookie QB Mac Jones and the offense didn’t have their best day settling for field goals far too often, but Bill Belichick’s defense still has Herbert’s number. This one was all about Adrian Phillips, though. His two picks, including the game winner, against his former team, must’ve felt nice. [+2]
13th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Biggest Achilles’ heel: Cornerback. After trading Stephon Gilmore and placing top slot Jonathan Jones on injured reserve, the Patriots are thin at cornerback. J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills are the starters — with opponents often attacking Mills, as the Chargers did on their late TD on Sunday — and practice-squad call-up Myles Bryant is the top slot option. Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade are next on the CB depth chart. Chargers coach Brandon Staley made the point that the Patriots played more zone than man Sunday, in part because of their short-handed situation. [+5]
14th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Winning on the road against the Chargers is an impressive victory. The defense came up big as Bill Belichick showed off his coaching acumen again. [+4]
14th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [+5]
15th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): For a change, the Patriots weren’t done in by a ton of self-inflicted wounds. They can finally say they beat someone not considered a bottom-feeder. [+3]
15th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots have battled to get to .500 with a simple formula of strong running game and great situational defense behind smart scheming. That’s Bill Belichick’s ideal reinvention minus Brady to help lift Mac Jones. [+2]
15th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): On a day where Mac Jones struggled to get much going, the Patriots showed that their defense can carry them to wins against quality opponents. The 27-24 triumph over the Chargers was a textbook Classic Pats victory. Keep the game close, make an impact play, then grind out the final minutes with smart and efficient execution. The big moment was Adrian Phillips’ pick-six with 10:11 to play, but the game was won on the 14-play, 54-yard drive that chewed up nearly half the fourth quarter and produced the game-icing field goal. Said Bill Belichick: “All in all, we made the plays that we needed to make in the fourth quarter, which is something we hadn’t done as well early in the year.”
15th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): The Patriots battled the Chargers in Los Angeles for the second straight year. A season ago, Bill Belichick’s team blanked the Bolts, 45-0. This time around, the Pats had to rally from a 14-7 second-quarter deficit. A balanced offense ran 75 plays for 352 total yards and the team controlled the football for 35:24. The defense sacked Justin Herbert three times and safety Adrian Phillips stole two of his passes – returning the second 26 yards for a score. [+1]
15th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): The New England Patriots dropped a 50-burger on the New York Jets in Week 7. But given that New England’s three victories had come against those lowly Jets twice and the Houston Texans, it was hard to take the Pats seriously as a potential player in the AFC. The Patriots needed a signature win to hang their collective hats on. They got that win Sunday in Los Angeles.
New England didn’t exactly roll against the Chargers. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones completed just 18 of 35 passes, and the Pats averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on the ground. But New England stayed after it in the run game and made just enough plays defensively to squeak past the Bolts and get back to .500 for the first time since Week 2. The Patriots will need that positive momentum as they head into a stretch of schedule that will define the team’s 2021 season. New England’s bye doesn’t come until Week 14, and standing between the Patriots and a week off is a five-game stretch that includes four contests against teams that are .500 or better, including the first of two meetings with the division-leading Bills. [nc]
16th - Mitch Goldich (SI): After kicking the snot out of the Jets and flying across the country to handle the Chargers, the Patriots appear to have turned things around. Sunday was their first win of the year against a team that isn’t the Jets or the Texans, so it must have felt good. They still have a lot of experienced players who’ve won a lot of games, even without you know-who-around. I can’t imagine any of their opponents taking them lightly. [nc]
16th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): The Patriots are a playoff team. I’m still incredibly skeptical of their ability to score points, given their inability to produce explosive plays. I called a win for New England against the Chargers because of the matchup problems for Los Angeles. The Patriots’ offensive line is solid, and they can run the ball well. Still, they averaged only 4.7 net yards per play. New England’s defense and some bad play from the Chargers pass catchers won them this football game. This wasn’t Mac Jones’ most efficient game, but he’s showing more ability to create with his legs than we anticipated. If he can continue to lean on his two tight ends, they can pick up enough first downs to keep games close. [nc]
16th - Harris Ahmadzai, Dylan Fraychineaud (New Arena): New England is picking up steam as winners of two in a row. The Patriots finally showed they could beat a strong team by picking up a win over the Chargers in Los Angeles. The defense led the way, as former Charger Adrian Phillips collected a pair of interceptions including a crucial pick-six in the closing frame. This team has an established identity and rookie QB Mac Jones has been able to play mostly mistake-free football. At 4-4 and firmly in the playoff hunt, it seems like the Patriots have found a recipe for success. [nc]
AVG RANK: 14 [+3.1]