In a game that was much closer than expected, the New England Patriots narrowly escaped the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, in a 21-13 grudge match. The early afternoon game saw only three touchdowns accumulated by both teams, and many missed opportunities left out on the field. Both offenses struggled throughout the day, which put a heavy emphasis on special teams.
While still coming out as victors, the Patriots struggled specifically in the Red Zone, where they visited four times but only coming away with one offensive touchdown. Quarterback Tom Brady, who finished with 333 yards passing and one touchdown, noted the urgency to improve offensively after the game.
“I think some of these missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully I can do a better job for this team.”
Coming into the day, the Patriots put a heavy emphasis on containing the two standout Charger edge defenders in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. When Brady threw he got the ball out of his hand quickly relying on his running backs to make plays and pick up yardage. Rex Burkhead and James White both had solid games, picking up key yards in the passing game, specifically on third downs. Dion Lewis saw another heavy workload running the ball with 15 carries for 44 yards, as well as a big 71-yard kickoff return to open the second half.
On offense the Chargers also had a tough time building off momentum from its defense and putting points on the board. Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt did a good job drawing up creative plays early on, but stalled once the Patriots defense settled in. The first score of the game came from Running Back Melvin Gordon who ripped off an impressive 87-yard run, the longest of his career. The run was also the longest run against a Bill Belichick coached defense of all time.
Despite the long run, the Chargers were unable to create any other exciting plays resulting in points throughout the game. A key turning point came in the 2nd quarter when dynamic punt returner Travis Benjamin fielded a punt at the 10-yard line then running backwards to only be tackled in the end zone by great New England punt coverage. The safety brought the game to a 9-7 Patriots score, swinging the momentum in their favor.
After the game, Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn noted just how big the safety was but still having confidence in his punt returner. “I mean, the punt return, that right there was huge. I’m still confident in him. He just made a bad decision.”
Tough sledding continued for both teams in the 2nd half, where only one touchdown was scored. Brady and the New England offense were able to move the ball effectively, but only coming away with field goals. Kicker Steven Gostkowski had a tough day at the office with two field goal misses, both at 43 yards.
A positive for the Chargers came in the 3rd quarter when Joey Bosa had a sack on Tom Brady, making him the NFL’s all-time sack leader through his first twenty games. The young 22 year old already has 19 for his career.
The Chargers found themselves just within striking distance towards the end of the 4th quarter, hoping to tie the game. A promising drive which started at their own 25-yard line, ended with Phillip Rivers throwing an interception to Cornerback Jonathan Joseph just as the last seconds of the clock ticked off. This is the fourth loss of the season for the Chargers in which it ends in a one-possession game.
Both teams head into their bye weeks, the Patriots atop the AFC East at 6-2 and the Chargers tied for last in the AFC West at 3-5. The Patriots will next visit Denver for a showdown at Mile High, and the Chargers will pay visit to an ascending Jacksonville Jaguars team.
Article Written by Derrace Samilton