The LA Chargers (3-9) special teams essentially handed the Patriots their easiest and most lopsided win of the season. I want to personally thank the Chargers for two big punt returns allowed and two missed field goals that led to 17 points and an eventual 45-0 beat down. Bill Belichick now moves to 21-5 against rookie quarterbacks and this one wasn’t close from the jump.
The first half got off to a white hot start for the New England offense. Cam Newton and New England’s dominant rushing attack led the offense’s 13 play, 45 yard drive that lasted over 7 minutes and more importantly ended in a 1 yard touchdown sneak over the top by Cam Newton. He would later add another rushing touchdown, as he simply out muscled the Chargers for a 2 yard score. However this half belonged to the special teams unit of the Patriots.
Chargers Could Not Score
To kick off the special teams debacle, Chargers’ kicker Michael Badgley missed a field goal wide right on LA’s opening and most promising drive of the half. Then after New England’s defense forced a punt, WR Gunner Olszewski broke two tackles to return that punt 70 yards for six. And just when things couldn’t get worse for the Chargers, they attempted a 58 yard field goal, but it was blocked by Cody Davis and returned 44 yards by Devin McCourty to the house. The score stood at 28-0 at the half and the nightmare for the Chargers was just getting started.
On just the 6th play of the 2nd half, QB Justin Herbert got into the giving spirit as he fired the ball over the middle trying to hit WR Jalen Guyton, but instead he found LB Chase Winovich. This was Winovich’s first career pick and the Patriots immediately turned that into points. Seven plays later, Newton found WR N’Keal Harry for a 5 yard touchdown to extend the lead to 35-0. This was only Cam’s second touchdown of the season to a receiver but it was a relief to see. The next drive also featured another Herbert pick, this time by JC Jackson.
The Patriots defense made a punt and then stopped them on three more 4th down conversions to end the game to preserve the shutout. Their offense and special teams add a few more splash plays to add more highlights for Pats Nation to enjoy. Gunner Olszewski was once again the leading man during that stretch, as he returned a 61 yard punt to set up a 32 yard field goal by Nick Folk to make it 38-0. Jarrett Stidham took over on the next possession under center and found Olszewski down the middle for a 38 yard dagger.
The Patriots pounce on opponents mistakes and the Chargers clearly have many issues on special teams. I mean nobody can ever predict a team allowing a punt return touchdown and then getting a field goal blocked for a score too, but the Patriots simply took advantage of mistakes and capitalized when called upon. Their defense snagged 2 interceptions and surrendered 279 total yards. They constantly harassed Herbert and held the Chargers to just 3.6 yard per play. Keenan Allen was blanketed by Stephon Gilmore, only hauling in 5 catches for 48 yards and TE Hunter Henry had one reception for 5 yards. Those two were his favorite receivers and they were virtually non-existent in this game. Pressure and air tight coverage combined to ensure this happened.
The Patriots running game continued to be the dominant force on this team with 165 more yards rushing. Damien Harris continued to be an emerging star with 16 carries for 80 yards. Cam Newton’s two rushing touchdowns gave him his third season with double digit rushing scores and even though he only passed for 69 yards the entire game, he didn’t turn the ball over and at the end of the day, football is a team sport. He didn’t need to be a hero and make a back breaking mistake. Luckily for Cam and everyone in Pats Nation, the Chargers decided to play the role of Santa and give out a few early presents.
The Patriots (6-6) will stay in LA for their matchup with the dangerous Rams (7-4) for a Thursday Night matchup. While I don’t expect them to win that game, I am extremely proud of this team and their ability to seize the moment this week and deliver every big play necessary to win this game. I wanted to see another receiver or playmaker to emerge and Gunner Olszewski stepped up. This was a great sign and while the Patriots playoff future is unknown, one thing is crystal clear: nobody on this team will lay down to anyone. If you’re going to beat the Patriots, you need to play mistake free football and stop their running game. Any opponent who fails to do that will be in danger of losing. Just ask the Chargers, who have now been eliminated from playoff contention with this loss.
This team will fight tooth and nail every week to give themselves a chance to win. I’ve never been so proud to be a Pats fan. Nobody gives this team a chance and that’s motivation that will drive this team the rest of the season.
By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com