The Patriots travel to Los Angeles for two games this week, against the Chargers on Sunday and then against the Rams on Thursday night. It is their second chance in three weeks to get back to .500.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 6 at 4:25 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots have fared well against the Chargers overall, with a 25-15-2 record against them including the playoffs since the teams first met in 1960, which coincidentally, was in Los Angeles as they were the LA Chargers in the first year of the AFL.
The last time the Patriots went to California to play the Chargers was 2014. In that game, Brandon Browner leveled Ladrius Green and the ball bounced up where Devin McCourty returned it 68 yards for a touchdown that was wiped out after the officials incorrectly rule Browner hit Green helmet to helmet. Julian Edelman iced the 23-14 win away with a 69-yard touchdown from Tom Brady.
The Patriots (5-6) beat the Cardinals 20-17 on a last-second 50-yard field goal by Nick Folk while the defense held Kyler Murray to only 31 yards rushing and 170 yards passing.
The Chargers (3-8) lost to the Buffalo Bills 27-17. Justin Herbert passed for 316 yards with a TD and an INT. Austin Ekeler had 44 yards rushing but had 11 catches for 85 yards out of the backfield. Joey Bosa had three sacks
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2020 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out. So, here is our look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Chargers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots running game has hit a snag the past couple of games as teams are stacking the box and run blitzing on early downs to disrupt the play before it has a chance to get going. Damien Harris is still the lead back and that isn’t expected to change but it may be tough sledding for him, James White, and Sony Michel.
The Bolts have only a middle-of-the-road run defense allowing 120 yards per game and their average allowed per rushing attempt is 30th in the league (4.8 yards), but have a big run-stuffer in the middle with Linval Joseph. He’ll have plenty of help this week as I expect the Chargers to stack the box and put pressure on the Patriots’ offense, forcing them to throw.
The Patriots are going to have to mix things up and have Cam Newton have some designed QB runs to keep the defense honest
Patriots WRs vs Cardinals Secondary – Razor’s Edge Los Angeles
The Patriots’ passing game remains a very limited air attack. As much as we admire Jakobi Meyers, he and Damiere Byrd are not a 1-2 punch that is going to keep opposing defensive coordinators up nights. Cam Newton was simply awful in the Cardinals game. He has to be better, much better down the stretch.
The secondary of the Chargers is pretty good and is allowing just 222.5 yards per game, good for 10th overall in the league. They have good corners and safeties and with Joey Bosa, who had three sacks last week against Buffalo, they can get after the passer.
Look for the Chargers to blitz Newton and force the issue, crashing down on both the running game and the hot routes and dare the Patriots to beat them deep.
Next up the Chargers offense:
Chargers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ run defense has been much improved with Lawrence Guy back in the lineup. They got some good production from Carl Davis but he’s out. Adam Butler was very disruptive a week ago. And the linebackers had a much better game overall against Arizona.
The Chargers got Austin Ekeler back from injury and he had a decent outing with 44 yards but averaged only 3.1 yards per rush. As he gets more in the flow of things, he should improve but they’ll also use Joshua Kelly some as well,
The Patriots should hold their own against this running game, which despite having Ekeler back isn’t going to gash many teams. Linebacker play will be key on Sunday. They’ll have to be in position for run support and also drop into the flat and cover him.
Chargers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles
The passing game of LA has been fun to watch this year. Justin Herbert has surprised many (raises hand), who thought he wasn’t going to be a good QB in the NFL. Boy did we get that one wrong. The rookie is completing better than 66 percent of his passes, while tossing 23 TDs and just 7 picks. Keenan Allen is the go-to guy in the passing game with 85 catches, 875 yards with 7 TDs. Mike Williams, TE Hunter Henry, with Ekeler out of the backfield, gives Herbert a lot of good weapons to throw to. It isn’t a surprise that the Bolts have the #2 passing offense in the league.
The Patriots secondary is coming off of a very solid outing against Arizona, but has been inconsistent…why? The pass rush has been woeful at times and opposing QBs have had plenty of time to throw. The pass rush was much better last week, will we see more of that?
One intriguing stat is that while the Chargers are the #2 passing offense, they are just 16th in scoring. So the red zone defense this week will be key, because the Chargers have had some issues finishing drives.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Nick Folk has been super solid and has made 19 FGs in a row. He is now the only kicker in NFL history to have multiple game-winning 50+ yard field goals as time expired in a single season. Jake Bailey is having another excellent season and helps pin opponents deep. The coverage units are solid. And finally, the Patriots got some great production in the kick return game. Both Donte Moncrief and Gunner Olszewski gave the team great returns on kickoffs and punts respectively.
Micheal Badgley has been very good for LA making 26-29 on extra points and 17 of 22 on his field-goal attempts. Tyler Long handles the punting duties while K.J. Hill and Joe Reed do a good job in the return game. But their coverage units can be a liability.
Next up, who wins and why…
This game is going to be interesting to watch. The Chargers are a team that at first glance should be much better than 3-8. You can certainly make the argument that they are a more talented team than is visiting this weekend. But they are prone to late-game mistakes, which comes down to coaching.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Mix it Up on Early Downs – We know the Patriots offense has to run the ball to be effective. But teams are stacking the box and challenging them to throw the ball deep. Cam Newton has struggled badly with his mechanics and accuracy in the short throwing lanes. Josh McDaniels hasn’t liked to allow Newton to throw the ball on those deeper routes early. Maybe that should change this week. Loosen up the reins a bit and be a little less predictable. Maybe get James White more involved in the passing game early as well.
Continue To Be Aggressive on Defense – The Patriots got after Kyler Murray last week and showed him some coverages that he had some trouble with. They need to do the same thing this week with the very talented but young Herbert. With some creative blitz packages and mixing up their coverages, they can hope to slow down this Chargers offense and perhaps force a turnover or two. Bill Belichick has a 19-6 record against rookie QBs, but that is only 7-6 on the road.
Keep Rolling on Special Teams – The Patriots got really good STs performances in all phases of the kicking game last week and need to do that again. It wasn’t a coincidence that we highlighted the Chargers game from 2014. In that matchup, the Patriots Brandon Bolden blocked a punt, and it something to look for this week as they’ll attempt to give their offense a short field.
The Patriots’ offense will do just enough… once again with some defensive help and a special team’s big-play as they win the first of two games in LA this week in a close, hard-fought game. Patriots 24-20
Posted Under: 2020 NFL Season
Tags: Austin Ekeler Bill Belichick Cam Newton Devin McCourty James White Joey Bosa Justin Herbert Keenan Allen Los Angeles Chargers New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Sony Michel