Situational Football 101 as NE Schools LA
The Patriots put on a clinic on Sunday and played their best game in over a year. For those of you who were calling for the team to tank, isn’t this much more fun? Not that Bill Belichick would ever tank a season…ever.
But after eleven games of clawing and scratching and one step forward and two steps backward, the Patriots put it all together on Sunday. And they showed that when they execute the way they did against the Chargers, they are a pretty good football team.
They were ready to play, had an excellent game plan, and executed it extremely well. The Chargers, on the other hand, looked completely lost and out of synch. So, the team will hang around UCLA (Matthew Slater approves) until their game against the Rams on Thursday night. But against the other team from LA, they dominated…offense, defense, and special teams. Dominant.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Chargers game.
Cam Newton threw for only 69 yards, fired a couple in the dirt, and took his eyes off the ball on a shotgun snap that lost a ton of yardage. But he ran the ball extremely well and scored two touchdowns and several first downs in the running game. But his biggest plus on Sunday was that he got N’Keal Harry involved in the red zone, hitting him for a touchdown. I wanted to up his grade an entire letter just for that alone.
Jarrett Stidham came in for Newton and wasn’t handing off in typical mop-up duty. It seemed like the coaches wanted to see what he can do. So, Stidham slung a 38-yard touchdown pass to Gunner Olszewski who had himself quite a day.
Running Backs: B+
The running game was well designed by the coaching staff as they mixed up their formations and showed several different looks trying to keep LA from stacking the box. We can’t say enough good things about Damien Harris. He runs hard and physical and churned out 80 yards on 16 carries, (5.0-yard average). James White, however, had a pretty quiet day.
Sony Michel, James White, and Cam Newton were all involved in the running game. Michel got his feet back under him after being out for several weeks. He carried 10 times for 35 yards but also made a really nice grab of a pass that he took for 23 yards. Harris had a 15-yard pass reception.
Jakob Johnson was moved all over the formation, giving opponents something to think about, not only on Sunday but down the road. Did the Patriots actually run the Wildcat?
Wide Receivers: C
The wide receivers didn’t factor that big in things since Newton only threw for 69 yards, but did have some notable plays during the game. Jakobi Meyers had a bad drop early in the game but later made a nice grab of one of those low Newton passes off the deck. Damiere Byrd had just two catches for 16 yards. Ditto for N’Keal Harry (2-15) but he had a touchdown on his second grab, where the team finally used him to his strength, and he high pointed the ball in the end zone. Not saying it was a breakthrough game by any means but it is amazing that the coaches haven’t used him in the best way.
Olszewski had a garbage time but still nice 38-yard touchdown grab. Donte Moncrief didn’t have a catch but had a Jet sweep for a first down. All of them did a good job of blocking downfield. If we said the WRs would get TD catches from Harry and Gunner before the game, we probably would have been ridiculed…but there it is.
Tight Ends: C
Ryan Izzo stood out with a nice block on Moncrief’s run and had a solid game in the running game. He even chipped in with a catch. He was injured, however, and they inserted rookie Dalton Keene who blocked well, but didn’t have a catch.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line had a very good game on Sunday, the Chargers knew they wanted to run the ball, and were going to run regardless and the offensive line still won the matchup with some creative work by Josh McDaniels to at least keep the defense guessing.
The pass blocking was very good, and rookie Michael Onwenu acquitted himself very well going against one of the best pass rushers in Joey Bosa. Newton was only sacked once, but again the game plan had something to do with that. McDaniels was ensuring that the ball was getting out quickly with screens and quick hitters.
Defensive Line: A-
The defensive line had another excellent game, LA ran for only 70 yards, although it seemed they abandoned the run a bit early. But the Patriots’ pass rush from the DL has been very disruptive the past two weeks, and on Sunday, they were getting plenty of disruptions on Justin Herbert. The DL logged three sacks, one each by Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, and Deatrich Wise Jr.
Butler has been an absolute beast lately, which he attributes to finally being healthy and he has extremely impressive, he had a sack, a tackle for loss, and a QB hit. Guy had the same while Wise had a sack, tackle for loss and two QB hits. Byron Cowart and Akeem Spence each played well in limited snaps.
Watching the young players (Uche, Dugger, Winovich, Harris on offense) come into their own on the field is fun to watch and their impressive growth throws the “Bill can’t draft” crowd some cold water right in their face. Josh Uche is quickly gaining more and more comfort level in the defense and he’s seeing more snaps every week. His skill as a pass rusher is being felt a little more every week and on Sunday he logged in with three QB hits and was very disruptive. They even used him as a spy on Herbert, which is a role he could grow into with the plethora of mobile QBs in the league.
Chase Winovich had a pair of QB hits, a pass defense, and his first career interception. Rookie Anfernee Jennings had a nice game and chipped in with a QB hit. Ja’Whaun Bentley and Terez Hall had 11 tackles in the middle of the field (6 and 5 respectively) and had some issues early but settled in nicely in the running game.
The Patriots’ secondary took the league’s #2 passing attack and put them firmly on a milk carton. It is what Bill Belichick always talks about with the pass rush and coverage going hand-in-hand. Stephon Gilmore shut down Keenan Allen who ended up with just 5 catches for 48 yards, J.C. “Interception” Jackson had another pick and did a very good job against Mike Williams (4 catches for 43). On a day where the LA coaches opted to air it out all game long, that is very impressive.
Jonathan Jones went out with an injury and Myles Bryant stepped in and played well. Adrian Phillips continues to show why he was such an excellent signing. And rookie Kyle Dugger continues to impress (another draft pick…OK we made our point). Herbert threw for only 209 yards and averaged less than 4 yards per throw (3.9), with a QB rating of only 43.7. Excellent day but not the best of the positional groups…
Special Teams: A
An absolute no-brainer here. The Patriots’ STs completely dominated this matchup and was a huge factor in the win. Gunner Olszewski has been on fire the past two weeks and had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown with outstanding blocks by Matthew Slater and Donte Moncrief. He had another 61-yard return where he nearly broke it for another touchdown.
Then the unit did a great job of scheming up a FG block with Cody Davis blasting in and knocking the ball down where Devin McCourty showed some wheels racing into the end zone for another touchdown.
Jake Bailey, if not for the other plays would have been the player of the unit. He put three punts inside the 20 with Justin Bethel doing a great job of snatching the ball at the 1-yard line and tossing it backward. Bailey’s only punt not downed inside the 20 could have been downed at the one also but Slater had been ruled out of bounds and couldn’t be the first person to touch the ball. Absolutely outstanding day. LA? Three times they didn’t even have the correct number of players on the field, one of which gave the Patriots a first down…nuff said.
The Patriots coaching staff aced this test, McDaniels schemed up ways to keep LA guessing with some creative formations. He even got Harry and Gunner involved in the passing game. The defense confused and flummoxed impressive rookie QB Herbert, while Cam Achord (we don’t mention him enough) was the star of the group as the STs were the stars of the day.
We’re on to… wait, they’re already in Los Angeles. OK, we’re on to the Rams.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Adam Butler Bill Belichick Cam Newton Damien Harris. LA Chargers James White Justin Herbert Keenan Allen Mike Williams New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers Sony Michel Stephon Gilmore