The Patriots won their second game in a row and have evened their record at 4-4 and have a lot of confidence moving forward to another road game against Carolina next week.
Granted, it was always pretty, and like many other games, the team left points on the board and played sloppily at times, but when they absolutely, positively had to have it, this time, they came through at crunch time, with the offense going on a long time-consuming drive that put them up by 10 and ate up nearly seven minutes of game clock.
The fact that Mac Jones had arguably his worst game as a starting QB, and the Patriots were able to still pull it together and win is a testament to their resiliency.
And make no mistake, the Chargers are a quality opponent, with one of the best young QBs in the NFL. And to go on the road and really shut down that passing offense is a huge accomplishment for the defense.
Things didn’t start that way, Justin Herbert and the Bolts offense took the opening drive and easily cruised down the field for a 7-0 lead. Included in the drive was a 41-yard pass from Herbert to Keenan Allen.
After that, Bill Belichick made the adjustments to slow down and fluster Herbert, where he finished 18-35 for 223 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. And a big chunk of that yardage came in a garbage-time drive where the defense allowed the underneath throws in a trade against the clock.
Mac Jones answered with the Patriots opening drive, seeing Herbert’s 41-yarder, and raising with a 44-yarder to Nelson Agholor, a beauty of a dime that set the Patriots up inside the red zone where six plays later, Damien Harris powered it in to tie things at 7-7.
Something for all the “McDaniels Must GO” folks to consider. For the 4th game in a row, the Patriots took their opening possession down the field for a TD. McDaniels job of scripting the first 15 or so plays has been outstanding and should not be discounted.
The Patriots’ defense, despite having an outstanding effort on the day had some big breakdowns. The aforementioned 41-yard pass that J.C. Jackson was burned on. The 75-yard run from Justin Jackson and a 28-yard run from Austin Ekeler stand out the most.
On Jackson’s run, it seemed the Patriots had him bottled up for little to no gain when he cut back against the grain and left all of the defenders in the dust. Only a great effort from Jackson stopped him from going to the house. It was a great play by Jackson, but one the defense should have stopped.
Adrian Phillips had a tremendous game, intercepting his former team twice, the second of which he took back to the house for the first pick-six for the defense since Week 2 of last year. That touchdown was the difference in the game and a huge swing for the team.
Note to the Chargers’ front office: Take a page out of the Bill Belichick handbook and remember a guy who plays well against you when he becomes a free agent. Gunner Olszewski has a vibe when playing in LA. A year ago, he returned three punts for 145 yards including a touchdown. This afternoon, he returned four punts for 80 yards, including three for 20+. It consistently gave the Patriots excellent field position and immediately put them in positive situations. Imagine if he played there every (other) week?
Jones’ struggles today, were caused by the very good play of the Chargers’ defense. This will require a deeper dive on the All-22 rewind tomorrow, but it seemed like the Bolts were lining up a lot of 5-man fronts and were doing a good job of getting Jones off of his spot, causing many of his throws to sail on him. Kudos to the LA defense.
Jones also finished 18-35 for 218 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. Remarkably similar numbers between him and Herbert. But on that last all-important drive, Jones was 6-6 for 38 yards as they moved to put the game away…So, there’s that.
The running game had a solid day rushing for 141 yards and had another 50+ erased by penalties. Damien Harris had a solid day rushing for 80 yards and scored a TD for the fourth game in a row.
Another day, another game where the left side of the OL costs Harris two big plays and a touchdown. A holding call on Justin Herron wiped out a nice 28-yard TD run and later another on Isaiah Wynn erased a 23-yarder.
Speaking of calls…the officials had two head-scratchers (PC answer) on back-to-back plays on a Patriots 3rd and 4th and goal sequence. The first call had a defender grab two fistfuls of Hunter Henry’s jersey, which was flagged. But then the zebras picked it up stating that it was fine he was held since he was blocking …(What?). But the second one was worse. The officials blew the play dead on 4th and goal and at least two seconds after all of the players stopped, Jerry Tillery teed off on Jones in what should have been a flag and given them a 1st down at the one.
Speaking of that sequence, I’m not going to be a hypocrite and call out McDaniels for throwing on the goal line, since Patriots Nation has been screaming for more of it for seven weeks. The bottom line is either penalty gives them a fresh set of downs.
Nick Folk = Money, the veteran kicker was 4-4 on FG attempts hitting from 48, 48, 30, and 24 yards. Jake Bailey pinned the Chargers deep in their end twice, coupled with Olszewski’s big day, the STs stepped up big time.
Matthew Judon chipped in with 1.5 sacks (Christian Barmore got his first half-sack) and seems to be held on every down. He’s been the best free-agent signing for the team this year…and it hasn’t been close.
With the team now back to .500 at 4-4, they can improve to a winning record for the first time this year with a win over the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte next week. The Panthers’ defense is tough but the Patriots have a lot of confidence moving forward. There remains plenty for the team to clean up but they’ve won back-to-back games for the first time this year.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Adrian Phillips Austin Ekeler Bill Belichick Damien Harris Devin McCourty Justin Herbert Keenan Allen Los Angeles Chargers Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers