Patriots Have an Opportunity to Start Stringing Some Wins Together
The Patriots at what would normally be the midway point of the season had a big game on the road against a very good team in the wide-open AFC. And while they didn’t play a clean game, they did what they had to do and came out of LA with a win.
No moral victories this time, they took care of business on the road, and with three winnable games on the horizon, they have an opportunity to make some noise in the playoff hunt. So, while we’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, this team has shown some really encouraging signs.
The next six or seven games should prove to be very interesting indeed.
So, here are our positional grades this week for the Patriots-Chargers game.
Mac Jones started this one on fire, lofting a beautiful ball down the right seam to Nelson Agholor for 44 yards, setting up the team’s first touchdown of the game. It was a perfect dime, a drop right into the bucket.
But the Chargers confused him and forced him to rush his progressions and his accuracy was way off causing him to sail far too many of his throws. He finished 18-35 (53%) when he’s been completing over 70 percent of his passes, for 218 yards with a passer rating of just 70.9. During the second quarter, he was just 2-13.
But with the game on the line and the Patriots needing a big-time drive, Jones delivered. While chewing up nearly seven minutes of game clock, Jones was 6-6 for 38 yards and they drove down, scoring and going up by two scores.
Running Backs: B-
Damien Harris ran for 80 yards and a score, he also had a 28-yard touchdown run called back as well as a 23-yarder. He scored for the fourth game in a row. Harris sees and hits the holes as well as anyone.
Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden both had positive moments as the Patriots rolled up 141 yards on the ground. Bolden had a nice 14-yard run that put them in field goal range. He also had a stuffed 3rd and 1, which may not have been his fault. Another good solid game from this group.
Wide Receivers: C
Nelson Agholor had the big catch early in the game but he and Jones couldn’t hook up on any subsequent deep balls as he was being overthrown, which wasn’t his fault. He did finish with 60 yards on three catches. Kendrick Bourne coughed up a fumble and found himself on the bench. He also had one clang off his hands in the end zone that may have been picked.
N’Keal Harry and had two nice catches for 30 yards after Bourne was benched which was a positive sign. Jakobi Meyers remains the go-to guy and he’s always consistent. Meyers had some nice catches and helped move the chains.
Tight Ends: B-
We wrote earlier that the tight ends could be big targets in this matchup as the Chargers had issues defending tight ends. But things didn’t work out that way, partly because Jones was having accuracy issues. Jonnu Smith caught two passes for 13 yards, mainly as a safety valve.
Hunter Henry had one catch for 33-yards and should have another as Jones clanked one too early off his hip. He was also held on a 3rd and goal. Jakob Johnson did a very good job of blocking, as did all three as the Patriots ran the ball 39 times. Henry also flashed good hands on the on-side kick at the end of the game.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line did a good job overall, they ran the ball 39 times and although the Chargers were able to put pressure on Jones, he was only sacked once. This grade would have been higher except for the fact that once again, bad holding penalties wiped out a 28-yard touchdown run and another explosive 23-yard run.
Defensive Line: B
The big men up front’s main job on Sunday was to get Justin Herbert off of his spot, disrupt his timing, and put pressure on him. And the fact is, just like the Chargers did with Jones, the Patriots did with Herbert, other than a garbage-time drive, had one of his worst days as a pro.
Christian Barmore is playing some great football, (I know, we keep saying that, but it is true). Barmore had a half-sack but was consistently in the backfield giving chase all game long. Deatrich Wise still struggles against the run, but had a big batted pass. Lawrence Guy had a sack…they did their job and did what they needed to do
The linebackers were led by Matthew Judon (who else?) who garnered another 1.5 sacks and ten (10) pressures. He is darned near impossible to block. At least half a dozen times a game, I find myself making notes on how badly he’s being held.
Josh Uche blew up a screen at the line of scrimmage, Kyle Van Noy had a big batted pass. Dont’a Hightower had a run stuff where he blew the OL back 2-3 yards into the backfield. But his whiff and being faked out of his cleats on the 75-yard run hurt. So did Jamie Collins whiffing on Herbert.
Judon said it best after the game, “we were rushing our butts off.” Indeed.
Bill Belichick always says that the pass rush and coverage go hand-in-hand. And yesterday was a very good job of execution of both of those as they made one of the best young QBs in the NFL look ordinary for the vast majority of the game.
The secondary threw Herbert a curveball by playing mostly zone coverage and the Chargers weren’t able to adjust. Adrian Phillips had two interceptions, the last one a pick-six that gave the Patriots the lead that won them the game. And both of those were fantastic plays by the former Charger.
Jalen Mills had a bad sequence on the Chargers’ final drive, giving up a big third and long and a touchdown pass with 40 ticks left in the game. But the secondary was excellent on the day.
Special Teams: A-
Gunner Olszewski had another big day at SoFi Stadium returning four punts for 80 yards and had three for 20+ yards, the first time it has been done since Troy Brown in 2000. He also returned a kickoff for 29.
Nick Folk was a perfect 4-4 on his field-goal attempts, from 48, 48, 30, and 24. He has been just money from the team. Jake Bailey pinned the Chargers deep twice but had one bad shank in the first half.
The Patriots’ coaches came up with an excellent game plan on slowing down Herbert and despite some hiccups with some big chunk plays, was executed very well.
Josh McDaniels’ first 15 plays were scripted perfectly and the Patriots scored an opening possession touchdown for the fourth game in a row.
We’re on to the Panthers and although it should be a tough one, is also winnable
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Austin Ekeler Bill Belichick Jamie Collins Justin Herbert Kyle Van Noy Los Angeles Chargers Mac Jones Matthew Judon N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers