The Patriots made it as hard on themselves as they could, but they managed to escape with a win over the Chargers, and enter their bye week with a 6-2 record. Lets take a look at some highlights from an ugly, wet game in Foxboro:
– New England’s special teams coverages j units deserve ample praise after a fantastic game. They caused a safety early on after a horrible decision by LA punt returner Travis Benjamin, and were able to pin the Chargers deep in their own territory on the majority of kick offs. The Chargers best starting field position following a Patriots score was their own 25 yard line. Pats special teams guru Matt Slater had a great game in punt and kick coverage, which definitely made things easier on the New England defense.
– The Patriots defense continued their hot streak, holding the Chargers to just 13 points. They made a huge blunder early on by allowing an 87 yard touchdown run to Melvin Gordon, but settled down after that and only game up six points through the rest of the game. If you take away the touchdown run, New England was able to hold Melvin Gordon to 45 yards on 13 carries. They also limited Phillip Rivers to just 212 yards.
– The loss of Dont’a Hightower was expected to be a big loss for New England because of his skill and his leadership on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots linebackers stepped up in his absence, with strong performances from Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. Both players had a number of key backfield stops, and held up well against the run. A lot will be asked of them as the season goes on, and it seems like they’re up to the challenge.
– The Patriots secondary wasn’t without Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore again, but they managed to have another solid game. They had one blown coverage that led to an easy Chargers touchdown, but managed to keep Phillip Rivers in check for most of the game. Johnson Bademosi had a solid game against a top end receiver in Keenan Allen.
– New England’s lack of a pass rush USB a serious issue, and needs to be addressed. Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers need to do a better job of forcing the ball out of the quarterback’s hands, or else it will be easy for opposing offenses to pick apart the New England secondary.
– The Patriots’ offensive line played well against an aggressive and talented LA pass rush. Nate Solder kept Joey Blss in check for most of the game, and LaAdrian Waddle fared well against Melvin Ingram after replacing an injured Marcus Cannon. They did well washing the Chargers rushers down field, which allowed Tom Brady to step up in the pocket and make extend plays.
– New England’s run blocking was not quite as impressive, only managing about 100 yards against a Chargers defense that had given up an average of 140 rushing yards per game. Also, many of those yards came from Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead breaking tackles. The interior offensive line for New England definitely has room for improvement.
– The Patriots offense had a decent time moving the football, but were terrible at finishing off drives. They were only able to get into the end zone once, relying on four field goals and a safety to put the Chargers away. The team needs to be much better in the red zone area because they cannot expect to win games with field goals alone.
– New England’s running backs had a great job catching the football, finishing with 14 catches and over 150 yards. The Chargers had great coverage on New England receivers down the field, which opened up lots of space underneath for the Pats’ backs to take advantage of. That unit is a great weapon for New England that the team will need to rely on going forward, especially if Chris Hogan’s injury turns out to be serious.
– Stephen Gostkowski had a poor game, missing two field goals that the team could have used to keep the Chargers from getting within striking distance. While my frustration remains more with the offense’s inability to get the ball in the end zone, Gostkowski needs be able to get those kicks through the uprights.
– Quick. shoutout to fullback James Develin for another monster game.
It wasn’t a great game for New England, which is actually a good thing headed in to their bye week. It will give them a lot to work on over the next few weeks, an will show them where their biggest weaknesses are. The biggest concern isn’t with the health of Chris Hogan, who has been having a career season so far. The team will need him going forward, although they may be tying Malcolm Mitchell back soon, which would allow Tom Brady to breath a sigh of relief.
Until next time – B$