The Patriots got a great start in the first game of their west coast road trip, scoring a touchdown then getting a missed field goal by the Chargers, and New England never looked back from there, en route to a dominant 45-0 win.
With the victory, the Patriots even their season record at 6-6 and keep their playoff hopes alive.
For the second game in a row, the defense and special teams carried the day with a punt return score, a blocked field goal returned for a score and two interceptions. The offense did what they had to, starting a perfect three-for-three in the red zone and making the Chargers pay for every mistake they made, and there were plenty of them.
The Patriots will now quickly turn the page to a Thursday night matchup with the Rams, with the chance to get their seventh win of the season before closing things out with three-straight division games.
Here's everything that stood out in an unexpected Patriots blow out.
- The Patriots came out running the ball, mixing up some play action and even a couple wildcat plays to get things going on their first drive of the game. Cam Newton would take a fourth-and-2 conversion himself at the 11-yard line, but was stopped short on a first goal-line keeper, stepping out of bounds just before the ball crossed the plane. It didn't matter though, as Newton would take it over the top for the first score of the game on third down and an early 7-0 lead. It was a perfectly executed first drive of the game, leaning into Damien Harris and the power rushing attack in
The Chargers would respond with their own solid drive, including a fourth-down conversion but New England would stiffen in th red zone, with Chase Winovich getting good pressure on third down and Deatrich Wise finishing off Herbert with a big sack. The Chargers would miss the 46-yard yard field goal. Herbert was sporadic on the drive, sailing a couple throws that might've been completions, but the Patriots weren't doing anything too exotic, just leaning into their execution which got progressively better on the drive.
- After a Patriots three-and-out. the defense would force the Chargers to punt as well, with good coverage from Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones standing out on back-to-back plays. A week after having a punt return touchdown called back, Gunner Olszewski would take another one to the house and this one would stand, busting the game open to a 14-0 lead with a 70-yard touchdown return. Donte Moncrief, who had a key kickoff return last week and was promoted to the 53-man roster on Saturday, delivered one of the key blocks as the Patriots continued to play good complementary football with all three units. For a squad that has struggled with slow starts, this was one of their best.
- The defense would keep the pressure on Herbert up, forcing a second-straight three-and-out with Chase Winovich's pressure on third down forcing a rushed underneath throw. Good group tackling continued to show up as the defense maintained their aggressiveness.
- Newton's dropped snap on the Patriots ensuing position short circuited the drive as the back-and-forth nature of the game continued with neither team finding much consistency on offensive. The Patriots defense would continue to be aggressive and disruptive, with Josh Uche and Adam Butler combining to force Herbert to unload a pass into the ground just before he was sacked. With early-down success keeping the Chargers in long yardage, the defense was able to tee off getting after Herbert.
- The Patriots offense would get some help on third-and-19 with a Chargers hands-to-the-face penalty that gave them new life on their last drive before the half when they would've been punting. Harris continued to run effectively, while Damiere Byrd chipped in his first two catches of the game for a total of 16 yards. The first half left little doubt that Harris is the central player of the Patriots offense now and when he's running hard and finding holes it offsets a lot of their offensive issues.
- Moncrief would pick up a big first down on the drive on an end around, ensuring the Patriots could take the clock down and get the final score of the half. After throwing a lot of receivers at the wall in recent season, the six-year veteran is coming on in recent weeks and making important plays for New England. Giving him the ball in this third-down situation showed the growing trust the team has in him.
- Sony Michel would get in on the third-down conversions with one of his own, taking the ball inside the five-yard line with under a minute to go before the half. It was a good tough run for Michel and his best play in three months after an extended absence. Newton would take it again for his second score of the game that extended the lead to 21-0.
- The Patriots weren't done yet though, as the Chargers made a couple plays before the half to attempt a long field goal as time was expiring. Cody Davis made the second huge special teams play of the game, blocking the kick, and Devin McCourty finished it off, scooping the ball and taking it 44 yards for the touchdown. Special teams was a mismatch coming into this game and the Patriots made the Chargers pay with two first-half scores. This one made it 28-0 at the break.
- It was the Patriots best first half of football in the 2020 season, with the defense shutting things down after an extended first drive while being perfect on third down (0-for-5), not one, but two special teams scores and a balanced offensive attack powered by the strong running of Damien Harris, who had 12 carries for 63 yards in the half.
- The defense picked right back up where the team left off, with Chase Winovich picking up the first interception of his career and giving the Patriots the ball right back in Chargers territory. It was an athletic grab by Winovich as Justin Herbert was throwing back across the formation and didn't see the linebacker dropping into coverage.
- The offense would respond by running eight plays and getting into the end zone again with Newton finding N'Keal Harry for his second touchdown catch of the season. The longest gain was seven yards on a Roughing the Passer penalty as it was an effective but plodding possession. The score was a needed play for Harry, who's had a rough stretch of late. It made the score 35-0 and the rout was fully on.
- J.C. Jackson would keep things rolling with his seventh interception of the season, this one coming on fourth down as the Chargers started to press with the third quarter winding down. The hits and pressure seemed to be adding up for Herbert, who had a couple of nice throws but continued to be mostly off-target.
- Jake Bailey continued his strong season, with Justin Bethel making an impressive catch of a Bailey punt which he then laid down just outside the end zone. It was that kind of game for the Patriots, everything was just clicking, especially on defense and special teams. Olszewski would continue it with another excellent return, going 61 yards and nearly scoring again. The Pats would tack on another field goal, with Nick Folk making the 32-yarder to make it 38-0.
- Jarrett Stidham would enter the game after another fourth-down stop by the Patriots defense, capped off by a sack from Adam Butler. Stidham would hit Sony Michel for a 23-yard catch-and-run and then found Gunner Olszewski for a 38-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 45-0. It was by far Olszewski's best game and it came at a time when many had written him off.
After so many close games this season, it was hard to see this kind of game coming. The Patriots got the start they needed and then preyed off of every Chargers mistake, and those started to snowball on them. Los Angeles could never recover and get back on track and the Patriots were only too happy to pour it on and they did it primarily with defense and special teams.
It was a needed win and hopefully will provide a spark heading into the final quarter of the season, which starts in just three days.