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Game Preview: Patriots at Chargers

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WEEK 8 · Sun 10/31 · 4:05 PM EDT

Patriots

New England Patriots

AT

Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers

CBS / WBZ
98.5 FM The Sport sHub
SOFI STADIUM

The New England Patriots begin a stretch of two straight road games this week when they travel to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Following the Chargers game, the Patriots visit the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. It is the only two-game road trip the Patriots will have in 2021. Last season, the Patriots had a two-game and a three-game road streak.

The Patriots will attempt to even their record at 4-4 this week. Last season, the Patriots traveled to Los Angeles to face the Chargers with a 5-6 record and evened their record at 6-6 behind a 45-0 victory in their first ever visit to SoFi Stadium.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

The Patriots secondary will have its hands full with Justin Herbert and the Chargers variety of weapons.

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots

No team has allowed more rushing yards this season than the Chargers. That's true both in terms of yards per game (162.5) and yards per play (5.5). In fairness, the Chargers have faced Dallas, Cleveland and Baltimore, three of the top four rushing teams in the league through seven weeks. So there have been some mitigating factors in Los Angeles' struggles stopping the run. And the Chargers might be getting some help in the run-stopping department this week as defensive lineman Justin Jones is eligible to return off IR after missing the last three games with a calf injury, as is linebacker Kenneth Murray, who's been out due to a bad ankle. The Patriots aren't anywhere near as efficient running the ball as the teams the Chargers have faced, but Damien Harris is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games and appears to be hitting his stride. Mike Onwenu's switch to right tackle, allowing Ted Karras to step in at left guard, has helped solidify an offensive line that was struggling. Harris had several gaping holes to run through on Sunday against the Jets, and will look to continue that momentum on the road in Los Angeles. On paper the Chargers would be appear to be better suited to stop the run than they've shown with Jerry Tillery, Linval Joseph and Christian Covington in front of an active group of linebackers that includes Murray, Kyzir White, Uchenna Nwosu and Drue Tranquill, who is dealing with a chest injury that kept him out of the Chargers Week 6 loss in Baltimore. If healthy, that group should improve but the Patriots ground game is picking up steam and should find success.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Chargers

It's been a much different story for the Chargers pass defense, which ranks fourth in the league by allowing just 202 yards per game. The Chargers secondary features corners Chris Harris, Michael Davis and rookie Asante Samuel as well as safeties Derwin James, Nasir Adderly and Alohi Gilman. Adderly is dealing with a hip injury but also could return this week. That group has been solid while relying on Joey Bosa, Kyler Fackrell and the rest of a Chargers pass rush that has piled up 13 sacks in six games. Meanwhile Patriots rookie Mac Jones is coming off the first 300-yard game of his young career and had no turnovers in a blowout win over the Jets. Jakobi Meyers continues to be his favorite target with 41 catches, easily topping the list for the team. Tight end Hunter Henry has emerged as a red zone target as of late with touchdown grabs in each of his last four games. Kendrick Bourne (22 catches) and Nelson Agholor (19) have been steady contributors as well. Jones will need to continue spreading the ball around against the stingy Los Angeles secondary, and the offensive line will need to build on the improvement shown in recent weeks in pass protection for the production to continue.

When the Chargers run - Edge: Patriots

The Chargers haven't been overly interested in running the football and the stats would back that up. Los Angeles ranks 25th in the league in rushing yards per game with 95, and 20th in yards per play at 4.1. Austin Ekeler is the bell cow with 73 of the team's 139 carries to his credit. Ekeler averages almost 5 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns, but quarterback Justin Herbert ranks second on the team with 21 carries for 72 yards. So, this rushing attack is all about Ekeler, a small, shifty-type of back that sometimes gives the Patriots problems, and the front will need to keep him in check. The Patriots run defense has rebounded from a slow start to the season and has performed much better as of late. New England ranks 11th in the league, allowing 105.6 yards per game. More impressively the Patriots rank fourth, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry on the season. One reason for that resurgence has been the play of rookie Christian Barmore. His snaps have been on the rise recently, and he led the defensive line in that department in the win over the Jets. Ja'Whaun Bentley's play also has been on the rise, which has been key given the recent absence of Dont'a Hightower at linebacker. Ekeler is a versatile and elusive back so the Patriots front will need to be disciplined in its approach on Sunday.

When the Chargers pass - Edge: Chargers

Herbert is one of the game's most promising young passers and he seems to be developing well in his second season. The Chargers ranks eighth in the league, averaging over 282 yards per game through the air as Herbert has some dangerous weapons to choose from. Keenan Allen remains his favorite target and leads the team with 39 catches for 419 yards and a touchdown. Mike Williams is close behind with 33 grabs for 498 yards and a team-best six receiving touchdowns, while Ekeler chips in with 27 receptions and three more touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook has been productive in stops in Tennessee, Green Bay and New Orleans and that's been the case in LA as well, so the embattled Patriots secondary will have its hands full. Jonathan Jones is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving Myles Bryant and Joejuan Williams to fill the void. Bryant typically works in the slot where Jones did his work, and Allen is dangerous between the hashes. Last season Stephon Gilmore completely shut down Allen but obviously he's no longer in the picture, so Jalen Mills and J.C. Jackson will need to step up against Allen and Williams and force Herbert to find his secondary targets. Ekeler also figures to be a problem as the Chargers passing game is capable to lighting it up, and with Devin McCourty nursing an abdomen injury the safeties will need to help as well.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

Last season the Patriots special teams dominated the Chargers in every area in the team's 45-0 win. Gunner Olszewski returned a punt for a touchdown while McCourty took a blocked field goal to the house. It all led to the firing of special teams coach George Stewart. Under first-year coach Brandon Staley things have improved, but not to the level he would like. The Ravens enjoyed some success in the return game in their Week 6 win over the Chargers and Staley talked about the need for some added speed on the coverage units during the team's bye week. The kicking game provides a significant edge for the Patriots as well with Nick Folk's strong season continuing while the Chargers Tristan Vizcaino has missed five PATs over the past four games. He has made 6 of 7 field goals but hasn't attempted one since September, in part because Staley loves to go for it on fourth down. Los Angeles signed veteran Andre Roberts, who returned kicks against the Patriots for Houston back in Week 5. Punter Ty Long doesn't get much work but averages 47.8 yards per kick with seven downed inside the 20 against just one touchback. The Patriots are coming off their best all-around game on special teams with Olszewski providing a spark on both kick and punt returns. It may not be as significant as last year, but this looks like another sizable advantage for New England.

Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) carries the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) carries the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers.

SERIES HISTORY

The New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers will meet for the second straight season. Last season, the Patriots had their most convincing win of the year with a 45-0 victory in their debut at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 6, 2021. It was New England's first road game against the Chargers since their move from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017. It was also the first of two consecutive games for the Patriots at SoFi Stadium, as the team played against the Rams in a Thursday Night game a few days later. The Patriots enter this week's game having won the last six games overall.

New England leads the regular season by a 23-14-2 margin. The teams have met four times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 3-1 edge.

The New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers are an old AFL rivalry as part the original eight teams from the American Football League. The Patriots and Chargers met in the 1963 AFL Championship Game played on Jan. 5, 1964 in San Diego with the Chargers taking a 51-10 decision.

The series dates back to 1960, the inaugural season for each team. Bill Belichick is 8-5 in his career against the Chargers in the regular season, including a 7-3 record as Patriots head coach. He is 3-0 against the Chargers in the postseason. 

SERIES BREAKDOWN

Overall Record: 26-15-2

Home Record: 14-8-1

  • Boston: 2-7-1
  • Foxborough:12-1-0

Road Record:12-7-1

  • Los Angeles: 2-0-0
  • San Diego: 10-7-1

Longest winning streak:.10 games (12/02/73-10/14/01)

Longest losing streak: 4 games (11/10/68– 11/15/70)

Bill Belichick vs. LA Chargers: 11-5 (1-2 with Cleveland)

QUICK HITS

  • The Patriots won 10 straight games against the Chargers from Dec. 2, 1973 through Oct. 14, 2001.
  • The first championship game in Patriots franchise history was played at San Diego against the Chargers on Jan. 5, 1964, the AFL Championship game. San Diego defeated the Boston Patriots, 51- 10.

Patriots.com's Mike Dussault shares his players to watch ahead of the Patriots Week 8 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON

#10
2021_headshots_recropped__0042_Jones_Mac_2021
MAC JONES, QB, PATRIOTS
HT: 6-3 WT: 217 COLLEGE: ALABAMA

Mac Jones completed 24 of 36 passes (66.7 pct.) for season-high 307 yards and 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 111.7 rating last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 2+ TD passes & 110+ rating and 5th in row with 95+ rating. 4th rookie ever with 225+ passing yards and TD pass in 5 straight games. Leads all rookies in completions (174), passing yards (1,779), TD passes (9) & rating (92.8)

Table inside Article
SEASON COMP ATT YDS TD INT LNG SK/YDS
2021 174 247 1,779 9 6 75 14/111
#10
This is a 2021 photo of Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers NFL football team. This image reflects the Los Angeles Chargers active roster as of Monday, June 14, 2021 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)
JUSTIN HERBERT, QB, CHARGERS
HT: 6-6 WT: 237 COLLEGE: OREGON

Justin Herbert completed 22 of 39 passes (56.4 pct.) for 195 yards & TD vs. INT in Week 6. Has 3+ TD passes & 105+ rating in 3 of past 4. Passed for 209 yards in last meeting. Has 620 pass yards (310 per game) and 8 TDs (7 pass, 1 rush) vs. 0 INTs with 115.3 rating in his past 2 at home.  

Table inside Article
SEASON COMP ATT YDS TD INT LNG SK/YDS
2021 161 246 1,771 14 4 72 11/74

CONNECTIONS

FORMER CHARGERS

  • DL Lawrence Guy (2013-14)
  • DB Adrian Philips (2014-19)
  • TE Hunter Henry (2016-20)

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • Charger's Tight End Stephen Anderson spent the 2018 season on the Patriots practice squad. He was signed to the active roster for the 2018 playoffs, but he was inactive for all three postseason games. He was signed by L.A. in September 2019.
Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olszewski (80) runs after a catch during New England's 2020 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olszewski (80) runs after a catch during New England's 2020 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR...

  • Damien Harris has gained 100 yards in back-to-back games with 101 yards vs. Dallas (10/17) followed by 106 yards vs. N.Y. Jets (10/24). The last running back to gain 100 yards in three consecutive games was RB Corey Dillon, who had a streak of four straight 100-yard games in 2004.
  • The last time the Patriots had 100-yard rushers in three straight games was in 2007 when Laurence Maroney had 103 yards on Sept. 23, followed by 117 yards by Sammy Morris on Oct. 1 at Cincinnati and 102 yards by Morris on Oct. 7 vs. Cleveland.
  • Hunter Henry has caught a touchdown pass in four straight games. The Patriots record for most consecutive touchdowns reception is Rob Gronkowski with six games in 2011. The NFL record for most consecutive games with a touchdown reception by a tight end is nine by Antonio Gates (2009-10).
  • Gunner Olszewski, who led the NFL with a team record 17.3-yard punt return average in 2020, is currently third in the NFL with an 11.1-yard punt return average. The last time that a player has averaged 10-plus yards per return with at least 20 returns in consecutive seasons was Darren Sproles (2, 2014-15) and Ted Ginn (6, 2010-15).
  • Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in five of his first seven NFL games, the only rookie quarterback to ever do so. The rookie record is nine games by Dak Prescott. The NFL record is 13 games by Drew Brees in 2017.
  • Mac Jones has passed for 1,779 yards during the first seven games and is on pace for 4,170 passing yards . He leads all rookie quarterbacks in passing yards (1,472) and completions (174). Only three rookie quarterbacks have ever passed for at least 4,000 yards.
  • After seven games, Jones' completion percentage is 70.4. The best completion percentage for a season by a rookie quarterback is Dak Prescott at 67.7 percent in 2016.
  • Jones has 174 completions this season and joins Joe Burrow (195 completions in 2020) and Justin Herbert (181 in 2020) as the only rookie quarterbacks with at least 170 completions in their first seven starts.
  • Matthew Judon leads the Patriots with 6 1/2 sacks. His career high is 9 1/2 sacks in 2019 when he played for Baltimore.
  • Judon has registered two games with at least two sacks in 2021. The Patriots record for the most two-sack games in a season is six by Andre Tippett in 1984.
  • J.C. Jackson is tied with Miami's Xavien Howard for the most interceptions since he entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2018 with a total of 20 picks.
  • WR Kendrick Bourne completed his first NFL pass attempt for a 25-yard touchdown pass to WR Nelson Agholor in the first quarter of the win against the New York Jets on Oct. 24. The last non-quarterback with a pass completion in consecutive games was WR Jarvis Landry of Cleveland in 2020 when he completed passes on Dec. 6 at Tennessee and Dec. 14 vs. Baltimore.
  • Jakobi Meyers threw touchdown passes in Weeks 10 and 17 in 2020, to become the fourth wide receiver with two touchdown passes in a single season in the Super Bowl era, joining Rod Gardner (2003), Antwaan Randle El (2010) and Odell Beckham Jr. (2018). With one more touchdown pass, Bourne can join the list.
  • WR Jakobi Meyers completed two passes for 45 yards in Week 4 against Tampa Bay. He is now 4-of-4 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his career. The Patriots have never had a wide receiver complete more than two passes in a single season. Julian Edelman completed two passes in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and Harold Jackson completed two passes in 1980. In addition to the Tampa Bay game, Meyers completed two passes, both for touchdowns, in 2020. The most passes thrown by a non quarterback in a single season for the Patriots were by RB Andy Johnson, who was 7-of-9 for 194 yards with four touchdowns in 1981 and RB Dick Christy, who was 6-of-11 for 94 yards with two touchdowns in 1960.
  • Devin McCourty has 29 career regular season interceptions, tied for third all-time in team history, behind Ty Law and Raymond Clayborn, with 36 interceptions. He needs one more interception to become the third Patriots player with 30 career interceptions.
  • McCourty has 35 career takeaways in the regular season and is tied with Mike Haynes for fifth all-time in team history. He needs one more takeaway to tie Roland James at 36 for fourth in team history.

BROADCAST INFO

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Mark Wolff and directed by Bob Fishman.

NATIONAL RADIO: Sunday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Sports USA. Larry Kahn will call the game with Hank Bauer providing analysis.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 FM The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

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