The Patriots and Chargers were locked in a tight game midway through the second quarter on Sunday when the biggest play of the game came in the most unlikely fashion.
The game was knotted at 7 and the Patriots were forced to punt from their own 35 with a little more than nine minutes left in the first half. Ryan Allen got off an effective directional kick that sailed 54 yards toward the right sideline, forcing Los Angeles punt returner Travis Benjamin to stop his momentum in order to remain in bounds.
The awkward move contributed to Benjamin’s mishandling of the kick, the he was forced to regain possession moving backward as he now found himself retreating inside his 10-yard line. But at that point he appeared to avoid true disaster as he secured the ball and had plenty of room to change course and pick up a couple of yards and allow the Chargers to gain possession, albeit in poor field position.
That’s when things got truly bizarre, and it changed momentum in the home team’s favor. Benjamin, who is one of the fastest players in football, evidently put too much faith in his ability to outrun the coverage and continued to run toward his end zone. Even as the Patriots – led by Brandon King and Jonathan Jones – began to converge, Benjamin upped the ante and went into the end zone and ran laterally across the field.
By the time he realized he would not be able to beat the Patriots to the far sideline it was too late. King was the first to arrive, grabbing Benjamin around the legs while Jones buried him with a shoulder just above the waist. Benjamin was right at the goal line at the time, and after a brief chat between two officials it was ruled a safety.
The two points broke the tie and gave the Patriots the ball in good field position at their 43 after the free kick. New England quickly traveled 51 yards for a field goal, making it a 5-point play in what turned out to be a tight 21-13 victory.
It was one of the stranger plays the Patriots have seen this season, but it was quite satisfying as well.