FOXBORO, Mass. — As a team, the New England Patriots have 15 sacks this season. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have 16 between the two of them.
Now in their second season together with the Los Angeles Chargers, Bosa and Ingram are the NFL’s premier pass-rushing duo. Keeping them away from Tom Brady will be the biggest challenge facing the Patriots this Sunday.
“There’s not many teams in the league that have one player like this,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “They have two.”
Ingram, a 28-year-old veteran, ranks fourth among all NFL defenders with 8 1/2 sacks through seven games. Bosa ranks sixth with 7 1/2 and has to be considered one of the league’s best young players.
The third overall pick last year out of Ohio State, Bosa missed nearly all of his first training camp because of a contract holdout, then sat out the first four games with a hamstring injury — and still went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. His career NFL stat line so far: 19 games, 18 sacks.
“If you are overaggressive on him, he’s quick enough to get by you,” said Belichick, who called Bosa “an outstanding player.” “If you sit back, then he is explosive enough to power the blockers into the quarterback or into the backfield.
“He’s a very disruptive player. He’s got a lot of length, so he gets to a lot of plays, tackles, tipped balls, can reach out and get the quarterback. He’s a hard guy to throw around or over. He’s really just good at everything, but he’s got a great motor, so you’ve got to deal with him every play.”
It’s helped, too, to have a running mate in Ingram who’s equally capable of hassling opposing quarterbacks and running backs.
“You can’t run away from (Bosa),” Belichick said. “That’s not the answer because he’ll chase down plays. Running at him is not the answer, either, because that’s a problem, too. So to say, ‘Well, let’s just run away from him,’ well, A) you’re running into Ingram and B) these guys, Ingram and Bosa, will both make plays from the backside. They’re good. They’re really good. Good in the running game, good in the passing game.
“They create a lot of long-yardage situations, and then they just kill you on third-and-long. … Third-and-long’s basically just a sack and turnover reel.”
A glance at last week’s Chargers-Denver Broncos film provides a clear picture of the kind of disruption this L.A. front can cause. Bosa, Ingram and backup defensive end Chris McCain (five sacks this season, more than any Patriots defender) teamed up to sack Trevor Siemian five times, and Ingram had another sack wiped away by an iffy roughing the passer penalty.
That dominant defensive effort propelled the Chargers to a 21-0 victory over their AFC West rivals. L.A. now has won three straight after beginning the season 0-4.
Thumbnail photo via Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Images