Patriots-Chargers Standouts: Linebackers Show Up In Dont’a Hightower’s Absence

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FOXBORO, Mass. — All hope is not lost for the New England Patriots’ defense, despite Dont’a Hightower’s season-ending pectoral injury.

The Patriots’ defense let up just 349 total yards and 192 through the air in their 21-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon.

Some of the Patriots’ best players in the win were linebackers filling in for Hightower. Here are Sunday’s standouts.

ENTIRE OFFENSIVE LINE
The Patriots’ offensive line was shamed after New England’s Week 5 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which quarterback Tom Brady aggravated a left shoulder injury. They’ve played extremely well over the last three weeks now and had their work cut out for them against Chargers pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

Brady was sacked three times, one of which came on a scramble by the Patriots quarterback. Another was over the coverage variety.

Outside of the three sacks, Brady was hit just twice.

The Patriots played more than a half with LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle after Marcus Cannon left with an ankle injury.

LB ELANDON ROBERTS
Roberts, filling in for Hightower at middle linebacker, made key plays like these.

Roberts is at his best when he can burst through the line and make plays in the backfield.

LB DAVID HARRIS
Harris also had a nice game while filling the void left by Hightower. He forced Philip Rivers to roll back on a blitz in which the Chargers quarterback dropped the ball and was sacked for a 20-yard loss.

He also did this:

LB KYLE VAN NOY
It was a solid game in general for Patriots linebackers. Van Noy had a batted pass at the line and a tackle for loss. He played at outside linebacker, rather than inside, where he’s been playing his best football for the past three games.

ST BRANDON KING
King recorded a safety on perhaps the worst punt return of all time by Travis Benjamin.

The Patriots’ special-teams coverage unit shined all game. They allowed 17 yards per kick return and -8 yards per punt return.

K STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI
Get ready for a steady stream of Stephen Gostkowski discussion on your radio dials this week. Gostkowski missed two 43-yard field goals that could have helped the Patriots put away the game faster. He did hit 3-of-5 attempts.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Johnson Bademosi had up-and-down games. Butler was targeted four times, and the lone completion was a touchdown reception. Bademosi drew two offensive pass interference penalties but also was flagged for defensive pass interference himself.

Running back Dion Lewis had a 71-yard kick return but didn’t get much going on the ground, averaging 2.8 yards per carry.

Running back Rex Burkhead averaged 3.8 yards on the ground and caught seven passes for 68 yards. James White caught five passes on six targets for 85 yards as Brady’s most dependable weapon.

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images

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