The New England Patriots’ 21-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers was the prototypical forgettable midseason victory in which many 12-4 seasons have been constructed from in the past.
If not for perhaps the worst punt return in NFL history that resulted in a safety for the Patriots, we might forget everything that happened in New England’s Week 8 win.
Here’s proof that some things actually did happen in this matchup that thrust the Patriots into their Week 9 bye week on pace for another 12-4 season.
Trey Flowers: one QB hit, two hurries
Deatrich Wise: one QB hit, one hurry
Cassius Marsh: two hurries
David Harris: one hurry
Elandon Roberts: one hurry
Kyle Van Noy: one hurry
Lawrence Guy: one hurry
— It’s unclear why the Patriots, as a team rather than individual players, were credited with a sack when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers fumbled on a 20-yard loss as Guy and Roberts landed on him after the recovery. It’s distressing, however, that New England generated just one sack while going up against a statuesque quarterback like Rivers.
— The Patriots could use some pass-rush help at the trade deadline. Would they get by without acquiring another pass rusher? Yes, but could their defense be more effective if they added another third-down option? Yes. Do I have any more questions for myself? Not for now. I like the idea of the Patriots acquiring New Orleans Saints pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha, who has been inactive two straight weeks, though.
— Van Noy took on a bigger pass rushing role but only generated one pressure. Patriots interior defender Adam Butler only received eight pass-rushing snaps after he recorded his first career sack last week.
Johnson Bademosi: 5-8, 66 yards
Devin McCourty: 3-3, 37 yards
Patrick Chung: 2-2, 26 yards
Malcolm Butler: 1-4, 24 yards, TD
Kyle Van Noy: 2-2, 20 yards, PBU
Elandon Roberts: 1-1, 9 yards
Jordan Richards: 1-2, 8 yards, PBU
Trey Flowers: 1-1, 7 yards
Jonathan Jones: 0-2, INT
David Harris: 0-1
— Bademosi came back down to earth a little bit but did force two offensive pass interference penalties and an illegal touching flag. He also was penalized for defensive pass interference.
— Butler hadn’t been targeted before he let up a 24-yard touchdown reception to Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
— The Patriots have a chance to upgrade their defense if Stephon Gilmore can return from a concussion and ankle injury in Week 10 after the bye week.
Nate Solder: one QB hit, seven hurries
LaAdrian Waddle: five hurries
Joe Thuney: two QB hits, two hurries
Shaq Mason: four hurries
Marcus Cannon: one sack, two hurries
David Andrews: one hurry
— Tom Brady was sacked three times, but one came when the Patriots quarterback was scrambling. The other was a coverage sack as Brady held the ball for too long.
— Solder, Waddle and Cannon held up decently well as they were forced to block Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa and Ingram were consistently in the Patriots’ backfield, but Brady was hit by them just three times. The Patriots’ offensive line has markedly improved since Week 5 when Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass rushers battered Brady.
Brady went 32-of-47 for 333 yards with one touchdown, and while it was far from one of his better performances of the season, his receivers did drop two passes. Brady also threw away three passes, had one batted at the line and was hit as he threw once.
Brady was 0-for-4 on passes of 20 yards or more. He was 1-of-6 on passes over 15 yards. It was one of Brady’s weakest performances of the season from a deep-ball perspective.
Rob Gronkowski: 2
— It was a solid but unspectacular performance from Gronkowski, who had five catches on nine targets for 57 yards with the Patriots’ lone touchdown.
— The Patriots struggled to get much going on the ground. Dion Lewis led the team with 15 carries for 44 yards but averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, and that was with a 10-yard pickup.
— Running back Rex Burkhead was solid, picking up 15 yards on just four carries. He was much more productive through the air, catching seven passes on seven targets for 68 yards.
— Mike Gillislee still has yet to break through the first level and rip off a long run. He had just 34 yards on 11 carries.
— The Patriots’ run defense’s performance looks horrible on the stat sheet after giving up 157 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Take out Melvin Gordon’s 87-yard touchdown, however, and they let up just 3.5 yards per carry. I know that’s not a fair representation of their performance, but all in all, the front seven played pretty well, outside of one snap, without linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
— Van Noy, Roberts and Marsh all had tackles for loss as they took on more responsibility with Hightower out.
Stats via Pro Football Focus Elite
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images