The 2018 New England Patriots always had talent. They just struggled throughout the season to put it all together into one magical performance.
That finally came Sunday, when the Patriots’ passing attack, run game, pass rush, run defense and special teams combined for a 41-28 complete win over a Los Angeles Chargers team many deemed more talented. The Patriots proved in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs that was not the case.
Now the Patriots must find something else that was missing through 17 weeks of the regular season: consistency. If the Patriots can put together two more of these performances, they’ll be Super Bowl LIII champs. Otherwise, nothing is guaranteed.
Unsurprisingly, we have a lot of good things to say about the Patriots’ win in this week’s takeaways.
DE Trey Flowers: sack, six hurries
LB Dont’a Hightower: seven hurries
DT Adam Butler: QB hit, four hurries
DE Adrian Clayborn: sack, QB hit, two hurries
DE John Simon: four hurries
LB Kyle Van Noy: three hurries
S Patrick Chung: QB hit
DT Lawrence Guy: hurry
DT Malcom Brown: hurry
DE Derek Rivers: hurry
CB Jonathan Jones: hurry
— The Patriots pressured Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on 29 of 53 dropbacks despite blitzing just 11 times.
— Butler had his best game of the season with five total pressures. He also saw a season-high in snaps and snap percentage.
— Flowers continues to prove why he deserves a massive contract as a free agent this offseason. He should have had a second sack, but refs deemed Flowers hit Rivers below the knees when he really drilled him in the thighs.
— Hightower only rushed 29 times, so he brought pressure on 24.1 percent of pass-rush snaps.
CB Jason McCourty: six catches on eight targets, 127 yards, pass breakup
CB JC Jackson: 5-11, 67 yards, two PBUs
CB Stephon Gilmore: 1-5, 43 yards, touchdown, interception, PBU
SS Patrick Chung: 5-7, 37 yards, TD
LB Kyle Van Noy: 3-8, 22 yards, PBU
LB Dont’a Hightower: 3-3, 16 yards, touchdown
FS Devin McCourty: 1-4, 10 yards, two PBUs
CB Jonathan Jones: 1-1, 9 yards
— Gilmore didn’t allow a catch in the final three quarters of the game. He said he got a little “nosey” on the 43-yard touchdown he allowed. He made up for it later in the game with an interception.
— Jackson was targeted often, but he held his own against a tough Chargers passing attack. Jackson mostly shadowed Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams. The rookie cornerback might have his biggest test next week if the Patriots put him on Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
— Jason McCourty had a tough game against Tyrell Williams. He wasn’t pleased with his performance after the game, but he was grateful to still be heading back into the facility this week to be able to review film and correct mistakes in practice. He’s not used to doing that in January. This is his first NFL postseason.
DE John Simon: two stops
LB Kyle Van Noy: two stops
S Devin McCourty: stop
LB Elandon Roberts: stop
DT Danny Shelton: stop
— The Chargers averaged just 1.9 yards per carry on 10 rushing attempts. What’s perhaps most incredible is Gordon had two 8-yard carries. Take those out, and the Chargers averaged less than .4 yards per carry.
— We marked Roberts down for two run stuffs while watching live.
— The Patriots did allow Gordon to score a touchdown, but it came late in the third quarter when the game already was well in hand.
— Of Tom Brady’s 10 incompletions, one was dropped, one was batted at the line and one came as he was hit while throwing. He had an 83.3 accuracy percentage. That was his third highest of the season.
— Brady was 1-of-2 on deep passes for his 15-yard touchdown to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
— Brady was pressured on just six dropbacks. He went 2-of-6 for 13 yards.
— Brady released the ball, on average, in just 2.13 seconds. His season average was 2.45 seconds. This was his quickest release of the season.
— Running back James White had the lone drop.
— Dorsett had a 15-week streak without Brady throwing an incompletion his way. That officially was broken Sunday, though Brady’s errant pass was dropped between Dorsett and tight end Rob Gronkowski. It actually looked like Brady was targeting Gronkowski.
RB Sony Michel: 3.13 yards after contact per attempt, four forced missed tackles
RB James White: two forced missed tackles
RB Rex Burkhead: 2 yards after contact per attempt
WR Julian Edelman: 2 yards after contact per attempt
FB James Develin: 1 yard after contact per attempt
WR Cordarrelle Patterson: 1 yard after contact per attempt
— Michel had a monster day with 129 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns. Burkhead also contributed with a touchdown.
— That Patriots receivers only combined for two carries for 10 yards tells me they have more wrinkles in store for Kansas City next week.
— Tight end Rob Gronkowski deserves credit for his performance as a run blocker. He only caught one pass but was opening holes in the run game all day.
RG Shaq Mason: three hurries
TE Dwayne Allen: QB hit
RT Marcus Cannon: hurry
LT Trent Brown: hurry
— Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who? Bosa registered three hurries while Ingram only had one QB hit. Brown and Cannon were fantastic while facing off against two dangerous edge rushers.
— Center David Andrews and left guard Joe Thuney didn’t allow any pressure. Gronkowski, right guard Ted Karras, running back James White and fullback James Develin also were clean in pass protection.
— The Patriots need to keep it up next week against Chiefs pass rushers Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Chris Jones.