Can Patriots Neutralize Joey Bosa Again In 2018 Playoff Rematch Vs. Chargers?

Bill Belichick called Bosa "a one-man wrecking crew"

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The Los Angeles Chargers boast far more talent than your typical 3-8 team.

Their quarterback, Justin Herbert, is on pace for the best statistical rookie season in NFL history. Their top receiver, Keenan Allen, leads the league with 85 receptions.

And on defense, they have Joey Bosa, whom New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick called “a one-man wrecking crew” during his Wednesday morning video conference.

“Bosa?s one of the most disruptive players in the league,? Belichick said as his team prepares to visit the Chargers this Sunday. ?As good as anybody we play against, run or pass. He?s got a great motor, very strong hands, good instincts and he just makes a lot of disruptive plays. Most of the time it?s him making the plays, but a lot of times it?s him screwing the play up and forcing the ball to somebody else. So he?s definitely a guy to stop.”

Bosa, a Pro Bowler last season, is coming off a monster performance in L.A.’s Week 12 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He pounded Bills quarterback Josh Allen, finishing with three sacks, five QB hits, six tackles for loss, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery.

“I think he does everything well, really,” Belichick said. “You look at the Buffalo game — he made plays against the run, plays on short yardage, he rushed the passer in passing situations, he sacked the quarterback on play-action situations where he converted a run-read into a play-action rush.

“He’s very instinctive, he’s got a tremendous motor, he plays hard. He never gives up, he makes a lot of plays on effort and hustle. He’s got strong hands, he can control the blockers, and he’s instinctive and can find the ball. It’s a combination of his quickness, explosiveness and his instincts.”

This will be the Patriots’ first matchup against the Chargers’ superstar edge rusher since the 2018 divisional round, when they largely erased Bosa and running mate Melvin Ingram in a 41-28 rout at Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady attempted 44 passes in that game, and Bosa managed zero sacks, zero QB hits and just three total pressures. Ingram (who was placed on injured reserve this week and will not play Sunday) registered L.A.’s lone QB hit and one hurry.

Brady neutralized the Chargers’ rush by peppering them with quick passes. Passes left his hand in an average of 2.13 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus, a substantial drop from his 2018 season average of 2.45 seconds. Current Patriots QB Cam Newton is averaging 2.68 seconds to throw this season, per PFF.

New England also ran the ball with authority in that playoff matchup (129 yards, three touchdowns by Sony Michel), a strategy they rode to a Super Bowl title that year and one the 2020 Pats can replicate. The Patriots currently rank third in rushing attempts per game, fifth in rushing yards per game and eighth in yards per carry. L.A. ranks 30th in yards allowed per carry.

Bosa split his snaps evenly between the right and left sides in previous seasons but has leaned more toward the latter this year, aligning on the defensive left side roughly 75 percent of the time, per PFF. If that pattern holds, he’ll see a lot of Mike Onwenu, New England’s standout rookie lineman.

Onewnu, who’s started the last six games at right tackle, has allowed two sacks and just eight total pressures on 327 pass-blocking snaps this season, per PFF’s tracking. Jermaine Eluemunor and Justin Herron split time at left tackle last week in place of usual starter Isaiah Wynn, who is on IR and will miss at least the next two games.

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