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Los Angeles Chargers-New England Patriots Takeaways

Week 8 of the NFL Season in the books, and there were a number of exciting surprises for NFL fans. The 1-5 New York Jets, led by quarterback Mike White, who had never made an NFL start before, defeated the playoff hopefuls 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals. The 4-2 New Orleans Saints pulled off a huge divisional win over reigning Super Bowl winners, the 5-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And who could forget the 6-1 Green Bay Packers knocking off the final undefeated team, the Arizona Cardinals, in a thrilling Thursday Night Football game?

While the week may have been fun for most NFL fans, it certainly was not for Los Angeles Chargers fans. The Chargers hosted the New England Patriots at SoFi Stadium on Sunday. In a close battle, the Chargers lost, 27-24. It was an all-around sloppy game for the Chargers, with far too many errors. But what went well for the Chargers? What went wrong? Let’s take a deeper dive into just what happened on Sunday. These are the takeaways from the Chargers-Patriots game.

Summary

The Chargers opened the game strong, driving 75 yards down the field on their opening drive to score on a 5-yard Austin Ekeler run. The Patriots responded in kind, scoring on their own 75-yard drive to score on a 1-yard Damien Harris run. After that, the Chargers and Patriots exchanged punts until the Chargers broke the stalemate with a touchdown thanks to a 75-yard Justin Jackson run, which set up an easy 5-yard passing touchdown from Justin Herbert to Keenan Allen. After a couple of Patriots field goals, the slugfest ended the first half with the Chargers leading 14-13.

Unfortunately, the second half is when things started going downhill for the Chargers. The third quarter was mostly quiet, with a field goal by each team mixed in with some punts. That is, until Adrian Phillips stepped up. The former Chargers safety, now on the Patriots, intercepted Justin Herbert on the Chargers’ 26-yard line and returned it for a “pick-6”, or an interception returned for a touchdown. The Patriots attempted a 2-point conversion and succeeded,  giving the Patriots a 24-17 lead. After a horrible drive ended in a punt for the Chargers, the Patriots scored another field goal. With the score now 27-17, the Chargers were in a serious bind. The Chargers finally stepped up and drove 72 yards to score on a 24-yard Herbert pass to receiver Joshua Palmer.

Sadly, it was too little, too late. After a failed onside kick attempt by the Chargers, the Patriots simply took a knee to secure the victory, 27-24.

What Went Well

The Defense Stepped Up…Kinda

Chargers defense shuts down <a rel=


It may sound weird to say that the Chargers’ defense stepped up when they gave up 20 points. However, it must be taken into account that the Patriots’ defense forced 2 interceptions, from which they nabbed 10 points. With a pick-6 by Adrian Phillips, as well as another Adrian Phillips interception leaving the Patriots in Chargers territory, the Chargers’ offense did not make their defense’s job any easier.

 

With that said, the Chargers’ defense played passably on Sunday. The defense forced 3 punts, a fumble, and a turnover on downs by the Patriots’ offense. On top of that, the Chargers’ defense limited the Patriots’ running backs to a surprising degree. Sure, the Patriots’ running backs ran for 142 total yards. However, on 39 total attempts (3.6 yards per carry), allowing only 142 yards is surprisingly stout for the Chargers’ defense. Patriots running back Damien Harris, who was expected to have a big day against the struggling Chargers’ run defense, did end up having a solid day. However, the Chargers’ run defense forced him to do it on high volume. Damien Harris finished the game with 23 carries for 80 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and a touchdown.

The Patriots’ pass offense did not fare any better than the run offense. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones struggled against the Chargers’ pass defense, completing only 18 of 35 passes for 217 yards. With no touchdowns or interceptions, Mac Jones played more of a back seat in the Patriots’ offensive approach.

Austin Ekeler & Justin Jackson

Austin Ekeler was the saving grace for the Chargers’ offense, making a splash in both the run and the pass games. (Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports)

If there was any bright spot for the Chargers’ miserable offensive effort, it was running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Due to a hip injury, it was unclear whether Ekeler would even play against the Patriots. In the end, he decided to play, much to the Chargers’ excitement. After all, Ekeler and Jackson were the only players on the Chargers’ offense who didn’t actively hurt the Chargers’ offense. Austin Ekeler finished the day with 11 carries for 64 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown. On top of that, Ekeler had 6 receptions (10 targets) for 60 receiving yards.

Justin Jackson had a strong game himself, albeit with a small sample size. With only 3 carries, Jackson ran for 79 yards. With 8 less carries, Jackson had 15 more rushing yards than Austin Ekeler. That is thanks to his 75-yard run in the first quarter, which enabled Ekeler’s sole touchdown run.

What Did Not

The Pass Offense

Justin Herbert drops back
Justin Herbert struggled immensely against the Patriots. (Chargers)

Justin Herbert has been the face of the Chargers franchise since his fantastic rookie season. He has often been the guy that Bolt Squad could rely on to get things done.

Unfortunately, that was not the Justin Herbert that showed up on Sunday. This Justin Herbert struggled greatly against a slightly above-average Patriots pass defense. Completing 18 of 35 attempts, Herbert finished with 223 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. One of those interceptions ended up as a pick-6 in the fourth quarter which lost the Chargers the lead. With a 66.7 passer rating, Herbert will look to bounce back against the Philadelphia Eagles next week.

Another noticeable issue in the Chargers’ pass game was the receivers. Keenan Allen had a solid game, with 6 receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, but aside from him? Every other receiver struggled. It was a painful sight for Chargers fans, with even the most stellar Herbert passes hitting the receivers’ hands and being dropped. Even Keenan Allen struggled in this regard, only catching 6 passes on 11 targets. The Chargers’ receivers, typically stellar, need to put in extra work to get ready for Week 9.

Summary

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick certainly deserves some credit for completely shutting down the Chargers offense, which has grown overly-reliant on Jusitn Herbert. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call to Brandon Staley to integrate Austin Ekeler’s rushing talents more into the offensive scheme. Next Sunday, the Chargers travel to Philadelphia to face off against the Eagles. That matchup should be favorable to the Chargers, but unless they address their issues on offense, it could prove more difficult than once thought. These were the takeaways from the Chargers-Patriots game.

 




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