Trick: The New England Patriots lose to the Los Angeles Chargers to move to 3-5 on the season and spend the season chasing a .500 record. If they lost to LA, they would enter November having only beaten the Jets twice and the Houston Texans. Last week’s 50-burger would be covered in mold.
Treat: The Patriots win in Los Angeles, get to 4-4 on the year and finally get a win against a quality opponent and don’t look now, but the Patriots are 3-0 on the road. (Which is already better than 2020 when they went 2-6 away from Foxborough.) Oh and New England heads to Carolina next weekend, whose offense has moved at a glacial pace recently and old friend Sam Darnold, who had the slimer knocked out of him on Sunday, could miss Sunday’s game.
This was a signature win for Mac Jones and the 2021 New England Patriots. A quality opponent on the road, a dynamic offense and instead of just hanging around, they grabbed control of a big game in the fourth quarter and wrestled the Chargers to the ground.
The story of the first half was missed opportunities. Against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, Josh McDaniels repeatedly outsmarted himself and continued to throw the ball in running downs. The most glaring moment was first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, down 14-7 and the Patriots threw on 3 of 4 downs, walking away with a Cadbury goose egg. This was followed by two drives that started with a ton of promise and ended with field goals. This game had the feel of one where a lead would forever elude the Patriots grasp.
Jones didn’t have his best game, but on the pivotal drive with a lead in the fourth quarter, he was fantastic. After the Adrian Phillips pick-six, Jones threw a beauty on the 2-point conversion, which I’ve always thought was a tough ask; the offense has to run onto the field after an interception for a score and then score from the 2-on-1 play. Then the Chargers went three-and-out and the Patriots had a chance to ice the game with a long drive, up by 7. Starting with 9:15 on the clock, the Patriots offense performed their most poised drive of the season. The play calling was spot on, inside runs, passes on second down that Jones executed flawlessly. It’s been the little things that the Patriots haven’t executed but on this drive every target caught the ball, ran for what they could get and then dropped to the seat of their pants to keep the clock running. All told, when Nick Folk chipped in a 30-yarder to go up 27-17, the drive had lasted 14 plays, ate up 6 minutes and 56 seconds, made it a two possession game, burned all three LA timeouts and left the Chargers with the ball down 10 with 2:19 left.
This past week Jones was asked about being called a dink and dunk passer. Jones, a 4.0 master’s student at Alabama, dropped one of my favorite quotes from business school: “You never go broke taking a profit.”
Damien Harris deserved better on Sunday. Two holding calls negated big runs, one for a touchdown. Harris ended with 23 carries for 80 yards and a TD but could’ve easily been over the century mark with a couple of trips to the endzone. (Weird quote of Sunday from CBS analyst Charles Davis, talking about Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson’s brutish running style: “These are two guys you like to bring to a town hall meeting. If anybody doesn’t want to vote your way, you just threaten to run them over.” What kind of small-town politics is Charles Davis involved in?)
After allowing touchdowns on two of the Chargers’ first three drives, the defense was outstanding, especially on third down. I don’t know if Bill Belichick has Justin Herbert’s number, but through two games, Herbert has looked most uncomfortable against the Patriots. Matt Judon was everywhere. The legend of Christian Barmore continues to grow. Adrian Phillips was the MVP today. Two picks, one he took back to the house. The guy does a bit of everything for this defense. I said to a friend a week ago, I don’t know what Kyle Dugger’s supposed to be doing most of the time, but I imagine it looks a lot like what Phillips does every week.
Play of the game: Has to be Phillips’ pick six. The offense couldn’t break through and unlike the Tampa Bay and Dallas games, they got the huge play when they needed one.
Look ahead: Week 9 at Carolina. Sam Darnold got his soul knocked from his mortal coil in Atlanta yesterday and is in concussion protocol. But watch this hit, the human body isn’t supposed to absorb punishment like that. Darnold won’t play. That leaves XFL MVP PJ Walker to start for Carolina. (Technically, I named Walker the XFL’s MVP from their most recent season. Walker was the quarterback of the undefeated Houston Roughnecks when the season was canceled due to COVID. Walker would’ve been the MVP if such a thing existed, which it unfortunately does only in this column.) Walker is a very mobile quarterback out of Temple and the talk all week will be about whether or not Christian McCaffrey is able to play or whether it’ll be another week of Chuba Hubbard at running back. Also, get ready for tons of Stephon Gilmore (who had a pick on Sunday vs. Atlanta) playing against the Patriots.
The Patriots are 4-4 on Nov. 1.
Sterling Pingree is the senior staff writer for Jeff Solari’s Maine Sports Chowdah newsletter and a co-host of the 3 Point Stance Podcast with NFL veteran Mike DeVito and Aaron Jackson. An avid golfer, Pingree has been a member for more than a decade at Bangor Muni. He is a native of Kingfield and was a 4-year letterman in basketball and baseball at Mount Abram High School.