Patriots Team Grades: Pats Running Backs Unite To Beat Chargers Despite Sloppy Conditions

By Danny Cox

At times this Sunday, the Nor’easter caused some problems for both the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers—the ball was saturated and sometimes just slipped out of the hands of the players. A couple of other games had worse conditions, but the surging Chargers hoped to continue their hot streak by picking up a big win over the Patriots.

Only, that didn’t happen. Tom Brady looked sharp and the running backs of the Patriots accounted for 224 of New England’s 441 total yards on Sunday afternoon.

Offense: B+

Tom Brady looked crisp despite some rough conditions at times, but he finished with 333 yards and one touchdown on 32-of-47 passing. The running backs only gained 97 total yards on the ground, but they were a huge factor in getting this offense going and moving throughout the entire day.

Rex Burkhead had 15 yards on the ground, but he picked up another 68 through the air on seven receptions. Mike Gillislee picked up 34 yards rushing while Dion Lewis had 44 yards, but he contributed in much bigger ways throughout the day.

Defense: C+

Philip Rivers was held in check throughout the day as he had just 212 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception. The Pats had one sack for a loss of 20 yards, but that was more in part to Rivers losing control of the ball and it bouncing backward on him before he recovered his own fumble.

The Pats had no real answer for Melvin Gordon, who had a whopping 132 yards rushing on just 14 carries with an 87-yard touchdown leading the way. Yes, the majority of his yards came on that one carry, but he looked good throughout the game and New England could never quite seem to find him when he had the ball.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski had a big day with four field goals and one extra point, but he did miss two field goal attempts, which hurt his average on Sunday. Ryan Allen had a great day punting the ball as he pinned the Chargers inside their own 20-yard line on all three of his kicks. Possibly the strangest play of the game came when Los Angeles’ Travis Benjamin fielded a second quarter punt around the 8-yard line, proceeded to run backwards, and wound up getting tackled in the end zone by Brandon King for a safety.

Finally, the Patriots had some semblance of a return game and it came from multiple players. Danny Amendola had four punt returns for 26 yards and one kick return for 16 yards, but this day belonged to Dion Lewis. With two kick returns, Lewis racked up 96 yards with a long of 71 yards on an explosive runback.

Coaching: B

Something seemed different for the Patriots as they faced off against the Chargers. They kept their gameplan in place with Tom Brady leading the way, but the running backs got more involved even if they weren’t always running the ball. Nine different players caught passes against L.A. and the backs contributed on special teams as well, and that just shows that Bill Belichick is finding new ways to use his assortment of weapons.

The Patriots have now won four in a row and six of their last seven after opening up with a big loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. They may not have corrected all of their problems, but they have found ways around them and have the ability to compensate with other players and different positions. The Chargers were on a hot streak, but the Nor’easter and the Patriots ability to keep winning cooled them off.

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