The Rear View Mirror – Game Eight

October 31, 2017

New England held off the Los Angeles Chargers, 21-13, Sunday afternoon in Foxboro.  The Patriots' Special Teams scored 15 points in the game and six of the team’s ten offensive drives ended with field goal attempts.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was four of six on his attempts, missing two 43 yarders.

James White jukes safety Jahleel Addae for a 27-yard pickup in the 1st quarter

Photograph by Michael Dwyer (AP), and Published by Patriots.com

 

Nine Observations from Game Eight…

 

1.  Running back James White led the team with 85 receiving yards, including three first down conversions on third down.  White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and Mike Gillislee combined to best last game’s output with 258 running and receiving yards (62% of the team’s total) on 45 “touches” (55% of the offense’s snaps).  Lewis also chipped in kickoff returns of 25 and 71 yards.

 

2.  The Chargers’ run defense had been allowing 4.9 yards per carry, but in Gillette Stadium they held the Patriots to a mere 3.0 yards per carry.  New England ran behind the center and guards 13 times for an average of 3.2 yards, and behind the tackles or around the ends nine times for 2.7 yards per.

 

3.  Part of Los Angeles’ strategy was to blitz safety Jahleel Addae on apparent run plays.   Four times Addae caught Patriots’ runners at or behind the line of scrimmage at the center of the line.  Addae also came close to touching a pass up the right seam that Rob Gronkowski dropped in the 1st quarter.  Four plays later, Addae was in coverage up the left seam – and hit a “look at me” pose – when Gronkowski (57 yards, five receptions, and one touchdown on nine targets) seemed to drop a second pass. 

 

4.  Los Angeles defensive end Joey Bosa pushed inside of Marcus Cannon for a sack in the 2nd quarter.  Wasn’t clear to this observer what happened, but eleven plays later Cannon left the game for injury and was replaced by LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle the rest of the way.  Bosa and fellow defensive end Melvin Ingram came into the game with 16 sacks in seven games, but the duo notched only the single quarterback takedown against the Patriots.

 

5.  Receiver Brandin Cooks and quarterback Tom Brady had a few notable misfires.  Early in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, Brady threw quick slants to Cooks – one for a short completion and one incomplete – that appeared to be ripe for longer gains if the pass had lead the receiver.  Midway through the 2nd quarter, Brady threw the ball up to Cooks, off a flea flicker, despite safety Tre Boston coming in to double the intended receiver in the end zone.

 

Even with an increased presence on defense, Jonathan Jones remains a star on the kick unit

Photograph by Michael Dwyer (AP), Published by Boston Herald

 

6.  Charger punt returner Travis Benjamin muffed a punt midway through the 2nd quarter, caught the ball on the bounce, and reversed field back into the end zone where he was trapped by Matthew Slater, Brandon King, and Johnathan Jones for a safety.  Strangely, the officials didn’t appear to review the scoring play that occurred right at the edge of the goal line.  The two point safety – plus the made field goal on the subsequent drive – gave the home team a five-point cushion that proved valuable in the 4th quarter when Los Angeles scored their second touchdown. Jonathan Jones also contributed a game-ending interception and another pass knocked down in the 3rd quarter.

 

The Patriots’ defense has reduced the number of big plays as the season has progressed

 

7.  In the second quarter, Melvin Gordon, running behind some exceptional blocking, took a right sweep 87 yards up the sideline and into the end zone.  Right tackle Michael Schofield locked up defensive tackle Adam Butler and wouldn’t let him disengage, while right guard Kenny Wiggins pulled around the tackle and pancaked defensive end Cassius Marsh.  Third-round rookie left guard Dan Feeney showed speed on his cut block of linebacker Elandon Roberts, who had the best angle to limit the long run.  

 

8.  On Melvin Gordon’s other 13 runs, the running back was essentially held to his season average (3.5 yards per carry).  Running to the left (end-tackle-guard), the Chargers were held to a negative average on six carries.  Running to the right – again, ignoring the 87-yard run off right end – New England allowed 4.9 yards per on eight carries.

 

9.  Reminiscent of the Kansas City Chiefs in the season-opening game, Los Angeles executed a handful of non-traditional running plays that netted 20 yards.  Two “Wildcat” direct snaps to running backs and two “Jet Sweep” hand offs to a wide receiver netted 20 yards in total.  It’s noteworthy that all of those special run plays were designed to flow to the right.


…And one comment about Game Nine.

 

The Patriots head into their bye week before playing five of six games on the road.

 

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