FOXBOROUGH — Everything you need to know, with BSJ insight and analysis, from the Patriots' 21-13 victory over the Chargers:
It's a W: Wouldn't put this as one of the prettiest victories by the Patriots in recent years, but it was far from underwhelming. The Patriots controlled this game after Melvin Gordon's 87-yard run opened the scoring, and would have won going away if the offense would have finished off even just two more of their drives. The Patriots have now won four straight heading into the bye week and are in first place in the AFC East at 6-2. Considering everything that's happened, that's not bad at all.
Red-zone woes continue: The Patriots entered this game 16th in the NFL with a red-zone touchdown percentage of 53.3 (they finished 10th, fourth and fifth the previous three seasons), and only got worse today as they were 1 of 4 against the Chargers. That doesn't even include three-straight drives that ended at the Los Angeles 25-yard line, which is considered the high red zone by NFL teams and viewed as an extension of the regular red zone. "I just think we can do a better job than what we’ve done," Tom Brady said. "We’re close. Even at the end, we’re close to breaking a couple runs there for big yards, and (we had) a hit pass and then we had a couple penalties and I took a sack that I shouldn’t have taken, and that hurts us. So, just work on it and try to do a better job."
Gostkowski a worry again: After making 12 straight field goals to start the season, Stephen Gostkowski has missed three in the past three games, including two 43-yard attempts against the Chargers. "It stinks and it’s tough to swallow, but we won and it’s a little easier to wake up tomorrow knowing that when you do bad and the team can pick you up," Gostkowski said. "That’s part of being a part of a good team."
A Joe Thuney clipping penalty with 3:42 remaining threatened to short circuit a clock-killing drive when it put the Patriots into second and 20 at their own 49-yard line while clinging to an 18-13 lead. Instead of having to put the ball back to the Chargers after two plays, the Patriots got it all back in one when Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski on a 26-yard pass down the left seam. That gave the Patriots the ball at the 25-yard line, and eventually led to a field goal that made it 21-13 with just 1:08 remaining with the Chargers void of any timeouts.
Well, this would be an all-timer, and there were about four bad decisions on it. With 9:19 left in the second quarter, Chargers punt returner Travis Benjamin a) decided to field a punt near the sideline at the 10-yard line, b) fumbled said punt and didn't just fall on it, c) decided to run into the end zone with it, and d) didn't make a concerted effort just to get the ball into the field of play when he realized he was surrounded. The Patriots recorded a safety, and then added a field goal after a free kick for a five-point swing. "He made a bad decision," said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. "That was a huge play in the game. You have to have some awareness of where you are on the football field. And he did not."
James White/Rex Burkhead: The two primary passing backs combined for 12 catches on 13 targets and 153 yards. They were most of the passing offense.
Trey Flowers: Had three quarterback passes and batted down two more. Just consistently good every week.
Ryan Allen: The safety started with his spectacular punt to the sideline. For the day, he averaged 43.3 per punt, and a net of 46 with all three inside the 20-yard line with no touchbacks. For someone who has struggled this season, that was a great day.
Stephen Gostkowski: Two misses from 45 yards just isn't good enough.
Cassius Marsh: Struggled on the edge constantly, including on Melvin Gordon's 87-yard run, and seemed to get benched because of it. To his credit, he took full responsibility for the botched play after the game.
Nate Solder: Brady faced relentless pressure all day, and Solder (one hit, seven hurries) gave up the most. He also missed a block on a screen that could have popped.
Alan Branch dinged his right knee in the first quarter but returned to the game
Marcus Cannon re-injured his ankle, which popped up on the injury report late in the week, and did not return to the game.
Chris Hogan left the game in the fourth quarter holding right arm/shoulder, and did not return. He was seen after the game in a sling. He'll have an MRI on Monday.
Melvin Gordon's 87-yard run.
Sweet catch-and-run by James White.
Melvin Gordon, meet David Harris, professional linebacker.
THREE TAKES BEDARD WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER
This was a solid win: It wasn't the greatest victory in the world since the offense couldn't must more than one touchdown, but the offense drove the ball at will, the defense held the Chargers in check for the most part, and the special teams -- minus Gostkowski -- were really good. I feel much better about this win than victories over the Jets and Buccaneers.
Patriots will dance with Gostkowski: Everyone loves to talk about replacing Stephen Gostkowski, but the Patriots have shown no indication they ever will, at least during the season. His field-goal percentage is still in the upper part of the league, and his kickoffs are viewed as a real asset. The Patriots are just going to have to live or die with Gostkowski.
Patriots will make a deal before Tuesday's trade deadline: Doubt it will be a big one, but expect New England to do something to address (take your pick): pass rusher, linebacker or tight end/red zone. Doubt they stand pat.