Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.
STORY OF THE GAME
New England found success in all three phases, but nothing will make a game spiral out of control on the scoreboard like a sequence of blown special teams plays, and the Chargers had an entire season full of them in one afternoon. They allowed multiple special teams touchdowns, between a long return to New England return man Gunner Olszewski and a blocked kick that resulted in a scoop-and-score.
On top of the blown plays that put points on the board, they also found several other ways to implode on special teams, as well as on offense and defense, in a game that could threaten jobs in Los Angeles.
To indicate just how bad the story was for the Chargers, the Patriots got the win with Cam Newton passing for 69 yards on only 19 attempts. Newton did have success on the ground, with six first downs and a pair of touchdowns, which was more than enough to overcome the Chargers, given what was happening to that team.
To rub it in, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham came into the game for mop-up duty and continued the onslaught, passing for a long touchdown to Olszewski as the Chargers were already mentally on the bus and on the way home at that point.
This was the worst game we have seen from quarterback Justin Herbert in the NFL, which was reasonably predictable if you watched how he struggled against New England South — the Miami Dolphins — just a few weeks ago.
The Dolphins gave us a trial run of what a Bill Belichick scheme would do to Herbert, and it probably did an even better job than expected. Herbert passed for 209 yards, but two bad interceptions left him with a passer rating in the 40s. He averaged just 4.1 yards per attempt in what will likely be the lowest PFF grade of his season once the data is finalized, and it will certainly be the lowest mark since the Miami game.
One bright spot for the Chargers is that this was arguably the best game we have seen from their other first-round pick, Kenneth Murray, who will be one of the few Chargers players to emerge from this game with any credit. Murray made six defensive stops and was coming up with some big and timely hits all game, as well as registering his first sack in the NFL.
The Chargers did see some other rookies get on the field, but nobody saw more than the 10 snaps that interior defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko managed.
Michael Onwenu has been a stud for the Patriots this season, but this won’t be one of his best games. He played all game, mostly at right tackle, though he did have to spend 10 snaps at right guard. Fellow rookie offensive lineman Justin Herron played 25 snaps up front, and tight end Dalton Keene was on the field for 21 plays.
On defense, the Patriots had five different rookies play double-digit snaps, with Kyle Dugger getting the most playing time, as expected. Dugger had a good game and was active all over the field. Anfernee Jennings continued to get extensive snaps at linebacker, but we also saw a lot more of Josh Uche than we have been used to. Uche played 29 snaps, the most of his career so far, and he made an impact. He produced a big hit on Herbert on a play that featured a breakdown in the assignments for the Chargers up front, and he added an additional two total pressures on top of that. Uche also had a few pass-rush wins that didn’t become pressure in what was a very encouraging performance.
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