Patriots take advantage of Chargers’ errors in win

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The Chargers (3-5) learned Sunday that knocking out the Patriots (6-2) in Foxborough is one the NFL’s tallest orders — too tall for Los Angeles in a white-knuckle 21-13 loss to New England. Here’s what we learned:

1. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa entered the game with 34.5 combined sacks, tops among any pass-rushing duo league-wide. How the Patriots countered these two powerful beasts reminded me of their victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, with Tom Brady unfurling a flurry of quick-release passes to his stable of versatile running backs. Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead combined for 163 yards off 14 grabs, keeping the defense honest in between the occasional deep shot downfield. The Patriots quarterback saw plenty of heat, leaning on brilliant footwork and eyes in the back of his head to avoid free rushers. Bosa couldn’t be kept down entirely, though, sacking Brady in the second quarter to bring his takedown total to 8.5 on the year and 19 over his first 20 games, an NFL record.


2. Melvin Gordon loomed as a question mark at kickoff due to a painful case of turf toe. The Chargers running back quieted those concerns on the team’s third drive, finding a wide-open hole behind a pulling guard for a career-long 87-yard touchdown blast, the longest scoring dash allowed by the Pats since Maurice Jones-Drew’s 74-yard gallop back in 2006. It also tied a franchise-record for the Bolts. Gordon crossed the 100-yard barrier less than 16 minutes into the game and finished with 132 yards on a day that saw Los Angeles test the Patriots with a smattering of Wildcat snaps.

3. Give the Chargers credit for holding New England to a rash of field goals when the game repeatedly felt like it might spin out of control. After running 40 plays to just 19 for L.A. in the first half, the Patriots managed just six points down the stretch. The Bolts hung around thanks to a pair of missed kicks by New England’s Stephen Gostkowski and a beautiful 24-yard touchdown catch by Chargers wideout Travis Benjamin. It simply wasn’t enough from Philip Rivers, though, with the Bolts signal-caller throwing a game-ending interception at the goal line as time expired. Take away Gordon’s long run and Sunday served as additional proof that New England’s defense is rounding into shape. As for the Chargers, this just isn’t the same attack when fascinating pass-catching tight end Hunter Henry (2 catches, 11 yards) is taken out of the equation.

4. You can’t make mistakes against this Patriots team and expect to pull out a win in Foxborough. The tone of this contest shifted when Benjamin fielded a punt at his 11-yard line, only to cycle backward dangerously into the end zone, where he was tossed to the godless turf by Brandon King for a safety that put the Patriots up 9-7. Benjamin bounced back with the fourth-quarter score, but his gaffe headlined a sloppy special-teams performance by L.A.



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