They're no bucket of Bolts
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Last week: 21-0 win over Broncos
Last Three: 3-0 (Broncos, Raiders, Giants)
2016 record: 5-11
Head coach: Anthony Lynn
Offensive coordinator: Ken Whisenhunt
Defensive coordinator: Gus Bradley
This is a pretty good team. Three of the four season-opening losses they suffered were by a total of seven points. They won by a point at Oakland, shut out the Broncos after losing to them in the opener by a field goal and -- playing the Chiefs and Eagles in back-to-back weeks -- lost 24-10 and 26-24. They’ve played a pretty grueling schedule which is now topped by the road game at Foxboro. The defense has been the engine the past two weeks after they started the season getting gashed on the ground (189, 214 and 152 allowed in a three-week span). Lynn may be a first-year head coach but he’s got former head coaches for coordinators and Philip Rivers is a seen-it-all veteran at this point.
They get after the quarterback. With abandon. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have combined for 16 sacks. The Chargers have three five-sack games as a team, including last week against Denver. Travis Benjamin is a very good punt returner and a third-down weapon from the backfield. The tight-end combo of Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates has combined for 34 catches. Keenan Allen sees a lot of balls. Still just 25 (didn’t you think he was older?), he’s been targeted 68 times by Rivers and has 36 catches for 487 yards. Rivers also does a great job getting it to his backs -- Melvin Gordon has 29 catches and running backs as a group have 61 catches so far for LA. Benjamin had a punt return touchdown and 42-yard TD catch last week. Defensively, Bill Belichick said Wednesday that third-and-long is just a “sack-and-turnover reel” for the Chargers, so the Patriots have to avoid being unproductive on first and second down (always a good plan but even moreso this week). The Chargers' talent in the front-seven and the scheme they are used in makes them a huge problem.
The defense has been susceptible to the big plays. Touchdown runs of 47, 23 and 69 yards have been allowed against this Seattle-style attacking defense. Last week was the first time since Week 2 that the Chargers held an opposing offense under 5.0 yards per carry. The Chargers haven’t had a real productive rushing attack -- they are averaging 79.1 yards per game which is last in the AFC. Field-goal kicking has cost them – they are 6-for-10 on the year and the Patriots have profited from forcing field goals this year. Opponents are 1-for-6 in their past seven attempts. Weird.
In 2014, the Patriots spent a week in San Diego preparing for their game with the Chargers. That, coming off a loss to the Packers, was seen as a galvanizing time for that team. The Patriots won that one, 26-10, and went on to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots took out San Diego 35-21 in September of 2011. The Patriots are 21-14-2 in the regular season against the Chargers.