Patriots

Patriots-Chargers Overreactions: Can Pats' blueprint push them to playoffs?

Patriots

Are the Los Angeles Chargers really this bad -- or are the New England Patriots actually good?

The Patriots obliterated the Chargers in Week 13, scoring two special teams touchdowns and intercepting Justin Herbert twice in a 45-0 victory.

New England now is 6-6 and has won four its of its last five games as it aims to sneak into the postseason after starting the season 2-5.

So, what should we make of the Patriots' rout of the 3-9 Chargers? Here are three overreactions from Sunday's convincing victory.

1. The Patriots have found a blueprint for victory that can get them into the playoffs.

The Patriots are somehow winning in 2020 with a 1950s-style offense.

New England scored 45 points despite Cam Newton throwing for just 69 yards. The team has won three of its last four games despite throwing for fewer than 130 yards in each contest, relying on strong defense, brilliant special teams play and a conservative, mistake-free offensive approach.

That's the approach the Patriots have to take given their lack of offensive weapons and Newton's lack of accuracy. But Bill Belichick's teams always seem to find their identity by early December, and the last four weeks suggest the 2020 Pats have found theirs.

Can New England really go 4-0 or 3-1 against the Rams, Dolphins, Bills and Jets to sneak into the playoffs despite a nonexistent passing attack? Well, you didn't think they'd go 3-1 against the Ravens, Texans, Cardinals and Chargers, did you?

 

Verdict: Not an overreaction

2. Anthony Lynn will be out of a job next week.

Warren Sharp wasn't lying when he called this game the NFL's biggest coaching mismatch.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Warren Sharp highlights Patriots-Chargers coaching mismatch in critical game | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Lynn's Chargers entered Sunday's game with the better quarterback (hotshot rookie Justin Herbert) superior offensive weapons (running back Austin Ekeler and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams) and a star-studded defense led by Joey Bosa.

But Lynn and his coaching staff continued to waste that talent, as Bill Belichick's Patriots outplayed the Chargers in all three phases. Los Angeles drops to 3-9 with the loss and officially is out of playoff contention. The team is 8-20 since it fell to the Patriots in the 2018 AFC Divisional Round.

All of that said -- we don't see the Chargers firing Lynn midseason with a rookie QB at the helm. If they continue to tank and finish with four or five wins? Then Josh McDaniels might be getting a call this offseason.

Verdict: Overreaction

3. Gunner Olszewski is the next Julian Edelman.

Remember when the converted quarterback from Kent State burst onto the scene with a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown in his second NFL season?

Olszewski did his best Edelman impression Sunday, taking a 70-yard punt return to the house and racking up 145 total punt return yards -- the second-most in a single game in Patriots history behind Mike Haynes' 156 -- in addition to a garbage-time touchdown catch.

Gunner's teammates loved his punt return TD on Twitter

Olszewski had another punt return TD called back last week and has become a sudden special teams threat. So, will he follow in Edelman's footsteps and become the Patriots' next great slot receiver?

... Not so fast. The Chargers are atrocious on special teams, so we're going to need to see the 24-year-old pick on some more legitimate competition.

Verdict: Overreaction