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Nick Folk kicked four field goals and safety Adrian Phillips added a key interception return for a touchdown as the Patriots defeated the Chargers, 27-24, on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Patriots improved to 4-4 and trail the Bills (5-2) in the AFC East standings, while the Chargers fell to 4-3 and remained a game behind the Raiders in the AFC West.
Adrian Phillips returned an interception 26 yards to give the Patriots a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Phillips also had an interception on a tipped pass in the first half.
Folk kicked field goals of 24, 48, 48, and 30 yards.
“We did some things to hurt ourselves … but I think we overcame, kept battling as a team, and showed some great mental toughness,” Patriots center David Andrews said.
In the first half, the Chargers took a 14-13 lead on Austin Ekeler-s 5-yard run and Keenan Allen’s 5-yard touchdown reception.
The Patriots scored on a one-yard run by Damien Harris and a pair of field goals by Nick Folk.
The Patriots face the Carolina Panthers, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, next week in Charlotte, N.C.
Below are updates, commentary, and analysis posted throughout the game.
Leading by seven with just under 10 minutes to go, the Patriots clearly tried to milk the clock, with both Damien Harris and Jakobi Meyers leaving some yards on the table in order to stay inbounds and run time off the clock.
Their efforts were successful, as the Chargers burned all three timeouts and New England’s drive ate up over seven minutes. Nick Folk kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Patriots up two possessions, 27-17, with just 2:19 remaining.
The Patriots, already without a timeout because of a lost challenge, had to burn their second of the half with 10 minutes to go because there was an extra defender on the field.
Then they used their final time out with 6:38 to play.
Adrian Phillips intercepted a Justin Herbert pass and returned it for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 24-17 lead with 10:11 left.
A pair of penalties pushed the Chargers well inside their own 10-yard line. On the second whistle, holding by Chargers guard Matt Feiler, coach Bill Belichick challenged the play because he thought the hold took place in the end zone, which would be a safety. Upon review, the ruling on the field was confirmed.
On a third and nine at their own 7-yard line, Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen connected for 15 yards to keep the drive alive. But Herbert turned the ball over three plays later, getting intercepted by Adrian Phillips, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots successfully executed a two-point conversion, with Jakobi Meyers, still in search of his first NFL touchdown reception, catching the pass in the end zone.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Patriots went three and out. Their third-down play call, a run by Brandon Bolden, was easily snuffed out by the Chargers, who stopped him for a loss of a yard.
The Chargers downgraded cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. to out with a concussion.
Dustin Hopkins kicked a 48-yard field goal with 39 seconds left in the third to put the Chargers back on top, 17-16.
Nick Folk gave the Patriots a 16-14 lead with his third field goal of the game, a 48-yarder with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter.
A penalty once again nullified a big gain by running back Damien Harris. The Patriots could have had another set of downs inside the red zone, but Harris’s 23-yard run was called back because of holding by left tackle Isaiah Wynn. The offense could not convert a first down, and settled for a 48-yard field goal.
Folk continues to be one of New England’s most reliable weapons. The Patriots are clearly sticking with their bully ball strategy, running the ball on seven of their 10 plays that drive. The lone completion was a critical third-down, 14-yard grab by Jakobi Meyers.
The Patriots put the ball on the ground to begin the second half. They started their opening drive with three straight run plays, and that strategy seemed to be working well. On the eighth play of the drive, Damien Harris weaved through the porous run defense and broke a tackle to find the end zone, but the 28-yard score was called back because of holding on offensive lineman Justin Herron, who entered the game for starting tackle Isaiah Wynn. (Wynn left the field for the locker room.)
The penalty forced the Patriots away from running the ball. On a third and 14, Jones completed a short pass to Kendrick Bourne, well short of the first-down marker. But Bourne fought for extra yardage and fumbled. The Patriots have now lost six fumbles this season, which ranks second in the NFL.
The Chargers announced running back Justin Jackson is questionable to return with a quad injury. The team also downgraded cornerback Michael Davis to out with a hamstring injury.
Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. is being evaluated for a possible concussion. Samuel Jr. had to be assisted off the field after getting shaken up when he laid out to try and make a play on N’Keal Harry’s 15-yard reception.
• This game is following a familiar script, with the Patriots within reach of a quality opponent. After close losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, the team has discussed the importance of closing out games.
• Mac Jones closed the half misfiring on several of his passes. He finished with a completion percentage of 36.4, which is well below his season average (70.4). Over New England’s three drives in the second quarter, Jones completed just 4 of his 16 pass attempts. His accuracy will have to improve in the second half.
• Justin Herbert’s stat line isn’t much better, completing 8 of his 15 pass attempts (53.3 percent).
The final two minutes of the first half had the potential to go poorly for the Patriots. The offense went three and out, giving the Chargers another possession. But on the fourth play of their drive, LA quarterback Justin Herbert’s pass bounced off the hands of Austin Ekeler and into the arms of Patriots safety Adrian Phillips. The interception is Phillips’s second of the season. The Patriots took over at the Chargers’ 40-yard line, but Mac Jones threw three straight incompletions, so they had to settle for a field goal once again.
This time, Nick Folk connected from 48 yards to cut the Chargers’ lead to 14-13 at halftime.
New England’s defense is holding its ground, forcing the Chargers to go three and out on back-to-back drives. With just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Patriots will have an opportunity for the double-score because they receive the second-half kickoff.
Patriots kicker Nick Folk’s 24-yard field goal with 3:29 left in the first half cut the Chargers’ lead to 14-10.
The Patriots couldn’t capitalize on tremendous field position, settling for a field goal after starting their drive at the Chargers’ 36-yard line. While the Patriots have improved their red zone conversion rate — 76.9 percent over their last three games — they have gone 1 for 3 to start Sunday’s game.
With a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, the Patriots elected to go for it but couldn’t convert. Jones threw a pass out of reach for wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who came up looking for a flag but didn’t get one. With the ball at the Chargers’ 4-yard line, the Patriots proceeded to call three pass plays and only one rush. Given the Chargers’ poor-ranking run defense, why not hand the ball off more? Especially from the 1-yard line?
The Chargers lead, 14-7, with 8:36 left in the first half.
A 75-yard run by the Chargers’ Justin Jackson was the third-longest run in the NFL this season, and it set LA up in the red zone. Patriots cornerback JC Jackson tracked Justin Jackson down, but quarterback Justin Herbert found receiver Keenan Allen in the end zone to make it 14-7 Chargers with 12:35 left in the first half.
After one quarter, it remains tied, 7-7.
The Patriots moved the ball just 11 yards after a 21-yard punt return from Gunner Olszewski. The offensive line has certainly fared better in recent weeks, but Chargers defensive lineman Jerry Tillery got through on a third and five to sack Mac Jones and force a punt on the final play of the first quarter.
Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon continues to be a menace of a pass rusher, as the Patriots’ defense forced the Chargers to punt on their second drive. Judon notched yet another sack, getting to Justin Herbert on second down for a loss of four yards.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley probably didn’t like what he saw pre-snap because he was running down the sideline in an attempt to call a timeout before the play, but didn’t get to the officials in time. On the very next play, Judon pressured Herbert again on third down, prompting the quarterback to scramble up the field. Herbert came up four yards short of the first-down marker. Judon now has 7.5 sacks this season.
The Patriots responded with a touchdown of their own, scoring on their opening drive for the fourth straight game. The biggest gain came on a 44-yard reception by wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who said earlier this week that he and Jones have been working on their connection deep down the field. The throw traveled 37 yards, the most air yards on a pass by Jones this season.
Damien Harris’s 1-yard touchdown run with 6:26 left in the first quarter has tied things up, 7-7.
Austin Ekeler – initially stood up at the 5-yard line – plowed forward with the help of teammates to reach the end zone and put the Chargers up, 7-0, with 10:54 left in the first.
The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to defer. The Chargers will receive the opening kickoff.
1. Patriots running backs vs. Chargers defense: Entering Sunday’s game, the Chargers have allowed an average of 162.5 rushing yards per game, the highest in the NFL. The Patriots, who have rushed for at least 120 yards in each of their last three games, should look to establish the run early.
2. Keenan Allen/Mike Williams vs. J.C. Jackson/Jalen Mills: New England’s secondary will be put to the test against two top receivers. Throughout the week, Patriots players and coaches piled on the praise for Allen’s route-running and Williams’s jump-ball skills, but Jackson offered some bulletin board material when he said, “I mean, it’s not really a big challenge,” on Thursday.
• Patriots kicker Nick Folk hit from 58 yards, while punter Jake Bailey connected on a 60-yard field goal try. Bailey is the emergency backup behind Folk, who has made 16 of his 17 attempts this season.
• The Patriots offensive line appears to be sticking with the following lineup: left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Ted Karras, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason, and right tackle Michael Onwenu. Mason exited last week’s game with an abdomen injury and was limited in practice all week.
• There are plenty of Patriots fans at SoFi Stadium. A considerable cheer welcomed quarterbacks Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer when they took the field. Patriots owner Robert Kraft is also in the building.
• Tight end Devin Asiasi, guard Yasir Durant, running back J.J. Taylor, linebacker Brandon King, defensive end Ronnie Perkins, and cornerback Shaun Wade are all inactive for the Patriots. Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who was a healthy scratch last week, will get the nod behind Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden. Taylor and Stevenson have been trading appearances since James White went down in Week 3.
Well before kickoff, Wade was on the field going through a workout with strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera. Wade, who has yet to make his Patriots debut after being traded to New England in August, returned to practice this past week after missing two straight games with a concussion.
• Chargers starting running back Austin Ekeler is indeed active after missing practice both Thursday and Friday with a hip injury. The following players are inactive for Los Angeles: quarterback Easton Stick, running back Joshua Kelley, safety Mark Webb Jr., fullback Gabe Nabers, and offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III.
• The Chargers have a Massachusetts guy, defensive end Joe Gaziano, on the squad. The 25-year-old Gaziano, who grew up in Scituate and attended Xaverian Brothers, was named the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014. He spent five years at Northwestern before signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in April 2020.
Another player of note on the Chargers’ roster is rookie Asante Samuel Jr., son of former Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel. Samuel Jr., drafted with the 47th pick overall in the second round, plays the same position as his father. He’s started all six games this season, logging two interceptions and 20 tackles.
“It makes me feel old,” said Bill Belichick earlier this week.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is active for Sunday’s game. He had been listed as questionable on the Chargers’ injury report and did not practice during the week.
Patriots: TE Devin Asiasi, OL Yasir Durant, RB J.J. Taylor, LB Brandon King, DE Ronnie Perkins, CB Shaun Wade
Chargers: QB Easton Stick, RB Joshua Kelley, DB Mark Webb Jr., FB Gabe Nabers, OL Trey Pipkins III
The Globe’s Ben Volin, Jim McBride, Nicole Yang, and Tara Sullivan are at SoFi Stadium for Sunday’s game.
A comparison of the team statistics reveals a pretty evenly matched game on paper. Both teams are in second place in their division, and they rank pretty close in categories like points per game (Patriots 11th, Chargers 13th), total offense (Chargers 12th, Patriots 16th), and total defense (Patriots 12th, Chargers 19th).
They also have similar numbers for things like possession average (Patriots 29:14, Chargers 29:06), total touchdowns (both have 19), and penalties (Patriots 42 for 414 yards, Chargers 43 for 432 yards).
A few disparities stand out, including rush defense (Patriots 11, Chargers 32nd), points allowed per game (Patriots 6th, Chargers 22nd), and field goals (Patriots 16-for-17, Chargers 6-for-7).
The Patriots begin their only stretch of back-to-back road games on Sunday in Los Angeles. Next week, they are in Charlotte, N.C. to face the Panthers.
The Patriots are 24-14-2 vs. the Chargers in regular-season matchups dating to 1960. New England has won the last five meetings. The last Chargers victory vs. the Patriots was in October of 2008.
The teams have met four times in the playoffs, where the Patriots hold a 3-1 edge.
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