The Patriots had their best win of the season on Sunday, defeating the Chargers in Los Angeles, 27-24. New England’s defense and special teams carried the day, with Gunner Olszewski making several long punt returns and Adrian Phillips recording two interceptions, including a pick six in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots the lead. The offense was spotty at times, but still made all the plays the needed to and did a masterful job running the clock in the fourth quarter.
The key sequence in the game came with just over nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Patriots forced the high-powered Chargers offense to punt and the offense took over up 24-17. New England proceeded to go on a 6:56 drive that ended in a field goal and left the Chargers with just over two minutes to make up 10 points. The drive featured a mix of passes and runs with Patriots players making an effort to stay in bounds and keep the clock moving. The Chargers were able to score on their next drive, but did not recover an onside kick and New England ran out the clock. Not only did that 6:56 drive eat precious clock, it produced the game winning field goal.
Not all was perfect for the Patriots, as they had several costly mistakes. Chief among them was a holding penalty of Justin Herron that wiped out a Damien Harris touchdown run. On the following play, Kendrick Bourne lost a fumble. Earlier in the game, the Patriots failed to score on 3rd and 4th and goal from inside the two-yard line and came away with zero points. The defense also over-pursued on a 75-yard LA run.
The mistakes were costly, but the Patriots persevered through and made enough plays to win. Not doing that was a common theme in their four losses. Seeing them able to overcome mistakes and still when represents a positive step forward. The next step, of course, is to limit the costly mistakes.
The Patriots now sit at 4-4 and have a 47% chance to make the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight. Their next three games are all winnable and if they can string victories together this month they will be well on their way to postseason play. The win over the Chargers was the best win of the year and the most clear evidence to date that the Patriots are a playoff caliber team.