slides: What to Watch For: Chargers vs Patriots
Sunday, October 29, 2017
New England Patriots (5-2) are back at Gillette Stadium to his the red-hot (3-4) Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon.
The Chargers have won three straight games with their most recent victory coming in a 21-0 shutout of the Denver Broncos.
“This is a really impressive team to watch. I think especially in the last month, the last three or four games, I mean they played well early in the year, too. I'm not saying that; they played a competitive game against Denver in the opener. It really looks like they've hit their stride in a lot of areas. That was a very impressive performance they had Sunday against the Broncos. This is a well-balanced team. They do a lot of things well,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference earlier this week.
The Patriots are also riding a three-game winning streak with their bye week coming up following this game.
“You want to go into a bye week coming off a win, satisfied with your play knowing that we've got a good win, a good, solid team win, but it's going to be dedication to this Sunday. We've got to come out ready to play. It's going to be a physical game mentally and physically. We've got to be ready. We've got to be prepared. They're a good team. They're on a hot streak right now. We've got to be ready,” said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during his press conference on Friday.
Kick-off is set for 1 pm.
Chargers vs. Patriots
The Patriots and Chargers will meet for the 41st time overall, with New England leading the series 23-15-2 (including postseason).
The last time the two teams met was in December of 2014 when the Patriots beat the Chargers 26-10 in San Diego.
However, this will be LA’s first visit to Gillette Stadium since 2011, when New England won 35-21.
Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Chargers vs. Patriots
Filling in for Hightower
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, meaning the Patriots will be looking for the next man up.
"Obviously, we're all disappointed for High [Dont'a Hightower]. He's one of the leaders on our defense and one of our captains. He gives us a lot. It's unfortunate, but it'll give somebody else opportunities. We'll see how that goes," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference on Friday.
When it comes to who is going to be filling his role, it will fall on a combination of four players.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy will have most of the responsibility when it comes to communication and is already a three-down player, meaning he won’t have to adjust to increased playing time.
He also has experience as an edge rusher.
Elandon Roberts and Shea McClellin could also chip in at that position. McClellin is on injured reserve, but started practicing last week and is eligible to return during the week 9 bye.
The fourth option is David Harris, who has seen limited action so far this season after coming over from the New York Jets.
Last week against the Falcons he played a season-high 19 snaps.
The Patriots offensive line will face one of their biggest challenges of the season to this point when they go up against LA's Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Bosa enters the game with 7.5 sacks on the season, while Ingram has 8.5 sacks on the season.
"They get to the quarterback and they do it a variety of different ways and some of it's blitz, but a lot of it is just beating matchups and those guys are very good one-on-one and it's a big challenge for our offensive line," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his Wednesday press conference.
The Patriots offensive line has given up 18 sacks so far this season.
The Chargers also come in with the 5th best pass defense in the league.
The Patriots ran the ball 36 times compared to 29 passing attempts against the Falcons last week.
Expect to see something similar this week.
The LA Chargers are one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, giving up an average of 4.9 yards per carry and 140 rushing yards per game.
Mike Gillislee and Dion Lewis have led the Patriots rushing attack with 87 and 47 carries respectively. James White has 27 carries, but 37 catches.
"It's a great group. There are five guys in there and they all contribute in their own way and the versatility and I think the enthusiasm [and] the support for one another is really great to see. All of them had such a great week last week and they've had great weeks all year. I have a lot of confidence in those guys running the ball, catching it. They're all doing such a great job," said Brady.
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry is one of the main weapons for quarterback Philip Rivers.
On the season, Henry has 21 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He averages 14.2 yards per catch.
The Patriots defense has given up five touchdowns to tight ends so far this season, third-most in the NFL.
LA's Antonio Gates is still a part of the offense, hauling in 13 catches for 119 yards and one touchdown this season.
"He still shows up in all their crucial situations - on third down, in the red area, making plays for them, making first downs, scoring touchdowns. But, now it's a little different because it's Gates and it's Henry, so it's two tight ends that you have be very alert for and aware of because they both can go vertical, catch short passes and both show up in those critical situations," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference earlier this week.
After missing the last two weeks due to a concussion, cornerback Stephon Gilmore returned to practice this week and is expected to play against the Chargers.
Gilmore's absence came after his best game as a Patriot, giving up just 34 yards on four catches to Tampa Bay's Mike Evans.
Through his first four games, Gilmore gave up nine receptions on 13 targets for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception, a breakup and got flagged three times, including two penalties that cost the Patriots the game against Carolina.
While Gilmore was out, Johnson Bademosi stepped in and nearly shut down whichever receiver was on his side. Bademosi gave up five catches for 54 yards against Jets quarterback Josh McCown and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan combined.
Will be interesting to watch Gilmore in his return.
Editors Note: Gilmore is listed as inactive for today's game.
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