The Patriots put together their most impressive win of the season Sunday, blowing out the Chargers 45-0 and improving to 6-6 in the process.
New England once again ran the ball well, racking up 165 yards on the ground. But the story of the game was the Patriots’ defense and special teams, as the defense pitched its first shutout of the season while the special teams scored both a Gunner Olszewski punt return touchdown and a Devin McCourty blocked field goal return touchdown.
Cam Newton threw for just 69 yards, but clearly didn’t need to do anything more than that. He also ran for 48 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another.
Making his weekly appearance on The Greg Hill Show Monday morning, CBS analyst and WFAN host Boomer Esiason said the Patriots’ victory was the most impressive win of Week 13 so far and proved that Bill Belichick and the Patriots can still dominate without a great passing attack.
“His defense was awesome yesterday,” Esiason said. “They schooled Justin Herbert. He’s now 20-5 as New England head coach vs. rookie quarterbacks. And the special teams. If you ever sit down with Bill Belichick and talk to him, and you start with special teams, he’s going to be your friend. He loves that part of the game, the field position game, the return game, key blocks, different ways to return the ball.
“It’s amazing the way that they played yesterday. It really was. I think it was the strongest win of the Sunday afternoon, the most total win of the Sunday afternoon. And it kind of goes to show you that even though this is a passing league, and it is driven by the quarterback, that you can do it old school style. That’s exactly what it was yesterday.”
Esiason said he believes this could be a sustainable formula for the Patriots at least for the rest of this season, and that he wouldn’t rule out a playoff run just yet.
“For the foreseeable future, the next four games, I would say yes [it is sustainable], just simply because that’s what they’re doing well right now, and that’s what Cam’s doing well right now,” he said. “It will get tougher. They have a few tough games left here. … I’ll tell you, nothing’s off the table. Nothing at all.”
In terms of their playoff chances, the Patriots didn’t get much help elsewhere Sunday, as the Dolphins (8-4), Colts (8-4) and Raiders (7-5) all won. The Ravens could also get to 7-5 if they beat the Cowboys Tuesday night. As a result, the Patriots are still in 10th in the AFC, and still need to catch and pass at least three teams to get a Wild Card spot, or catch and pass both the Dolphins and Bills (8-3) to win the division.
It always seemed likely the Patriots would have to win out and get to 10-6 anyways, though. And the good news is that if they do win out -- beating the Dolphins and the Bills in the process -- they would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Dolphins, Raiders and Ravens.
Esiason said the Patriots’ next game -- Thursday night against the 8-4 Rams -- may be their toughest test remaining, and that if they win that one he thinks they’ll have a good chance to run the table.
“We’re gonna see Thursday night when they play the Rams,” Esiason said. “The Rams have one of the better defensive lines in football, so let’s see how Cam navigates through this game. This is a short turnaround. This is a very good defense they’re going to be playing in the Rams. It’s going to be a better, more formidable run defense than what the Chargers are.
“If they can get this one this week, I believe they can run the table. And if they run the table, that means they’re beating Miami, Buffalo and the Jets. And if they run the table and get to 10-6, they can make it of course. And then once you get in the playoffs, this is the formula of how you beat a great quarterback like Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson. Back off, play solid defense, run the ball, shorten the game, play great special teams. That’s a total team win. So this Thursday night against the Rams will tell us all we need to know about whether or not this offense is sustainable.”