In the 1996 comedy Happy Gilmore, the titular character (played by Adam Sandler) delivered the following line to his nemesis, Shooter McGavin, during their climactic golf match:
“It ain’t over yet, McGavin. The way I see it, we’ve only just begun.”
While that sentiment might seem a bit melodramatic, it is rather appropriate when applied to the 2020 New England Patriots. On their first visit to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton rushed for two touchdowns and New England scored twice on special teams in a 45-0 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Newton rebounded from a subpar performance in Week Twelve against the Arizona Cardinals by completing 12 of 19 passes for 69 yards, while gaining 48 on the ground. New England running back Damien Harris carried the ball 16 times for 80 yard as the Patriots finally achieved that which has seemed to elude them throughout the season; a complete effort in all three phases of football. Former Charger Adrian Phillips paced the defense with a team-high twelve tackles. Meanwhile, cornerback J.C. Jackson and edge rusher Chase Winovich each intercepted Los Angeles’ quarterback Justin Herbert. The Bolts rookie went 26 of 53 for 209 yards. However, he often struggled against the uncommon looks put to him by the Patriots defense; a fate all too familiar for young quarterbacks facing a Bill Belichick defensive unit.
However, the day arguably belonged to the Patriots’ special teams. Supported by outstanding blocking and field positioning, wide receiver and return specialist Gunner Olszewski collected three punt returns for 145 yards, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Safety Cody Davis also registered a blocked field goal, which was returned for a touchdown by New England captain Devin McCourty.
ON THE FIELD:
The Patriots would strike first on Sunday when Newton capped a seven-play, 75-yard opening drive with a one-yard dive for the score. Early in the second quarter, Gunner Olszewski took Chargers’ punter Ty Long’s punt 70 yards up the right sideline, putting New England ahead 14-0.
The Patriots would continue to attack the Chargers run defense when Newton again found the endzone for a two-yard, up-the-middle run late in the second quarter. However, the Pats were not done. New England’s second special teams touchdown came on the last play of the first half. Safety Cody Davis tipped a field-goal attempt by Chargers’ kicker Michael Badgley. Devin McCourty recovered and returned the blocked kick 44 yards to the end zone. New England led 28-0 at halftime.
New England would continue the onslaught throughout the third quarter. The only score of the quarter came on a five-yard pass to N’Keal Harry, extending New England’s lead to 35-0.
Following a 32-yard Nick Folk field goal early in the fourth quarter, Jarrett Stidham relieved Newton. Stidham led a 61-yard drive, capped by a 38-yard touchdown pass to Olszewski. As such, the Patriots would take a 45-0 lead, preserving the shoutout as time expired.
With the win, the Patriots have improved to 6-6 on the season. New England has won two straight and four of their last five to get back into playoff contention in the AFC.
YES, HE CAM
Cam Newton has now amassed four games this season with multiple rushing touchdowns, breaking the league record for a quarterback. He had three such games in 2011, an achievement he shared with five others, and has ten in his career, three more than any other quarterback.
Newton’s eleven rushing scores on the year are the most he has had in a season since he earned 14 as a rookie with the Carolina Panthers in 2011.
It is the seventh time in league history a team has returned a punt and blocked field goal for touchdowns in the same game. The last team to do that was Baltimore in 2015. New England is the only team to have accomplished it in the regular season and the playoffs.
(Statistics above provided by The Associated Press)
Patriots’ CB Jonathan Jones and TE Ryan Izzo each exited Sunday’s game after having suffered neck injuries. Neither returned to the game.
The Patriots will remain in Los Angeles to face the Rams on Thursday night, presumably at SoFi Stadium. Rumors surrounding relocation of Thursday’s come continue amidst concerns over COVID-19 regulations in Los Angeles.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC