New England Patriots: W2W4 Divisional Playoff Game vs Los Angeles Chargers
By Hal Bent
NE PASSING OFFENSE vs LAC PASS DEFENSE
The New England passing offense finished eighth in the NFL in yards gained and sixth in net yards per attempt, despite the loss for four games of slot wide receiver Julian Edelman, health problems for tight end Rob Gronkowski, the suspension of Josh Gordon, the disappearance of Chris Hogan, the up-and-down performances of Cordarrelle Patterson, and the puzzling limited playing time and targets for Phillip Dorsett.
The Patriots’ leading receiver with 87 receptions and 850 yards receiving was Edelman, despite playing in just three-quarters of the season. New England quarterback Tom Brady suffered uncharacteristic hiccups in 2018, with three of his worst games in recent memory in losses to Detroit in Week 3 (65.1 QB rating) and Tennessee in Week 10 (70.6 QB rating). He even played relatively poorly in a win over Buffalo in Week 16 (48.3 QB rating).
This week provides another tough test for Brady and the passing offense, as the Chargers pass defense was ninth in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 11th in net yards per attempt. They boast a secondary loaded with excellent individual players, including rookie sensation Derwin James, as well as Adrian Phillips and Jahleel Addae at safety. They are just as deep at cornerback with the talented Casey Hayward, underrated Michael Davis, and slot man Desmond King.
The secondary is helped by a robust pass rush led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Chargers will move Ingram around the defensive line, and bring in Isaac Rochell and speedy Uchenna Nwosu to pressure on passing downs. The fast and aggressive pass rush is going to be a handful for the New England offensive line.
Most of the pressure will fall on New England’s twin titans at tackle: Trent Brown on the left side and Marcus Cannon on the right side. Both are huge, massive specimens who can overpower any pass-rusher once they get their hands on them. And make no mistake: the Chargers need that pass rush on the edge to get Brady off his spot.
To combat that pass rush, the Patriots will test the Chargers’ Cover-3 defense (defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator in Seattle and also the head coach in Jacksonville previously) with seam routes to tight end Rob Gronkowski, short passes to the running backs, and Edelman attacking soft spots in the zone.