Josh Uche’s breakout game was well worth the wait for Patriots
By Jerry Trotta
Patriots rookie OLB Josh Uche finally had the breakout game fans have been waiting for all season.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has an unforgiving knack for steamrolling young quarterbacks, but we’re not so sure anybody guessed that his team would’ve had Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers wrapped up by halftime.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the 45-0 demolition was that the Patriots dominated in all three phases — the offense won the time of possession battle, the defense had Justin Herbert seeing ghosts, and the special teams unit managed two (!) touchdowns.
As far as individual performances are concerned, a number of players showed out. However, we have to give the most impressive nod to rookie edge rusher Josh Uche, who finally enjoyed the breakout game fans have been waiting for all season.
Uche played a career-high 36 snaps (50%) and took full advantage of the increased role, compiling three quarterback hits, five pressures and a forced incompletion. Pressuring opposing signal callers has been the Patriots’ biggest issue on defense and the Chargers’ offensive line was simply incapable of impeding him at the point of attack.
Was anybody else reminded that Uche is New England’s fastest front-seven defender? Seriously, it might not even be a debate anymore. He failed to record a tackle, but the 2020 second-round pick was playing at a different speed to that of his teammates and was easily the most disruptive pass rusher.
After battling through a nagging foot injury at the start of the season, Uche didn’t make his NFL debut until Week 8 and the coaching staff has understandably taken it slow in terms of throwing him to the wolves.
The Michigan product has responded by showing signs of improvement each week, and he very quietly has registered a QB hit in all but one of his five cameos. We know the Patriots dive deep into matchups when it comes to determining the playing time of certain guys, but we better not see Uche relegated to the bench after this breakthrough performance.
It was well worth the wait, but he needs to be unleashed for the stretch run now.