CHARG­ERS (3-5)

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - LEADING OFF - Howard Balzer

The Charg­ers were feel­ing good about them­selves af­ter they won three games in a row to emerge from a 0-4 start and inch to­ward a .500 record. Many of those pos­i­tive thoughts evap­o­rated in a 21-13 road loss Oct. 29 to the Pa­tri­ots.

Los An­ge­les lim­ited the Pa­tri­ots to 21 points. How­ever, poor field po­si­tion (its av­er­age drives started on the 20-yard line) and nu­mer­ous mis­takes haunted the Charg­ers. They never reached the red zone in the game and man­aged to run only 52 plays with a time-of-pos­ses­sion fig­ure of 23:01 (com­pared to New Eng­land’s 36:59). Much of that was be­cause of a con­ver­sion rate of 3-for-10 on third down.

The Charg­ers to­taled 349 yards, but a large chunk came on an 87-yard touch­down run by RB Melvin Gor­don, who rushed for 132 yards. Aside from that play, the Charg­ers’ 51 plays gained 262 yards (5.1 per play).

The mis­takes in­cluded two touch­downs called back by penal­ties and a strange safety in which Travis Ben­jamin muffed a punt re­turn at the 11-yard line, re­cov­ered it at the 8 and then went back­ward, where he was tack­led in the end zone.

Even af­ter the game, New Eng­land still ranked last in the NFL in yards al­lowed per game, an in­dict­ment of the Charg­ers’ of­fen­sive per­for­mance.

De­fen­sively is where the Charg­ers are mak­ing progress. While Los An­ge­les al­lowed 414 yards, the Pa­tri­ots needed 82 plays to get that much (5.0 av­er­age). The Charg­ers sacked QB Tom Brady three times to give them 26 for the sea­son as sec­ondyear DE Joey Bosa had one to tie Melvin In­gram for the team lead with 81⁄ 2.

Player to watch: Ben­jamin. OK, that punt re­turn against New Eng­land was for­get­table, but Ben­jamin has been mak­ing plays. He had five re­cep­tions for 64 yards against New Eng­land that in­cluded a 24yard touch­down. He has also added 41 yards on five rush­ing at­tempts.

Num­ber crunch­ing: 56. Num­ber of years it had been since the Charg­ers had a run of 87 yards. It was ac­com­plished by RB Pau Lowe in 1961.

Up next: Nov. 12 at Jack­sonville. They have met nine times, and the Charg­ers hold a 7-2 lead, hav­ing won the last six games. Two of those wins were in Jack­sonville in 2011 and 2013. The Jaguars’ vic­to­ries were in 2003 and 2007. The Charg­ers have scored 31 or more points in five of the six wins, in­clud­ing a 38-14 vic­tory last sea­son. How­ever, Jack­sonville’s de­fense is much im­proved, lead­ing the NFL with 33 sacks and al­low­ing 161.7 pass­ing yards per game.

BOB DECHIARA, USA TO­DAY SPORTS Charg­ers’ Travis Ben­jamin

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