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