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Ups & Downs: Patriots waste another great defensive performance as offense shut out by Chargers

FOXBORO -- Another Sunday, another discouraging loss for the New England Patriots. It doesn't matter if it's Bailey Zappe or Mac Jones at quarterback; the New England offense cannot do anything productive this season.

Zappe got his first start of the season over Jones, but the results were the same for the Patriots. The defense did their part, but the offense couldn't muster anything, and the Patriots fell to 2-10 on the season with a 6-0 defeat.

It was a waste of time for anyone watching at home and especially those who made their way to Gillette to sit in the rain. Given the conditions, it's not like New England football fans missed out on a nice December day to watch their Patriots. But playing in the rain would have much more enjoyable than watching this game. 

There were no highlights from the Patriots in the first half, outside of a 70-yard punt. The Pats were shut out over the first 30 minutes for the second straight week.

The third quarter was even worse. Outside of a 27-yard connection between Zappe and DeVante Parker -- which Zappe threw from his own end zone -- there was nothing to write home about during that 15 minutes of football. The fourth quarter wasn't all that better, either, as the Patriots failed to put points on the board for the second time this season.

The Pats were bad last season, but at least they were never shut out. Here are the many "Downs," plus a few "Ups" from the 10th loss of the season for the New England Patriots.


The offense still stinks

Different quarterback, similar results. The Pats went three-and-out on four of the team's six possessions in the first half. The other possessions? One ended with a punt after five plays and the other ended with a fumble in Chargers territory.

The Pats started the second half with an 11-play drive and they got as far as the L.A. 34, but then went backwards. Zappe was sacked on back-to-back plays to end the drive (Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu each had snaps they'd like to forget during that stretch), forcing New England to punt away at the L.A. 43.

Zappe wasn't very good, connecting on just 13 of his 25 passes for 141 yards. He did show much better pocket presence than Jones has, but he was also sacked five times. At least Zappe kept the ball away from the Los Angeles defense.  

Tyquan Thornton dropped a deep ball from Zappe that he should have caught. DeVante Parker had a chance to make a huge play late in the game on another deep pass from Zappe, but he failed to get both feet in bounds. 

The Pats offense just cannot make plays when they need it. Or at any point, really.

More bad penalties

The Pats were hit with only three flags, but they were all unforced. Too many men on a 2nd-and-9. A delay of game on a 3rd-and-6. A false start on 3rd-and-12. 

They all cost the Patriots offense in the first half. And the Patriots offense cannot afford to lose yards before the ball is snapped.

Special teams issues

Special teams had its problems on Sunday too. They gave up a 34-yard return that led to one of L.A.'s field goals. Jalen Reagor then muffed the ensuing kick, giving the Pats the ball at their own 13-yard line.

Stevenson injury

Rhamondre Stevenson was pretty much the only reason to watch the Patriots' offense, and he left early after suffering a right leg injury. If he's out going forward, we're going to see a lot of Ezekiel Elliott and... well we're going to see a lot more of Ezekiel Elliott.

No faith in Ryalnd

The rain played a factor in this too, but the Pats went for it on a 4th-and-5 from the 30-yard line instead of sending their rookie kicker out for a 48-yard field goal attempt. Understandably so, given Chad Ryland missed 35-yard attempts in each of the last two games.

But the Patriots did not convert on that fourth down, as Zappe was sacked by a blitzing Derwin James and the drive came to an end. That was probably going to be the team's only real shot at a touchdown anyways, but it also illustrated how much distrust they have in Ryland at this point.  

The empty stands

The rainy conditions didn't help, but the Patriots are giving fans very few reasons to make a trip to Foxboro this season. On Sunday, many of them opted to stay home.

Hours before the game, tickets for nosebleed seats were under $20. Not even that was enticing enough to get people to Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

At least some of the fans that attended were quick to update the corner of the end zone, which has been Mac's Corner.


Barringer's boot

The Patriots took over at their own 6-yard line late in the first quarter and quickly went 3-and-out. The Chargers could have gotten some great field position out of it, but New England rookie punter Bryce Baringer pinned them at their own 18-yard line with an incredible 70-yard punt.

Yes, a punt is the first up we came up with from this game.

Zeke's afternoon

Losing Stevenson hurt, but Ezekiel Elliott was pretty solid on the afternoon. He ran for 52 yards on his 17 carries, adding 40 more yards on four receptions. That included a nice 23-yard pickup after he brought in a bad throw from Zappe and made a few defenders miss upfield.

Elliott did fumble early in the third quarter, but luckily it squirted right to JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Pats retained possession.

Jonathan Jones made some plays

The veteran defensive back had a few nice pass break-ups on the afternoon. He didn't bite on a Keenan Allen double move and broke up a 3rd-and-6 pass, and then later in the first half, broke up a pass in the end zone to Jalen Guyton.

It was a pretty good day overall for the New England secondary, with Herbert finishing the afternoon with just 212 passing yards and no touchdowns. 

Defense strong again

And overall, it was another great day for the New England defense as a whole. Jahlani Tavai continues to read offenses well and make plays. Jabrill Peppers remains a heat-seeking missile and Myles Bryant had a few nice plays as well in the secondary.

The run defense was really on point, holding Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley to just 34 yards on 20 carries. Not too shabby.  

The Patriots' D held a Chargers offense that averaged 24.5 points per game heading into the afternoon to just six points and 241 yards. (The Pats actually outgained Los Angeles by 16 yards.)

But six points is more than zero, so once again that solid defensive effort didn't result in a win for the Patriots. It puts this New England team in some very unflattering company in NFL history.


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