New England Patriots

Dec 6, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olszewski (80) returns a punt return for a touchdown Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff,

Three touchdowns on offense. Two on special teams. And a shutout for the defense. So you better believe there are plenty of “ups” to go around and not many “downs” from one of the most dominant games ever put together by Bill Belichick’s Patriots. Here’s who was “up” and “down” in the Pats’ 45-0 win over the Chargers.


QB Cam Newton. That’s more like it. Still not a productive or particularly efficient game for Newton through the air, with an 87.5 passer rating, but the most important thing is he had a clean game with no turnovers and what seemed like better attention to detail. The only glaring mistake was a mishandled snap that stalled a drive, but other than that Newton mostly had command of what the offense called for. He finished with three touchdowns, two on the ground and one with his arm.

WR/PR Gunner Olszewski, WR Donte Moncrief, and TE Rashod Berry. Since a sloppy game in Houston, Gunner has had a fire lit under his ass. He nearly scored a punt return touchdown against the Cardinals that was called back for a penalty. No flags this time, as Gunner took one to the house from 70 yards and made another return for 61. Moncrief and Berry deserve honorable mentions alongside Olszewski for their blocks that sprung him on the touchdown. Olszewski also caught a 38-yard touchdown from Jarrett Stidham in garbage time.

CB Stephon Gilmore. You didn’t hear Gilmore’s name called much on Sunday, which is usually a good thing. But you know No. 24 had this game on lockdown, because he mostly covered Keenan Allen and the Chargers wideout had one of his quietest games of the season, just five catches for 48 inconsequential yards. When Gilmore plays like this, the Patriots defense is a totally different unit.

LB Josh Uche. It seems like the rookie keeps getting better and making more plays each week. He had pressures that didn’t show up on the stat sheet because it didn’t result in a sack or tackle for loss. Uche was more disruptive than the numbers indicate. And the most important thing is it feels like he’s trending upward.

S Cody Davis. The Patriots absolutely embarrassed the Chargers on special teams in this one. And the most embarrassing moment may have come on the final play of the first half, where the Chargers had one potential blocker in the vicinity of Davis and Justin Bethel. Davis was able to get in front of Michael Badgley’s field goal attempt for the block, which ended up in the hands of Devin McCourty for a touchdown return. Pretty much summed up the afternoon for the Chargers.


RB Sony Michel. You have to nitpick after a game like that. Michel wasn’t necessarily a negative in this game, but he had noticeably less burst as a runner than Damien Harris. He picked up a couple of nice gains on designed runs for him, but if there’s not a complete opening there’s not much he can do. He was the garbage-time running back, which isn’t necessarily a bad sign for him, but he’s clearly behind Damien Harris at this point.

WR Jakobi Meyers. He continues to be the main guy at receiver for the Patriots, playing almost every snap. But Meyers caught only two of his six targets in this one. A couple of throws were off by Cam Newton, but others were more catchable. If the passing game wants to get better it’ll need Meyers to be more consistent.

Next ups & downs will come on Friday, since the Patriots are slated to face the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at