By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
If the Patriots and Chargers played to a stalemate on offense and defense, the Patriots still would have won by two touchdowns.
Special teams dominance turned an easy Patriots win over the Chargers into a punchline. Two touchdowns in the third phase complemented three on offense and a shutout on defense, in one of the most thorough and complete dismantlings of another team that you’ll ever see.
When it looks that bad for one team, that’s coaching. Especially when special teams is such a circus. It was the kind of drooling goblin of a game that makes you wonder if the Chargers even practice that part.
The Patriots obviously do, and they typically play special teams at a high level. And in a coaching and personnel mismatch like this, they do enough to win handily by themselves.
They couldn’t cover Gunner Olszewski on punt returns, for starters. And the Pats got key blocks on Olszewski’s 70-yard touchdown return from two guys who just recently showed up: Donte Moncrief, who just officially signed off the practice squad, and Rashod Berry, who as active for just the second time this season.
Letting Olszewski run from one side of the field to another and almost take it to the house on a 61-yard return didn’t make the coverage unit look much better.
The Chargers beat themselves on special teams, too. Though the game was well in hand at 35-0 late in the third quarter, the Patriots had to punt and the Chargers had a chance to score some pride points. Instead they committed a 12 men on the field penalty on fourth-and-5, giving the Patriots enough yardage for a first down and sparking an instant classic GIF.
But the coup de grace, of course, was not even the Olszewski returns but the blocked field goal at the end of the second quarter. Amazingly, the Chargers left just one potential blocker on the left edge.
Upon reviewing the play, it was pretty clear that the Chargers had no chance of stopping either Cody Davis or Justin Bethel from getting a hand on the ball. Davis got it with a volleyball spike to the turf, and Devin McCourty did the rest with the long scoop-and-score.
To be fair to Anthony Lynn, he was accountable for the special teams failures after the game. When you get dominated so badly in that phase of the game, it comes down to coaching. You need strong attention to detail to coordinate plays, especially against the Patriots, a team that employs elite special teamers and will go for big plays against teams they know are vulnerable.
“Special teams, unacceptable, period,” Lynn said. “The whole operation. I made a change on special teams, I got a lot of guys doing different things, today got confusing on the field.
“It was unacceptable. Coaches are responsible for that.”
Lynn reportedly will not be fired after Sunday’s embarrassment, according to Ian Rapoport. He will stick around until at least the end of the 2020 season. It’s off-putting to call for another man’s job, but that catastrophe on Sunday was the kind of game that makes those kinds of questions inevitable in the public sphere.
The end of the Chargers’ loss to the Bills last week showed why their game against the Patriots could be a coaching clinic for Bill Belichick. Turns out it was even worse than anyone imagined.
Our own Zolak & Bertrand started Hour 2 on Monday with why the Chargers were stupid, including all the special teams misadventures listed above. Lot to get to. Have a listen below.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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 email@example.com.