NFL Week 8 live: Chargers come up short in loss to Patriots 21-13
Welcome to another Super Sunday in the NFL.
This week the Chargers (3-4) are in Foxborough, Mass. to take on the New England Patriots (10 a.m., CBS).
Keep it here for updates from the Chargers game and other sights and sounds from around the league.
The Chargers traveled the road to Gillette Stadium and the New England Patriots with their foot pressed firmly down on the accelerator.
With wins over the Giants, Raiders and Broncos in consecutive weeks leading up to Week 8, the momentum only had them moving faster and faster.
But in a 21-13 loss Sunday to the Patriots, the team didn’t just get stuck in neutral. They threw the transmission into reverse.
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who scored on a punt return a week ago against Denver, put points on the board again on Sunday — this time for the opponent. After dropping and picking back up a punt inside the Chargers’ 10-yard line, Benjamin scrambled to get away from the coverage team.
And if his quest to turn up the field and make a big play, he forgot where the end zone was.
Benjamin was tackled by a pair of Patriots for a safety, an inexplicable decision that turned a defensive stop into five points for the Patriots — two for the safety and three on the drive following the free kick.
Prior to the gaffe, the Chargers were in pretty good position.
The Chargers were able to strike first when Melvin Gordon broke through the right side of the field for an 87-yard touchdown run, tied for the longest in franchise history.
Gordon’s run came a possession after the Chargers marched into Patriots territory before facing a third and one from the 33. Instead of going for it, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn elected to try a 51-yard field goal.
Nick Novak’s kick, which got tipped at the line, fell short and right.
New England and Tom Brady didn’t have trouble moving the ball, but they only scored one touchdown — a 2-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski. The rest of the damage came on special teams, where Stephen Gostkowski made three field goals and missed two.
The Chargers will now have a week off before taking on Jacksonville in Florida in Week 10.
Only 10 active Houston Texans players stood for the national anthem, with the rest of the team kneeling.
The Texans had indicated there would be some type of protest following comments by owner Bob McNair. McNair has issued two apologies and is attempting to explain his comments after a story in ESPN The Magazine this week revealed that he said “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” during a meeting of NFL owners about players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem.
There were reports the Texans would consider staying in the locker room for the anthem, but the entire team took the field about 10 minutes before kickoff. When the anthem started more than half the active roster took a knee.
The majority of Seattle’s defensive line continued to sit as it has for most of the season.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs, 5:30 p.m.
CHARGERS 21, at New England Patriots 13
Minnesota Vikings 33, at Cleveland Browns 16 (London)
at Buffalo Bills 34, Oakland Raiders 14
at Cincinnati Bengals 24, Indianapolis Colts 23
at New Orleans Saints 20, Chicago Bears 12
Atlanta Falcons 25, at New York Jets 20
at Philadelphia Eagles 33, San Francisco 49ers 10
Carolina Panthers 17, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3
at Seattle Seahawks 41, Houston Texans 38
Dallas Cowboys 33, at Washington Redskins 19
Pittsburgh Steelers 20, at Detroit Lions 15
at Baltimore Ravens 40, Miami Dolphins 0
Philip Rivers and the Chargers finally took advantage of a big mistake, capitalizing on a missed New England field goal to score their second touchdown of the day.
Rivers found Travis Benjamin for a 24-yard score to make it 18-13 Patriots with 8:30 left in the game.
The Chargers had a touchdown called back after Tyrell Williams stepped out of bounds during his route, followed by a Philip Rivers fumble to knock them out of scoring range, and the Patriots made them pay.
Stephen Gostkowski made his third field goal of the day on the following drive, putting the Patriots up 18-7 with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
The Patriots added another field goal, using their two-minute offense to march down the field, setting up Stephen Gostkowski for a 36-yard field goal right before the end of the half.
New England leads 15-7.
After the safety, the Charger defense kept New England out of the end zone, but kicker Stephen Gostkowski was able to make an easy 25-yard field goal.
After the kick, New England leads 12-7 with 4:06 left in the half.
The Chargers defense forced a punt after a Joey Bosa sack backed New England into a third-and-long earlier in the drive, but returner Travis Benjamin dropped the punt. After he recovered, Benjamin retreated and found himself backed up into the end zone, where he was tackled for a safety.
The special teams disaster put New England ahead 9-7 with more than 9 minutes let in the first half.
The Patriots responded to the Chargers’ score with a 14-play scoring drive capped by a 2-yard pass from Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
During the drive, the Chargers had multiple chances to get a stop but missed tackles and committed a costly 12-men-on-the-field penalty. The score is tied 7-7 with 14:56 left in the second quarter.
Melvin Gordon cut through the New England Patriots defense for an 87-yard score, a career long, to put the Chargers ahead 7-0 with 6:15 left in the first quarter.
Gordon took a handoff from Philip Rivers and got great blocks on the right side of the field, including a key one from rookie Mike Williams to spring him for the monster play.
Tom Brady’s unarguably handsome face fills the cover of his new book. It has a sharply designed logo — “TB12” — combining his initials and the number he wears on his New England Patriots jersey.
The book — “The TB12 Method: How to achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance” — is a well-intentioned manual preaching the gospel of alternative exercises and diet, the stuff that’s made Brady a champion and a star into his 40s.
Keep your muscles soft and able to absorb punishment. Eat organically. Stay away from processed sugars.
It’s good advice. And it’s a New York Times bestseller.
It’s also very different from the PR17 method.
Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ quarterback, has a different approach to longevity and peak performance. And he’s not going vegan or anything to pull it off.
“Probably not,” Rivers said with a chuckle. “I may just try to reach down and touch my toes once or twice or every once in a while. I haven’t stretched much in 15 years, so I’ll start with a toe-touch.”
It turns out this isn’t his genuine “Aw, shucks” charm. He doesn’t like to stretch. He doesn’t really touch his toes. That’s all too new-agey for him.
“He never stretches,” tight end Antonio Gates said with a laugh.
CHARGERS (3-4) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-2)
When Chargers have the ball
Chargers coaches and players keep waiting for a 30-plus-point outbreak because they believe there are enough playmakers to have a big day. But, because of how the defense has played, the Chargers have had the luxury of being a little more methodical on offense, keeping the ball out of harm’s way with a more conservative game plan. However, with the Patriots being able to score and New England’s defense beaten up and still near the bottom of the league in most categories, Sunday could be a day for the Chargers to open things up. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been intercepted just once in the last three games, and he’s starting to figure out the best way to use Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry. And the team still has Antonio Gates, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, who could play up to 25 snaps, in the mix. The big worry should be Melvin Gordon, who finds himself on the injury report for the second straight week. Even if he’s able to play on Sunday, there will be questions about how big of a load the back can carry while still being effective in the running and passing games.
When Patriots have the ball
Tom Brady. Tom Brady. Tom Brady. You can’t write that name enough. Maybe the best quarterback in NFL history, Brady still has found a way to get off to a good start without top receiver Julian Edelman, whom the team lost for the season in the summer. While Edelman’s loss is a big deal, having tight end Rob Gronkowski on the field certainly helps. While Brady can still make other receivers threats, Gronkowski should be the big test for the Chargers linebackers and safeties. The key, though, will be stopping New England’s ground game. In their last three games, all wins, the Patriots have rushed for more than 100 yards. They attack with a handful of running backs — Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead — who all have different skills and present unique challenges for defenses. If New England is able to run the ball well, it will stay out of obvious passing situations and prohibit the Chargers’ terrifying pass rush from being let completely loose.
When they kick
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said his kicker, Nick Novak, will be OK after spending most of the week on the injury report with an ankle injury. Novak’s been solid, and last week, his coverage teams helped make up for the fact that he doesn’t have the leg strength to consistently get touchbacks. Punter Drew Kaser is having a great year, and last week Travis Benjamin broke free for a punt-return score. New England’s special teams are keyed by its kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, who has been one of the league’s best for the last decade. He’s missed just once in 17 field-goal attempts this season, hitting from as long as 58 yards — a career best. The Chargers have tried only 10 field goals, underscoring how big of a weapon Gostkowski can be.
Dan Woike’s prediction
When the Philadelphia Eagles pushed the Chargers around a month ago, and I promised to never pick the Chargers again, we didn’t know that the Eagles might be the best team in the league. We didn’t know that the Chargers and Lynn would figure out how to win the close games, that they could go on the road and win in New York and Oakland. We didn’t know that the defense would be so effective under Gus Bradley, that they’d start flying around hitting quarterbacks and forcing turnovers. The Chargers have been playing great. I think they’re more balanced than New England. But it won’t matter.
PATRIOTS 32, CHARGERS 24
Arizona Cardinals: Drew Stanton will be the Cardinals’ starting quarterback with Carson Palmer out eight weeks because of a broken arm.
Atlanta Falcons: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon begins a third stint with the Falcons after being re-signed Monday, with rookie Duke Riley headed toward surgery.
Carolina Panthers: Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers has 150 sacks, one shy of passing Hall of Famer Chris Doleman for fourth on the all-time list.
Chicago Bears: Rookie Mitchell Trubisky has thrown only 23 passes in the last two games, completing 12 with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Dallas Cowboys: Rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith, who missed all of 2016, had a forced fumble and his first sack last week. Smith leads the team with 44 tackles.
Detroit Lions: Receivers Golden Tate (shoulder) and Kenny Golladay (hamstring) were limited in practice this week. Left tackle Greg Robinson is out.
Green Bay Packers: Rookie running back Aaron Jones leads the Packers with 346 yards rushing in 62 carries and has three touchdowns after making only two starts.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have seven scoring drives of 80-plus yards after only four last season. They have held opponents to a league-low average of 4.0 yards after the catch.
New Orleans Saints: Quarterback Drew Brees passed for 331 yards and a touchdown last week, but he has had four passes intercepted in the last two games.
N.Y. Giants: Tight end Evan Engram leads all rookie receivers with 342 yards on 30 catches. Carolina back Christian McCaffrey has more catches, 44, for 329 yards.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Eagles haven’t started 6-1 since going 7-0 in 2004 when they reached Super Bowl. They lead the league in third-down conversions (50.5%).
RAMS: Safety turned linebacker Mark Barron leads the Rams with 50 tackles and is tied with Nickell Robey-Coleman for the most interceptions (two).
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are last in the NFL in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert at a clip of 49.5%. Carlos Hyde has five rushing touchdowns in last five games.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are tied with the Jaguars as stingiest defense in league at 15.7 points per game. Seattle has not given up points in the first quarter this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston needs 225 yards passing to reach 10,000 yards in his 39th game, putting him in a tie with Peyton Manning for the sixth-fewest games.
Washington Redskins: Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has four sacks, a forced fumble and a pick-six this season. He also has three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens’ 40-0 victory over the Dolphins on Thursday night was the largest shutout victory in their 22-year franchise history.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills have given retired receiver Anquan Boldin permission to find a trade partner after deciding he’d still like to play in the league.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green has 30 100-yard receiving games, one shy of Chad Johnson for the Bengals’ team record. He has had two 100-yard games this season.
CHARGERS: Philip Rivers has 3,967 completions and needs 22 to pass Warren Moon (3,988) for eighth all-time. He averages 36-plus attempts per game.
Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett (concussion) will miss the Browns’ game vs. the Vikings. He missed four games to start the season because of an ankle injury.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos have won a franchise- record 31 straight games when winning the turnover battle. Denver is 3-0 this season when leading at halftime.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson is the first rookie with three straight games of three or more touchdown passes. The Texans average 29.5 points.
Indianapolis Colts: On Sunday, Frank Gore could become the first running back to start 100 consecutive games since Curtis Martin started 119 in a row from 1998-2005.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars lead the NFL with 33 sacks. Calais Campbell leads the way for Jacksonville with 10.0 — a career-high — through seven games.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kareem Hunt is the only player to start his career with seven straight 100-yard scrimmage games. Hunt leads NFL in yards rushing (717).
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins announced Jay Cutler (ribs) probably will return to the starting role next week after sitting out Miami’s 40-0 loss to the Ravens on Thursday.
New England Patriots: The Patriots last lost to the Chargers on Oct. 12, 2008 when Tom Brady was sidelined by a knee injury. New England leads the series 23-15-2.
N.Y. Jets: Austin Seferian-Jenkins has had a touchdown in three straight games. He’s second on the team in receptions (26) despite missing two games.
Oakland Raiders: Former Bills running back Marshawn Lynch will miss his first chance to return to Buffalo while serving a one-game suspension for pushing an official.
Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt is tied for the lead among rookies with four sacks. The Steelers have the second-most sacks (24); opponent Lions allow fourth-most (23).
Tennessee Titans: The Titans expect rookie receiver Corey Davis to be ready to play following the bye week. He missed the last five games because of a hamstring injury.
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