New England Patriots

Patriots-Chargers takeaways: Pats offense finds new low in shutout loss

The Patriots have lost five straight games for the first time since 1995.

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In many ways, it was fitting that the weather for Sunday's Week 13 game between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium was cold, windy and rainy.

It's been a dismal season for the Patriots, and that misery continued with a 6-0 loss to the Chargers that drops New England's record to 2-10. This matchup was the NFL's lowest-scoring game since 2018.

The Patriots have lost 10 or more games in a season for the first time since 2000, which was head coach Bill Belichick's first year in charge. They also have their first five-game losing streak since 1995. The Patriots sit at the bottom of the AFC standings after dominating the conference for much of the century.

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The issue for the Patriots in Week 13 was the offense. This group just has a severe lack of talent at pretty much every position. The Chargers aren't a good team by any means, but all they had to do to win Sunday was score in any fashion. The Patriots defense's margin for error remains razor thin.

The Patriots have a short week to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers on "Thursday Night Football." But before we look ahead to that matchup, here are four takeaways from Patriots-Chargers.

The Patriots offense is so broken

The Patriots offense is the worst in the NFL. They entered Week 13 as the second-lowest scoring team at 13.5 points per game. That number will go down even further after New England was shut out for the second time this season (both at home). The Patriots have not scored a single first-half point in back-to-back games. The last time they did that was 1993 -- Drew Bledsoe's rookie campaign.

Here's a list of the Patriots' offensive possessions Sunday:

  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Downs
  • Downs


The Patriots didn't advance past the Chargers' 30-yard line on offense until the 7:40 mark of the fourth quarter, and they made zero trips to the red zone.

They racked up just 257 total yards of offense and 4.1 yards per play. There's no one in the passing attack capable of making a big play when Demario Douglas and Kendrick Bourne are out of the lineup. DeVante Parker was the only wide receiver for the Patriots who tallied more than one reception. The leading receiver for most of the day was running back Ezekiel Elliott, who finished with four receptions for 40 yards. Parker ended up leading the way with four catches for 64 yards.

The offensive line didn't play well, either. This group allowed five sacks, including two on back-to-back plays during the Patriots' first possession of the second half, which knocked them out of field goal range and forced a punt.

New England's next possession started off well with a couple nice passing plays that advanced the ball near midfield. But another sack halted the drive and forced a punt. Patriots tackle Conor McDermott and guard Michael Onwenu both had a really tough time with Chargers pass rusher Khalil Mack.

The Patriots' best play of the game was a 39-yard run by Tyquan Thornton in the fourth quarter that went into Chargers territory. But four plays later the drive ended because of two sacks, including one a fourth-and-5. Giving up drive-killing sacks have been an issue for the Pats' offensive line all season.

Starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who has been the Patriots' best player on offense over the last three games, left the field in the first quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. If he misses any game time, the Patriots will be without their most dynamic offensive player. He entered Sunday as the team's leading rusher and tied for the lead in receptions with 37.

Just when you think the offense can't play any worse, it finds a new low. And with a short week to prepare for a very good Steelers defense, Thursday night's matchup could actually produce worse offense for the Pats.

Bailey Zappe isn't much better than Mac Jones

The Patriots finally gave a QB not named Mac Jones an opportunity to start. It was Bailey Zappe's time to shine, and even though he didn't make any catastrophic mistakes, he didn't make many huge plays, either.

Zappe did have a few good moments, most notably in the third quarter with a couple throws of 10-plus yards and a nice run to pick up a first down.

Zappe barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes (13-for-25) for 141 yards with zero touchdowns. He also didn't turn the ball over, which has been a huge problem for Jones all season (second-most interceptions of any QB).

But at this point, why not give Malik Cunningham or Will Grier an opportunity to show what they can do? It's hard to fathom how they could be worse than what Jones and Zappe have shown us through 12 games.

Patriots defense did its job... again

The Patriots defense has allowed 10 points or fewer in each of the last three games, and yet the team has lost each time because the offense is so bad.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert completed just 22 of 37 pass attempts for 212 yards with zero touchdowns. Sunday's game was the second all season in which Herbert failed to throw for a touchdown.

New England's run defense was phenomenal, too. Austin Ekeler is an explosive playmaker, but the Chargers running back was limited to a season-low 18 yards on 14 carries. The Chargers picked up only 29 rushing yards on 24 carries (1.2 per attempt) as a team.

Overall, the Chargers tallied 241 yards of offense and failed to find the end zone once. Under normal circumstances, L.A. would get blown out with stats that bad, but not against New England and its inept offense.

The Patriots defense did its job again. But unfortunately for those players, their effort won't be rewarded until the team's offense starts producing.

Patriots still have at least a top-three pick

The best thing that can happen to the Patriots the rest of the season is to pile up as many losses as possible to secure a top-three pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. This scenario would guarantee them an opportunity to draft either a top QB prospect (Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jordan Daniels, etc.), a generational wide receiver prospect in Marvin Harrison Jr., or a top-ranked left tackle.

The Patriots are now 2-10 and hold the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-10, which moves them into the No. 3 pick slot and leaves the Patriots all alone in the No. 2 position. The Carolina Panthers are 1-10 and play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late afternoon window. If the Panthers beat the Bucs, the Patriots would be in the No. 1 pick spot based on the strength of schedule tiebreaker.

Right now, every team except the Panthers (1-10), Patriots (2-10) and Cardinals (3-10) has at least four victories. So even if the Patriots win another game, they'd still be in line for a top-three selection.

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