National Football League

Billy the GOAT

December 9, 2020

Let's start here:

The New England Patriots demolished the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, 45-0, marking the Pats' fourth win in five games.

And though they put up 45 points, the story of the day – and the past several weeks – was Bill Belichick's defense, which has hit its stride, evidenced by Sunday.

The Chargers are 3-9 this season and 2-7 in one-score games – by no means a juggernaut in the AFC. 

But it can't be ignored that LA is a solid squad and has some of the best losses in the NFL this season: a three-point loss to Kansas City in Week 2, a seven-point loss at Tampa Bay in Week 4, and a three-point overtime loss at New Orleans in Week 5.

Sunday was not a good loss. 

The Chargers' offense currently ranks fourth in average passing yards per game (272.9), but New England held LA to a mere 188 yards through the air. 

The Patriots' defense – Belichick's bread-and-butter – entered the game with just 15 sacks on the season, fifth-fewest in the NFL.

However, New England registered three sacks against Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, as well as 11 hits.

Herbert entered Sunday eighth in the league in passing touchdowns (23), but the rookie was unable to score through the air against New England, finishing with two interceptions instead.

In addition, Herbert's 43.7 passer rating against the Pats was the worst of his young career, and Sunday was his first game without a touchdown.

Belichick is now 25-5 against rookie quarterbacks and has racked up 11 straight wins over rookie playcallers.

Geno Smith was the last rookie QB to knock off 'The Hoodie' back in 2013. 

But Belichick hasn't only overcome rookie QBs this season, specifically in the past few weeks. 

New England last week held Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to 17 points in a 20-17 win for the Pats, and in Week 10, the Patriots earned a 23-17 win over Lamar Jackson – the reigning NFL MVP – and the Baltimore Ravens.

Belichick's defense has had to be especially stellar this year given New England's struggles on offense. 

Tom Brady left in the offseason and Cam Newton took his spot. However, a shortened offseason, mixed with a bout with COVID-19 for Newton, has produced uneven results for the Pats. 

On Sunday, Newton was just 12-of-19 passing for 69 passing yards and a touchdown, even though he added 48 yards on the ground for two rushing scores. 

Impressively, Newton's rushing touchdown total is up to 11 – but so far this season, he only has five passing TDs, 34th most in the NFL.

He also averages the second-fewest passing yards per game (186.6) and ranks 28th in the league in passer rating (80.3).

The Pats' leading receiver, Damiere Byrd, has just 518 receiving yards, and the club's top two receivers (Byrd and Jakobi Meyers) have fewer than 1,000 receiving yards combined (976) in 2020.

Still, while New England isn't racking up huge stats offensively, the Patriots play clean, disciplined football, considering they have the fewest penalties in the league (45), making them the only franchise with fewer than 50, something that most would say goes back to coaching.

Belichick, of course, knows how to win. He boasts the second-best winning percentage in league history (.681) for the regular season and postseason, and his latest victory impressed Colin Cowherd.

"Let's just marvel at what Bill Belichick has done in 2020. Could any other coach win games with what he's been dealing with?"

The win over LA evened the Pats' record at 6-6, and New England now owns wins over the likes of Miami (8-4), Las Vegas (7-5), Baltimore (6-5) and Arizona (6-6).

In addition, New England now sits just two games out of a playoff spot.

According to ESPN NFL analyst Keyshawn Johnson, Belichick deserves most of the credit for New England's 2020 campaign. 

"You can never count them out because a great coach comes up with a game plan ... a game plan that wins football games, and he's been able to do that now in several weeks."

The Patriots are an unlikely candidate to win the division, according to FOX Bet (+1400), but with Belichick leading the way, it appears anything is possible.


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