After what looked like Telesco’s best offseason to date, with aggressive changes made to areas of weakness like the coaching staff, offensive line, and safety group, this had the look of one of the better Chargers teams in recent memory.
However, after a disastrous four game losing streak to start the 2017 season, whatever fans this team had left began to cut their losses. The Chargers’ first and second round picks had yet to touch the field due to injury, Anthony Lynn might as well have been Mike McCoy in disguise, and the team failed to show any sort of identity.
Fast forward three weeks later, and after their 21-0 victory (should’ve been closer to 35-0), the Chargers look like the team many envisioned they would be. Excluding the long kick return allowed at the end of the game, this was the best special teams performance the Chargers have had since Darren Sproles and Kassim Osgood were running the show. Drew Kaser’s 69-yard punt was one of the most impressive punts I’ve ever seen.
Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are playing lights out football, Philip Rivers has somewhat stalled his full transformation into Josh McCown, and the offensive line has mostly been average, which is a drastic improvement from the past few years. While there are still glaring weaknesses (31st in Run Defense), their strengths (4th and 5th in sacks and pass defense, respectively) have helped mask these issues. Although the wins came against Eli Manning, an injured Derek Carr, and Trevor Siemian, the confidence that comes with them cannot be overstated. Three straight wins in the NFL is no joke.
However, Tom Brady and the Patriots are an entirely different animal. While Alex Smith and Carson Wentz are having good seasons, this will be the first elite quarterback the Chargers have faced all year. Bill Belichick will go down as the greatest coach in modern football history, and has a 9-2 career record against the Chargers since he became head coach for New England in 2000. The Patriots’ defense has been abysmal all season long, but after a dominating performance against the Falcons in week seven, I would expect nothing less than a strong showing against the Bolts on Sunday.
A win and a 4-4 record going into their bye week would be a tremendous rebound from the way the season started, and would likely put them in the thick of the playoff hunt. Against the Patriots, the Chargers can prove this new look team is for real.