FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When his final attempt to bring his team back failed, quarterback Philip Rivers pulled off his helmet and flung it toward the Gillette Stadium turf. It bounced back perfectly and into his waiting hands.
It was one of the few things that a Los Angeles Chargers player executed well in their 21-13 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday.
New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 333 yards and a touchdown, Stephen Gostkowski added four field goals to help the Patriots (6-2) hold on for the victory, their fourth straight.
The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Chargers.
New England got its lone touchdown via a 2-yard toss from Brady to Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter. The Patriots went 1 for 4 in the red zone, but were able to cobble together the Gostkowski field goals and a safety. The defense, which gave up 30 or more points three times in their first four games, has given up just 51 points total over its last four. And it did it this time without linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who sat out Sunday’s win and expected to miss the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery .
“We just wanted to come out here and play for him,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “It’s always rough when you have a season-ending injury. …We just want to show our support that we’re holding it down for them.”
Los Angeles (3-5) got on the board first when Melvin Gordon found a seam on the outside and rumbled down the sideline for an 87-yard touchdown run . But the rest of the game was marked by Los Angeles’ mistakes and inability to move the ball offensively.
The Chargers cut the Patriots’ lead to 18-13 with 8:30 to play following a 24-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin and failed 2-point conversion pass. They got the ball back a final time after New England added Gostkowski’s fourth field goal. But Rivers’ pass with 1 second remaining was intercepted at the goal line by Jonathan Jones.
Rivers finished 17 of 30 for 212 yards.
Los Angeles’ mistakes were highlighted in a wild way in the second quarter when Benjamin muffed a punt inside the Chargers 15, recovered it and retreated all the way to own goal line while trying to reverse field. He was corralled by a Patriots group that included Brandon King, Matt Slater and Jones, then finally wrapped up by King and tackled in the end zone for a safety.
“We weren’t going to let him escape,” Jones said.
Rivers had a similarly head-scratching play early in the third quarter when he rolled to the outside to escape the pass rush, but had the ball slip out of his hands for a fumble. He recovered, but the play resulted in a 20-yard loss and a sack credited to Van Noy.
INJURIES: Chargers: LB Hayes Pullard left the field after a collision late in the fourth quarter.
Patriots: RT Marcus Cannon left in the first half with an ankle injury. … WR Chris Hogan left with a shoulder injury from the same collision with Pullard.
STAGNANT OFFENSE: Other than Gordon’s touchdown run, the Chargers were mostly ineffective offensively in the opening 30 minutes. They ran only 19 total plays. By comparison, New England passed the ball 26 times in the first two quarters.
“We fought our way back to at least give ourselves a chance,” Rivers said. “Not a lot of room for error down the stretch if we want to accomplish all our goals we still have out there. But certainly, everything is still in front of us.”
QUOTABLE: “We prefer to win.” — Patriots coach Bill Belichick on if he minds the defense taking the lead over the past four wins as the offense has struggled in the red zone.
LONG RUN: Gordon’s 87-yard touchdown matched the longest run in Chargers history. Paul Lowe also had an 87- yard run against the Dallas Texans in 1961.
FAMILIAR TARGET: Gronkowski’s first-quarter touchdown catch from Brady marked the 72nd time the two of them have connected for a score. It is the most TDs among any NFL duo since Gronkowski entered the league in 2010.
UP NEXT: Chargers: Bye week, at Jaguars on Nov. 12. Patriots: Bye week, at Broncos on Nov. 12.