Patriots get past flawed Chargers
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady threw for 333 yards with a touchdown and Stephen Gostkowski kicked four fields goals, leading the New England Patriots to a 21-13 victory over the mistake-prone Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
It was the Patriots' fourth straight win.
Brady, who threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, recorded his 81st career 300-yard game, his fifth this season, which matches his total of last year.
Gostkowski was 4-for-6 on field-goal attempts, missing a pair of 43-yarders, as the Patriots improved to 6-2 and ended a three-game winning streak for the Chargers (3-5).
The worst of the many Los Angeles mistakes came when punt returner Travis Benjamin fielded a Ryan Allen punt near the sideline at his own 8. He ran backward and wound up fumbling the ball at the goal line, recovering it inside the end zone for the first safety on a punt return in the NFL since 2003.
Brady, who improved to 7-0 lifetime against L.A. counterpart Philip Rivers, was 32-of-47 passing with 14 of the completions going to running backs. Rex Burkhead caught seven passes for 68 yards and James White had five for 85 yards.
The Chargers scored first on an 87-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon, matching the longest in franchise history and the longest against a Bill Belichick Patriots team. Rivers hit Benjamin with a 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In the final 62 seconds, the Chargers marched from their own 21 and got as far as the New England 24. As time was running out, Rivers, who threw an incompletion on a 2-point conversion after the Benjamin score, spiked the ball with one second remaining. But his pass on the next play was intercepted by Jonathan Jones at the 1 and the game was over.
Rivers finished 17 of 30 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Gordon ran for 132 yards and Benjamin caught five passes for 64 yards.
In addition to the safety, the Chargers were guilty of numerous other mistakes, including having two touchdowns called back. One occurred when wide receiver Ty Williams had stepped out of bounds before coming back in to catch the ball and the other on a pass interference call on a pick play.
NOTES: Patriots T Marcus Cannon left with a right ankle injury, while WR Chris Hogan left late with a shoulder injury. ... New England CB Stephon Gilmore, who had returned to practice on a limited basis this past week, missed his third straight game with concussion and ankle issues. He and CB Eric Rowe were still out. ... Los Angeles T Joe Barksdale missed his second straight game with a foot injury, while RB Branden Oliver (hamstring) returned after missing two weeks. ... Paul Lowe had an 87-yard touchdown run for the Chargers in the AFL in 1961. ... Sunday was the Patriots' fifth home game and they have only one from Sunday through Dec. 24, their bye week next week and five road games out of six in that stretch. ... The Chargers also have their bye next week.