INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Cam Newton and special teams are big reasons why the New England Patriots have won four of their last five games.
Newton ran for two touchdowns and the Patriots scored two TDs on special teams in Sunday's 45-0 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots (6-6) have won two straight to get back into playoff contention in the AFC going into the final quarter of the season.
“We've been close on plays at other points that ended up being foul balls but today we had some explosive plays that impacted the game,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
It was the fifth time in franchise history that the Patriots have won a game by 45 or more points. And it was the worst loss in Chargers history, eclipsing a 49-6 defeat to Kansas City in 1964.
LA (3-9) was shut out for the first time since 2014 and will finish with a losing record for the second consecutive season.
Whether coach Anthony Lynn will be around to see the end of the season is another matter. The Chargers are 8-20 since making the playoffs two years ago.
“That was one of the worst football games I’ve ever been a part of in my 30 years in the National Football League as a player and a coach. That was unacceptable and embarrassing,” Lynn said.
Lynn said it was out of his control when asked about his job security but added he talks to owner Dean Spanos all the time.
Newton has four games this season with multiple rushing touchdowns, breaking the league record for a quarterback. He had three such games in 2011, an achievement he shared with five others, and has 10 in his career, three more than any other QB.
The Patriots set the tone on the opening drive, going 75 yards — 57 on the ground — in 13 plays. Newton finished it off with a 1-yard dive.
Newton added a 2-yard keeper up the middle in the second quarter. He has 11 rushing scores on the year, making him the first QB with three seasons of at least 10 rushing TDs. He had 14 as a rookie with the Carolina Panthers in 2011 and 11 in 2015 when he was named MVP.
“It was the right way we wanted to start the game. We hit most of our goals during the game,” Newton said. “We were set up by great defense and special teams performances and wanted to maximize it throughout the entire game.”
Gunner Olszewski took Ty Long’s punt 70 yards up the right sideline early in the second quarter, putting New England ahead 14-0. The Patriots' second special teams score came on the last play of the first half, when Devin McCourty returned a blocked field-goal attempt 44 yards to the end zone. New England led 28-0 at halftime.
It is the seventh time in league history a team has returned a punt and blocked field goal for TDs in the same game. The last team to do that was Baltimore in 2015. New England is the only team to have accomplished it in the regular season and the playoffs.
Newton completed 12 of 19 passes for 69 yards, including a 5-yard pass to N’Keal Henry during the third quarter that extended New England’s lead to 35-0.
Jarrett Stidham replaced Newton early in the fourth quarter and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Olszewski.
Rookie Justin Herbert was 26 of 53 for 209 yards for the Chargers. He was intercepted twice.
Olszewski joined Stanley Morgan, Irving Fryer and Julian Edelman as the only players in Patriots history to have a special teams and receiving score in the same game. Olszewski had an 82-yard punt return TD nullified by a penalty last week against Arizona.
MOVING ON UP
This was Belichick's 455th game as a head coach, moving him past Tom Landry for third in NFL history. Belichick is also third in wins with 309.
Belichick — who coached Cleveland from 1991-95 and has led New England since 2000 — is behind Don Shula in wins and games coached. Shula leads both lists (526 games, 347 wins) followed by George Halas (506 games, 324 wins).
“I have a ton of respect for all the coaches that I’ve been compared to and certainly Coach Landry is one of the all-time greats. They made and taught us the game,” Belichick said.
Patriots: CB Jonathan Jones and TE Ryan Izzo suffered neck injuries and did not return.
Chargers: RB Joshua Kelley suffered an ankle injury and did not return. LT Sam Tevi missed the game because his wife gave birth to the couple's child.
Patriots: Remain in Los Angeles to face the Rams on Thursday night.
Chargers: Host the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
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