It wasn't the prettiest game for the New England Patriots. Head coach Bill Belichick will undoubtedly walk away unhappy with his team's inability to finish drives. Stephen Gostkowski's reputation as arguably the NFL's steadiest kicker is on shakier ground.
But a win's still a win.
Tom Brady threw for 333 yards and the Patriots defense turned in its fourth straight solid performance, as New England earned a 21-13 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
The Patriots controlled the pace of the game throughout, holding possession for nearly 37 minutes and notching 27 first downs. Brady completed 32 of his 47 passes to eight different receivers, with running backs James White and Rex Burkhead doing much of the damage out of the backfield.
A last-minute comeback attempt by the Chargers fell short deep in Patriots territory when Jonathan Jones intercepted a pass intended for Travis Benjamin.
The Chargers had a chance to come back in large part due to the Patriots' inability to finish off drives. Gostkowski went 4-of-6 on field-goal attempts, and none of those kicks were more than 43 yards long. Heading into Sunday, the Patriots kicker hadn't missed multiple field goals in a game since 2012.
New England was just 1-of-4 scoring touchdowns on red-zone attempts, something Brady had lamented coming into this weekend.
"They're important plays," Brady told reporters of red-zone plays earlier this week. "It's a small margin of error, but I think we all realize that. It's a tight space. There are a lot of tight throws. It's just something we've got to do a better job of. Scoring those extra four points, obviously, are very critical. We'd love to convert more, but we just haven't done as well as we're capable."
The Patriots haven't scored more than 24 points since their Week 4 loss to the Carolina Panthers, although they've won four straight games. Most of that is due to red-zone inefficiency, as Gostkowski has converted three or more field goals in four of the last five contests.
"The question answers itself," wide receiver Brandin Cooks told reporters this week. "You'd rather walk away with a touchdown than a field goal. We've been working at that."
Brady's lone touchdown came on a second-quarter pass to Rob Gronkowski, whose 73 touchdown receptions are the most in the NFL since his rookie season in 2010.
The Chargers offense performed relatively well during its brief time on the field. Rivers threw for 212 yards and a score, and his interception came on the last-ditch play to tie the game. Melvin Gordon rushed for 132 yards, which was highlighted by an 87-yard score in the first quarter.
Benjamin had a team-high 64 yards and a touchdown on his five grabs.
The Patriots now head into their bye in a familiar place, sitting alone in first place in the AFC East. They'll return for a Sunday night matchup with the Denver Broncos on Nov. 12.
The 3-5 Chargers will also head into their bye before returning Nov. 12 for a matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.