A 23-14 win over the San Diego Chargers thrust the New England Patriots back atop the AFC on Sunday night.
But while the Patriots moved to 10-3 and the Chargers fell to 8-5, the numbers that stood behind the game said as much as the outcome of it.
Here is a look at which ones resonated at Qualcomm Stadium in Week 14.
One Blocked Punt for Bolden: Down by 11 with just over five minutes remaining before halftime, Brandon Bolden did something he’d never done over his three years in the NFL. The 2012 undrafted free agent and core special-teamer broke off the edge versus Chargers running back Donald Brown to block Mike Scifres’ punt. New England recovered at the San Diego 25-yard line and answered four plays later with a touchdown.
Four Double-Digit Touchdown Seasons for Gronkowski: The beneficiary of Bolden’s punt block was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke through the end zone to catch a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady. Gronkowski finished the game with eight catches for 87 yards, but the score left its impact on the game as well as the record books. No. 87 is now the only tight end to ever hit 10-plus touchdowns in four NFL seasons, and he is the first non-Patriots quarterback to do so.
Edelman’s Five 100-Yard Games: When his career-long 69-yard touchdown reception put New England up by nine, Julian Edelman crossed the century mark for his fifth career 100-yard receiving game. And by the time Sunday’s game was over, the sixth-year Patriots wideout had collected eight passes for 141 yards and the aforementioned score. Coming off a 100-catch, 1,000-yard season, Edelman is now on pace to reach that threshold once again by the end of 2014.
Patriots Hold Chargers to 30 Percent on Third Down: The San Diego offense headed into Week 14 with a third-down conversion rate of 47.5 percent. Yet after netting three first downs in four third-down opportunities, the New England defense brought the game average down to 30 percent, ultimately conceding only four first downs over 13 situational opportunities.
Three Sacks on Season for Collins: Jamie Collins’ recorded one sack in the divisional round of the playoffs last season, but the second-year Patriots linebacker had never recorded one in the regular season until last week. He’s now recorded three in his last two games, after bringing down Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers twice during the Dec. 7 tilt.
Two Catches for Allen: Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had 72 catches for 762 yards and four touchdowns on the year prior to facing New England. And the second-year pro concluded the meeting with 74 for 765 yards and four touchdowns on the year. Allen was limited to two receptions for three yards and was not targeted until midway through the third quarter versus the Patriots’ secondary, and the coverage of cornerback Darrelle Revis was an essential reason why. San Diego targeted Revis only once.
New England Nets 34 Minutes of Possession: The Green Bay Packers held possession for over 36 minutes of game clock versus the Patriots in Week 13, but in Week 14, the Patriots answered back. New England’s offense held control for 34 minutes versus San Diego, limiting the Chargers’ offense to 54 plays – the same number the Patriots were able to run just one game ago.
37-4 Following Defeat: Putting the Lambeau Field loss to Green Bay in the rearview mirror, the Patriots responded the way history suggested head coach Bill Belichick’s team would. And the Patriots are now 37-4 in regular-season games following defeat since 2003.
Patriots Get 12th Consecutive 10-Win Season: New England continued the trend after a loss on Sunday, and in turn, the team won on a natural grass surface for the first time this season. But there was another trend the Patriots continued by defeated the Chargers – getting to 10 wins. The Patriots have now reached 10 wins in 12 consecutive regular seasons, which trails only the San Francisco 49ers’ streak from 1983 through 1998.