The Los Angeles Chargers entered Gillette Stadium knowing they had a razor thin margin for error against the New England Patriots.
Unfortunately, miscues, mistakes and mental errors in all three phases of the game played a large role in a 21-13 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions,
"We knew coming in here that we couldn't give that team anything," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "They are too good of a football team. I feel like we left too much on the field today. Penalties, touchdowns called back; we just didn't get ourselves a chance to win the game."
Whether it was costly penalties on offense overturning a pair of touchdowns, missed tackles in critical situations on defense or mental errors on special teams, including one that resulted in a safety, the Chargers were as much to blame on Sunday as the Patriots.
"We definitely made some mistakes, including myself," Melvin Gordon lamented after the game. "We all made mistakes that they capitalized on. We just can't have it. We knew coming in we would have to make (fewer) mistakes than them, and we didn't do that today. It hurt us."
"The secret to beating New England is to out-execute them," added Russell Okung. "If you cannot, they will capitalize on your mistakes and they will capitalize on your errors, as well. Today was very evident of that."
In the end, one play here or there by a litany of players added up to a frustrating loss. It also made the end result harder to swallow.
"We left plays out there," Jahleel Addae said. "We had a chance to bring home the W and didn't. It's tough because it's that one play you keep thinking about. Despite my (overall) performance, it's that one play I had on third down when I missed the tackle (I keep thinking of). That was an explosive play instead of making the tackle and getting off the field on third down. It's those little things that beat you, and we left a lot out there."
One costly penalty that had the Chargers particularly fuming was an offensive pass interference call on Tyrell Williams that negated a Travis Benjamin touchdown.
With L.A. down 18-7, it looked like the Bolts were back in business when Rivers found Benjamin on a short toss. The speedy wide receiver did the rest, racing 41-yards to the house.
However, the referees threw the flag, believing Williams picked Benjamin's man. In actuality, the wideout jumped out of the way, forcing two Patriots to run into each other. Nonetheless, the penalty erased a crucial touchdown. Instead of seven points, the team punted two plays later.
"I did not (think it was a penalty)," Lynn said. "But, you know, I have to see the tape before I make that decision. The referee called it (and) he saw what he saw. But I know we go at that angle and then try get out the way, so that we don't pick. That's what we practice, and Tyrell said that's what he did. But I don't know; we will see. That was a big play of the game, I'll tell you that."
While not using it as an excuse for the loss, the team admitted it played a key role.
"It's just frustrating though, especially on (that) one because that's going to be one we're going to hear back from (the league) saying they weren't right," Rivers noted. "But it's too late."
Perhaps the biggest miscue was Benjamin's ill-advised decision to field a deep punt and run backwards into his end zone. Instead of turning the corner, the speedster was tackled before he could cross the goal line, resulting in a safety.
However, nobody was willing to point the finger at Benjamin. After all, he made a number of dynamic plays the rest of the way, including a fourth quarter touchdown grab. The truth is several Bolts made costly miscues or mistakes that cost the Bolts in the end.
"It's one of those things where no one played a perfect game," Rivers said. "Travis and those big plays he made – the catch he made on the one touchdown that got called back was unreal. He gave us a chance late in the game again to score. He caught the touchdown – Travis was the biggest key in us winning last week offensively. He's going to tell you that you made a bad decision and you move on and live with it. I made some myself today. We win as a team, we lose as a team, we all had our share of mistakes, we just had too many to overcome.