The Patriots held off the Chargers, 21-13, at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, extending their winning streak to four games.
Quarterback Tom Brady and New England’s offense dominated the time of possession battle — running 82 plays in 36:59 — and relied on their stable of running backs, who accounted for 224 of the team’s 414 total yards.
Rex Burkhead turned in arguably his best performance as a Patriot, rolling up 83 yards on 11 touches. Dion Lewis got the bulk of the work in the ground game, rushing 16 times for 44 yards, and also added a 71-yard kickoff return to start the second half. James White was reliable in the passing game with five receptions for 85 yards.
“They’ve done a great job,” Brady said of the running backs’ ability in the pass game. “All of them catch the ball well. Every back on the roster we have does a great job in the pass scheme. They’re making a lot of yards when the ball’s in their hands.”
Of White’s five catches, four came on third down and three were on third-and-10 or longer. In those third-and-long situations, White had receptions of 10, 27, and 11 yards.
Now, halfway through the season, White has a team-high 43 catches for 365 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski said he has always wanted to have the type of quickness White displays.
“The way he can move side to side is just unreal,” said Gronkowski, who had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. “It’s not surprising at all to see how he gets open on linebackers. On third down, just dump it to him and he makes guys miss.”
Brady, who finished 32-of-47 passing and was sacked three times by the Chargers’ ferocious pass rush, turned in his fifth 300-yard passing game this season. However, New England stalled on several drives, scored just one touchdown, and was forced to settle for field goals.
Brady was asked about the struggles on offense, which has averaged just more than 21 points per contest the last four outings after averaging 32.3 points in the first four games.
“Yep, that’s a good word for it. We didn’t finish [the drives] off,” Brady said. “We just have to do a better job of it. I know I’ve said that about 100 times this year, but it’s tough. We’re trying, it’s just execution’s coming up a little short in critical times.
“We’re not scoring as many points as we’re capable of scoring, I know that,” Brady said. “I wish there was a simple answer for it. The simple word would be execution. I mean, it’s just throwing and catching and blocking and running and doing all those things. Staying on track in the red area. But we have more opportunity out there. We know it. We just haven’t done a great job finishing off the last three or four weeks. But hopefully we can get back to it.”
Stephen Gostkowski converted 4 of 6 attempts, three of which were from 43 yards. Of those 43-yard attempts, Gostkowski made one. His other makes were from 25, 36, and 26 yards.
“Definitely we’ve got to clean it up,” Gronkowski said of the stalled drives. “What, we had like six field-goal attempts or something in the red zone? We got to pick it up. It starts with myself. I definitely got to be playing better throughout the four quarters.”
The Patriots’ defense held the Chargers to 349 yards. Philip Rivers finished 17-of-29 passing for 212 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, which was snagged by Jonathan Jones on the last play.
In the second quarter, the Patriots’ punt unit recorded a safety when Travis Benjamin made an ill-advised move and was wrapped up by Brandon King at the goal line. It was the club’s first safety on special teams since Dec. 9, 1979 against the Jets.
Receiver Chris Hogan left with a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter. He was seen in the locker room after the game with his right arm in a sling.
The Patriots improved to 6-2 as they head into their bye week. They return to action Nov. 12 at Denver.
“I’m glad we won. That’s the most important thing,” Brady said. “Starting 0-1 and then being 6-2, a lot of mental toughness. That’s good and we’ve got to keep it going. Biggest games are ahead of us, so we’re going to have to go play well.”
4th quarter: Patriots 21, Chargers 13
On his sixth field-goal attempt of the game, Stephen Gostkowski made a 26-yard field goal to extend New England’s lead.
4th quarter: Patriots 18, Chargers 13
Philip Rivers hit Travis Benjamin for a 24-yard touchdown to pull within one score. The Chargers’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.
4th quarter: Patriots 18, Chargers 7
Stephen Gostkowski missed his second field-goal attempt of the contest after the Patriots drove 55 yards in 16 plays, chewing up nearly 8 minutes of clock.
Gostkowski’s second miss was a 43-yarder. He is now 3 of 5 overall and 1 of 3 from 43 yards on the day.
3rd quarter: Patriots 18, Chargers 7
Another stalled drive for New England, another field-goal attempt and make by Stephen Gostkowski, this one a 43-yarder. It was his third make and fourth attempt of the contest.
Patriots haven't been able to finish any of their last 4 drives pic.twitter.com/fz9tszI7e8— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 29, 2017
3rd quarter: Patriots 15, Chargers 7
After Dion Lewis churned out a 71-yard kickoff return to start the second half, Stephen Gostkowski could not convert on a 43-yard field-goal attempt.
It was his second miss of the season.
Halftime: Patriots 15, Chargers 7
Here are a few halftime stats:
Total yards: NE 220, LA 193
First downs: NE 15, LA 5
Total plays: NE 40, LA 19
Yards per play: NE 5.5, LA 10.2
Third down: NE 3 of 8, LA 1 of 4
Penalties: NE 2 for 20, LA 4 for 34
Time of possession: NE 18:12, LA 11:48
Tom Brady: 19 of 26, 191 yards, TD, 106.4 rating
Philip Rivers: 4 of 5, 62 yards, 118.8 rating
NE: James White 3 catches, 62 yards; Rex Burkhead 7 touches, 61 yards; Dion Lewis 8 touches, 23 yards; Rob Gronkowski 2 catches, 18 yards; Brandin Cooks 5 catches, 26 yards; Danny Amendola 1 catch, 9 yards; Chris Hogan 1 catch, 5 yards; Jacob Hollister 1 catch, 13 yards
LA: Keenan Allen 1 catch, 15 yards; Hunter Henry 1 catch, 7 yards; Antonio Gates 1 catch, 16 yards; Melvin Gordon 7 carries, 108 yards
Chargers with 14 runs and just 5 pass attempts in the first half pic.twitter.com/2QpDSb1YXM— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 29, 2017
2nd quarter: Patriots 15, Chargers 7
Another field goal by Stephen Gostkowski — this one a 36-yarder — padded New England’s lead just before halftime. The drive went 73 yards in seven plays.
2nd quarter: Patriots 12, Chargers 7
A 25-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski extended the Patriots’ lead. It capped off an 11-play, 51-yard drive.
Marcus Cannon hobbled off after a play late in the possession and was replaced at right tackle by LaAdrian Waddle. Cannon was ruled questionable to return with an ankle injury.
Still no Marcus Cannon. Didn't come out of the locker room from halftime— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 29, 2017
2nd quarter: Patriots 9, Chargers 7
Travis Benjamin made an ill-advised move on a punt return and was taken down at his own goal line for the safety, giving the Patriots a 2-point lead and the ball.
Brandon King was credited for the safety.
2nd quarter: Chargers 7, Patriots 7
The Patriots evened the score on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski,. It capped off a 14-play, 77-yard drive.
It was Brady’s 16th touchdown throw of the season, and Gronkowski’s fifth touchdown catch of the year, tying Chris Hogan for the team lead. It was also the 72nd time Brady and Gronkowski have connected for a TD.
Rob Gronkowski ties game with Chargers at 7 with his 73rd career TD catch; that's the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2010. pic.twitter.com/IKZso9LBSJ— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 29, 2017
1st quarter: Chargers 7, Patriots 0
Melvin Gordon took a carry 87 yards for a touchdown, a career-long run for the third-year back.
It was the second play of the drive for the Chargers.
Melvin Gordon?s 87-yard TD matches the longest run in Chargers— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 29, 2017
history (Paul Lowe, 87 yd-run in Wk 1, 1961 vs Hank Stram?s Dallas Texans)
The Chargers opened with a drive that lasted more than 6 minutes. But they came away with no points to show for it after Nick Novak missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt.
The Patriots went three-and-out on the ensuing drive.
The Patriots won the coin toss and chose to defer. The Chargers will receive the opening kickoff.
For the Patriots, cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, defensive linemen Malcom Brown and Geneo Grissom, and offensive linemen Cam Fleming and Cole Croston.
Gilmore will miss his third straight game, likely putting Johnson Bademosi opposite Malcolm Butler again.
For the Chargers, quarterback Cardale Jones, receiver Geremy Davis, running back Andre Williams, tackles Tyler Marz and Joe Barksdale, tight end Sean Culkin, and defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu.
Welcome to Gameday
It’s Week 8 and the Patriots are aiming for their fourth straight win.
The Chargers are in Foxborough, also riding a three-game winning streak after an 0-4 start.
Follow along here as we update this post throughout the game.
And we’ll have a feed of Globe reporter tweets and the Globe sports Instagram posts during the game.
For some pregame reading, here is Jim McBride’s thorough scouting report, which includes keys to victory and players to watch. Defensive lineman Malcom Brown won’t play Sunday as he recovers from an ankle injury. Cornerback Eric Rowe is sidelined with a groin injury, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower is out with a pectoral tear. Ben Volin examined how the Patriots have been thriving in third-and-long situations. McBride wrote about the stable of four running backs the Patriots utilize to keep defenses guessing.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: CBS / WBZ 98.5.
A few notes on the Patriots
■ Overall, New England is tied for seventh in the NFL with 53 penalties. Those flags have given opponents 463 yards, which is fifth most in the league.
That’s not the type of discipline associated with Bill Belichick teams. Last season, only three teams drew fewer flags than New England (93).
This season’s surge in flags puts the Patriots in mixed company. The league leaders (Browns, 49ers, and Jets) are bottom-feeders, but the next three teams (Chiefs, Seahawks, and Eagles) are contenders.
The Patriots draw a lot of flags, as well. They carry a net loss of 17 yards via penalties. If they can clean things up, they can get back in the black quickly.
It is this windy at Gillette Stadium today pic.twitter.com/xhq5l5PiKu— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) October 29, 2017
■ Last Sunday it was the fog. This Sunday, high winds and severe rain are expected to hit Foxborough midway through the game against the Chargers.
Receiver Danny Amendola said the potentially bad conditions have been discussed.
“The good thing is that we’ve spent a lot of time outside in the elements, whether it’s snow, rain, or wind, we’ve trained out there and prepared out there,” Amendola said Friday. “So we know what to expect.”
The Patriots practiced outside on Wednesday. When it was rainy again on Thursday, they opted for a rare indoor workout.
— Nora Princiotti
Globe reporter tweets
Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.