By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
September 30, 2002

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SAN DIEGO, CA -- Before the season began Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had given his players T-shirts targeting their first four games of the season.

They fell one short.

After a 3-0 start the Patriots came into San Diego on Sunday facing a Chargers defense that was ranked first in the NFL and were stopped dead in their tracks, failing to score in the final two quarters of play during Sunday's 21-14 loss to the Chargers.

The frustrating part for Bill Belichick will be the mistake riddled game his team played for the second straight week.  New England committed 6-penalties, all of which came on the offensive side of the football.  Four offensive linemen committed a penalty during the game, including Kenyatta Jones who was called for both a holding penalty and a false start.

They committed three turnovers, including a fumble in the final moments of the game to seal the victory for the Chargers.  Brady also threw two interceptions, both of which came on consecutive drives at the San Diego 30 and 23-yard line, ending two potential scoring opportunities.

They allowed two plays of over 50-yards, including a 52-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Conway who beat Otis Smith on a bomb from Chargers quarterback Drew Brees.  Runningback LaDanian Tomlinson opened the third quarter with a 58-yard touchdown run.

They've seen six starters injured, along with rookie tight end Daniel Graham who's status is now up in the air after suffering what appeared to be a shoulder injury and left the game on Sunday.

Not exactly the way Belichick probably wanted to close out the end of September.

Now the team will head to Miami to start off the month of October.  They'll be facing a Dolphins' team that is coming off of a 48-30 loss to Kansas City in a game where Miami committed 9-penalties and five turnovers, with quarterback Jay Fiedler throwing interceptions on three straight drives.  They currently find themselves tied with the Patriots at 3-1 for the AFC East lead heading into next Sunday in what the weather forecast is already predicting to be a hot humid afternoon.

However if they lose next weekend, things certainly won't get any easier.

They'll be facing some stiff competition in October, with Green Bay and Denver coming to Foxboro after New England returns from Miami.  With Sunday's loss and their defensive struggles these last two weeks, the Patriots are getting their first real test in adversity.

Belichick now needs to come up with a new plan to help his players deal with the problems that have plagued them these last two weeks.  They've allowed a total of 35 points in the second half over the last two games, and now suddenly find themselves exposed with a weakness of which there doesn't currently appear to be a solution.

For now it's on to October, and hopefully they can put Sunday's loss behind them.  Win or lose next weekend against Miami they'll need to at least show that teams will need to figure out a different way to beat them.  Otherwise a bad October will only lead to a more difficult November and December.

Which will eventually mean January won't be an issue.


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