By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 17, 2007

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FOXBOROUGH -- Okay, line 'em up. It's thumb-nosing time.

Put Eric Mangini at the front of the line. Then LaDainian Tomlinson. Right behind him goes Shawne Merriman. Then maybe a few more Charger players who lost to the Patriots in January. Finally, at the end of the line, insert the top man himself, Roger Goodell. Take that right thumb of yours and place it right on your beezer, and wiggle them fingers of yours for good measure.

This is a lot like the 2004 playoff rematch between the Patriots and Indianapolis, one year removed from the Colts accusing the Patriots of getting away with too many holding calls. The Patriots responded in 2004 by holding the Colts to just three points on their way to Super Bowl XXXIX. Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots took one of the three best teams in the league and slaughtered them by the exact same score of last week's slaughter of the Jets, which now forevermore will be known as the Spygate Game.

Anything crooked about this one, folks?

How did Tomlinson handle this one, getting the snot beaten out of him and being held to 43 yards on 18 carries? What about Merriman, who made one nice run stuff and was invisible the rest of the game? Or Philip Rivers, who will make all of San Diego wish they had Drew Brees back if he keeps up this sort of play? Was this all made possible by tape recorders and different audio signals?

No. Not on your G. Gordon Liddy books of memoirs.

The Patriots dominated throughout the game, even when the Patriot defense softened up for a while in the second half. The 38-14 final score was convincing proof that the Patriots don't need to cheat to win, and sent still another message to the rest of the league as to how great this team really is. Even with Spygate staring them in the face, the Patriots looked scary at times as to how they were able to pick apart the Chargers with complete cool and relative ease.

Tom Brady and Randy Moss were once again the offensive heroes for the Patriots, though it could be said that all offensive players did their jobs well except for perhaps one dropped screen pass by Kevin Faulk. Brady was an insane 25 of 31 passing for 279 yards and three touchdowns, and still managed a 123.0 rating despite a fluke interception late in the first half which proved totally inconsequential. Moss caught eight passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and showed once again that he may be undefendable for most of the league this year.

To make a big deal out of only Brady and Moss is to disrespect all the other offensive guys. Wes Welker tied Moss for team-high in receptions with eight, his catches totaling 91 yards. Benjamin Watson caught five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. And of course, with Moss and Donte Stallworth as legitimate deep threats, the running game has been a big beneficiary. Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris both averaged 5.1 yards per carry, with Maroney chugging out 77 rushing yards, Morris 51.

Josh McDaniels thus far has put together some brilliant offensive game plans, and with them some great play calling and mixing up plays. McDaniels has thus far shown enough discipline to not overuse Moss, but instead to spread the wealth around and involve as many players as well. His usage of Morris in tandem with Maroney is perhaps his master stroke of genius thus far, and this may be a key in December and January where Maroney might possibly wear down.

Despite all the props the offense once again deserves, the defense perhaps played even better against one of the more potent offenses in the league.

Holding Tomlinson to only 43 yards represents the first time ever the Patriots can say they stopped the league's best back. Rivers is another story, as the Patriots once again made him look silly. Rivers completed only 19 of 30 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and suffered two interceptions for a 74.2 rating.

His first pass of the game went to Rosevelt Colvin, but that pick went for nothing as Stephen Gostkowski pushed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide right. The second pick was a little more costly: With 5:28 left in the first half, facing third down and one at the Patriot 37, Rivers hurried a short pass in the right flat and it fell right into the arms of Adalius Thomas. Thomas returned the pig 65 yards for a touchdown, making it 24-0 Patriots at the time.

The defense made its biggest statement later on in the game. After the Chargers scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half (the first of the two took 8:17, which makes you wonder why a team down 24-0 in the third quarter takes that long to score a touchdown), Ellis Hobbs took the kickoff, ran the kickoff to the 34-yard line, then was bushwhacked by Kassim Osgood and coughed up the ball. Quentin Jammer fell on the ball at the 31, and the Chargers seemed in position to make this a game.

On the first play, Mike Vrabel sacked Rivers for a 10-yard loss. On the second play, Colvin sacked Rivers for a 10-yard loss. On the third play, Rivers was hurried and underthrew Tomlinson in the backfield. The Chargers had to punt, and the Patriots would then drive 91 yards in 15 plays, taking just over ten minutes, to close out the game and any chance the Chargers had left. This was set up by those two sacks of Rivers, which signaled the beginning of the end for the Chargers.

With Miami, Buffalo and the Jets all losing, the Patriots already have a two-game lead in the division. The Patriots at present look every bit as powerful as they were thought to be with all the new players acquired over the summer. But with the spy scandal hanging over their heads all week long, the Patriots showed that they are also the most cool and most mature team in the league. They may still have a time with some upcoming opponents (hello, Indianapolis), but destroying San Diego at home, especially with San Diego's revenge motive, was particularly satisfying for all of Patriot Nation to see.

So the Yankees won again up at Fenway. Who cares. What's going on down here in Foxborough is dynamite.

And again, the rest of the league can sit down and shut up. Accuse and slander the Patriots all you want. The results still speak for themselves.


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