The Patriots went a 10th straight season with a home opening win in defeating the San Diego Chargers 35-21 on Sunday evening. It was another statistically poor day for the defense but statistically great day for the offense. Tom Brady extended his record unbeaten streak at home to 28 games whilst being only one of 7 NFL Quarterbacks to have thrown for 400 or more yards in consecutive games¬†and, if he makes the achievement again against the Bills, will be the first QB to ever have three consecutive 400 yard games. It’s also the team’s 10th consecutive win with 30 or more points scored, closing in on the NFL ¬†record held by the St. Louis Rams of 14.
Here are a few observations and key points from the game.
- The offense are already in mid-season form. As well as Tom Brady’s consecutive 400 yard games, the Patriots have collectively pulled together over 500 yards of total offense for two games in a row now and are sharing the wealth in doing so. Tom Brady has hit nine¬†different¬†targets in two games (including seven yesterday) and it appears the Pats are continuing to put the emphasis on ball and clock management.
- The Tight Ends are the Patriots’ key cogs. Tom Brady has hit Hernandez and Gronkowski for 337 yards off of 24 targets, 5 of which resulted in touchdowns, and¬†averaging¬†14 yards a throw. The Patriots primarily line up with at least one of their TEs on the field and, more often than not, both of them. This is for the matchup nightmares they create, especially¬†against¬†base defenses. The unpredictability and vast options they bring to the team’s offense has made it as successful as it has been over the last year or so.
- The game plan was Antonio Gates, and the Patriots executed it to perfection. The Patriots had relative success against Reggie Bush as their game plan last week, and they did an even greater job of it this week when they highlighted Antonio Gates as the Chargers’ biggest threat. They held him to zero receptions and he was only¬†targeted¬†once, when Sergio Brown undercut a poorly lofted ball and turned it over for the Patriots. Unfortunately when you put huge emphasis on one player it makes other areas vulnerable and Vincent Jackson took advantage of that. He was a mismatch nightmare as it was with his size and speed and he punished our secondary all game long!
- The Patriots played a conservative defense….but didn’t break. For the second game running the Patriots rarely blitzed and spent the majority of their plays in sub packages, utilising the 3-3-5 formation mostly. I thought we failed to get any pressure from our down linemen¬†which didn’t help the Patriots’ young and inexperienced secondary and didn’t help us over the course of the game. We saw some big gainers again against us through the air but came up with 4 key turnovers and a goal line stop in situations which called for it. This ‘bend but don’t break’ style of defense has become very common in this Bill¬†Belichick¬†run system however I would like to see us bring some more aggression against the Bills…the same aggression we saw against Tampa Bay in preseason.
- The young and revamped secondary needs time…and some help. The Patriots have been¬†dropping¬†back in coverage a hell of a lot over the first two games of the 2011 season and it’s exposing our key weakness. The team have new additions Dowling, Molden and Ihedigbo whilst Barrett and Bodden didn’t play at all last year and Brown saw very little action. This was the biggest area of concern and rightfully so but I expect it to gel with time. It hasn’t helped that our D Line didn’t generate much pressure in yesterday’s game and it is going to need to do a lot more when the Patriots drop back in coverage!
So those are my five key observations from Sunday’s game. I feel the jury is still out on the defense and the secondary will gel with time whilst the offense has done nothing but fill me with confidence. It was nice to see Ochocinco¬†getting¬†a little more involved and I expect him to be even more so with the loss of Aaron Hernandez for at least a couple of weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for more reaction from this weeks game and Patriots news over the course of the week as well as previews to our upcoming game with the Bills!
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