Rapid Reaction: Patriots Win Home Opener Against Chargers

Derek Havens
September 18, 2011 at 07:49pm ET

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The Patriots kicked off their home opener against the San Diego Chargers with a 35 - 21 victory. While the whole game wasn’t pretty, the Pats certainly did a lot of things well and got the win at the end of the day. Here are a few thoughts on the game -

- Brady continues outstanding play: How do you follow up 500 passing yards in week one? Throwing for over 400 yards in week two, becoming only the 6th quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 400 yards in back-to-back games. Brady finished with 31 for 40, 423 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Tom Brady has been incredible for the first two weeks of the season and has the Patriots offense rolling. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- The Patriots offense continues hurry-up approach: Tom Brady and the offense looked sharp  again on Sunday afternoon. The team continues to run a near perfect no-huddle offense. New England’s up-tempo style of play gassed the Charger's defense to exhaustion. I was impressed with the fluidity of the offense and everyone seemed to be on the same page.

- The Patriots defense needs work: The defense showed again that they are a work in progress. The pass rush was non-existent for almost the entire game and the defensive backs struggled in coverage. The Chargers have several very tall wide receivers that towered over New England's defensive backs. While the defense showed flashes of brilliance in goal line stands and forcing turnovers, they need to improve going forward.

- Tight-ends shine: After a rookie player has such a great season, sometimes a sophomore slump can be expected. This does not seem to be the case for Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Both second-year TEs were big factors again on Sunday catching everything in sight. As I was watching the game, I was asking myself, "How many NFL teams can be in an empty (no running backs/ fullbacks), five receiver set, with two tight-ends on the field?" The Patriots are one of the few teams that are able to do so and have had tremendous success with it. Expect more of the same moving forward.

- Injuries a concern: One of the more concerning issues during Sunday's showdown, was the incredible amount of injuries the Pats suffered. Patrick Chung, Aaron Hernandez, Kyle Arrington, James Ihedigbo, Ras-I Dowling, Albert haynesworth and Zoltan Mesko all were shaken up during the game. Certainly an important situation to monitor moving forward.

- Bend but don’t break: The biggest series of the game, was the Patriots goal line stand on defense and then the offense drove 99 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots were up 10-7 and the defense needed to make a stand with San Diego driving. The Patriots stopped four straight rushing plays, capped off by the defense tackling Mike Tolbert for no gain on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

After the Chargers turned the ball over on downs, the Pats offense went 99 yards down the field, finishing with a Rob gronkowski touchdown. I was elated to see the team step up and make that kind of a statement in a tough game. The defense has shown some of the same issues they struggled with last season, but they have made stops when it counts the most.

Vince Wilfork has the play of the game: By far the most entertaining play I can recall since the Dan Connolly kick-off return against the Packers last season. Wilfork recorded his first interception of his career and retuned his acrobatic catch for 28-yards. The All-pro defensive lineman showed great athleticism as he moved down the sideline. To watch the play, click here.

Overall, the Patriots were in a dog fight and came out with a win. Their 35 - 21 victory was huge against a San Diego team with Super Bowl aspirations. A tough task next week, however, as the Patriots face division foe Buffalo. Be sure to check out my blog later for further game analysis.

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