By: Russ Goldman
In my history of watching the Patriots I don’t think I have seen a game quite like the one we watched yesterday when New England hung on to beat the Chargers 23-20 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
So what did we learn from watching the game yesterday?
The first thing we learned is the San Diego Chargers are an extremely talented team on both offense and defense. Phillip Rivers is still an elite quarterback, and his talent was on display against the Patriots. Rivers was 34-50 for 336 yards and 1 touchdown. Even though the Chargers were missing a few key recievers to injuries, they were still able to move the ball and get into scoring situations. They put together 17 points in the fourth quarter, and almost did enough to force overtime.
Offensive lineman Matt Light had a tough day on Sunday (FILE:ICON/SMI)
On defense, the Chargers were putting constant pressure on Tom Brady. Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes were bothering Brady pretty often in this game, with Barnes making Matt Light’s life fairly difficult. The defensive backs were covering the Patriot receivers very well, leaving them very little room to get open. This unit was dominating.
So with both the San Diego offense and defense being in rare form how could they lose this game? The Chargers lost this game with mental errors and bad coaching. They had four turnovers which really aided the Patriots cause on Sunday. Richard Goodman made one after making a great catch, and then decided to just leave the ball on the ground. The Patriots recovered, and the Chargers were lucky they didn’t capitalize. Then later on, Rivers threw a pass that was a lateral, and Jacob Hester thought it was an incomplete pass and didn’t go after the ball. As a result, the Patriots recovered the fumble – with Rob Ninkovich picking it up and taking it down to the Chargers’ 8-yard line. That lead to a Patriots field goal.
We also saw Kris Brown kick the ball out of bounds on kickoff, which came on a pivotal drive following a touchdown – putting the Patriots at the 40 yard line. Again, San Diego was lucky New England didn’t take advantage of yet another miscue.
And finally, before the final kick which would have sent the game into overtime, the Chargers got a 5 yard penalty on a false start that moved them back farther. Brown’s attempt hit the right upright, and as the ball fell to the ground – so did San Diego’s hopes of a comeback.
I could go on and on with all the mistakes that the Chargers made. The Chargers are just poorly coached and not a disciplined team, and their mistakes played a huge role in this game.
On the Patriots, let’s start with the offense. Brady had a rough game. His first half was one of the worst I have seen during his entire career, with the offense totalling a mere 38 net yards. Overall, he was 19-32 for 159 yards and 1 touchdown. The good thing about the offense is that they rallied in the second half. Their first drive in the second half was tremendous, and really put the Patriots in position to win. This drive took up 8:35 seconds of the third quarter and put the Pats up 20-3. The offense played better in the second half, but overall it was a below average day for this unit.
The defense I have to say I am seeing more improvements. Going halfway into the fourth quarter, they only gave up 6 points. It was at that point when they started to play a prevent defense that Rivers really started to get going. He was taking what the Patriots were giving him, which was all the underneath routes. Rivers would eventually score twice and make this game very close at the end. However, I thought this unit did a decent job putting pressure on him, and made him uncomfortable in the pocket for many drives in this game. We also saw a great play by Devin McCourty, who leaped in front of Patrick Crayton for an interception – the first of his career. As a result a major positive that come out of this game was the continued improvement of this young defense.
The special teams unit did not have a banner day. All I need to do is point to the onside kick. There is no excuse for this unit not to be prepared for this kick late in the game. The players were at the 45 yard line instead of the 40. Also, Brandon Tate did not have much room to run back kickoffs. Overall, this unit did a poor job on Sunday.
This victory by the Patriots was a combination of Chargers mistakes and the Patriots being able to capitalize on some of these errors. In the end these are the type of games you need to win.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Chargers “.
1. The Patriots Special Teams need to take advantage of the Chargers unit. As I stated earlier, the Pats special teams did not have a strong day, and the Chargers unit took advantage of them on Sunday.
2. The Patriots need to stop Antonio Gates. The Patriots did a nice job on Gates for the majority of the game. Late in the fourth quarter Gates did come alive. His overall numbers were 4 receptions for 50 yards and one touchdown. However, I thought the Pats defense did their job against him.
3. The Patriots defense needs to prevent the big play in the passing game. The Patriots defense prevented the big play for San Diego. Rivers rarely went deep, and one of the few times he went up top, he was intercepted by McCourty. Rivers ended up with very good numbers on Sunday, but there were no quick strikes by the San Diego quarterback.
4. The Patriots offensive line needs to play at high level in protecting Tom Brady. The Patriots offensive line did a horrible job in protecting Brady. He was under constant pressure the majority of the game. Light was horrible, and gave up a few sacks. Overall this group gave up four sacks, and their lack of protection I thought really stifled the Patriots offense.
5. Tom Brady needs to take advantage of the Chargers Secondary. Brady did not have one of his better games, and wasn’t able to victimize the Chargers secondary. In fact the Chargers won most of the battles against the Patriots recievers.
So what did we learn from this game? I think we learned that the Chargers have a great deal of talent, but do not have the discipline to win a championship. I think we saw a Patriots team that had a below average game on offense and special teams. However, I still think the defense overall played well for the majority of the game. They are still improving. We also learned that coaching is a major factor in the NFL – and the Chargers aren’t going anywhere as long as Norv Turner is at the helm.
Overall, what we learned is that even if your team is not playing at its best in all three phases of the game, as long as you win that is all that really matters.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 23-20 win over San Diego.