By: Russ Goldman
It was the home opener for the Patriots on Sunday, and the home team did not disappoint in what ended up being an entertaining 35-21 victory over the Chargers.
The Patriots gained control of this game early in the second quarter, and looked comfortable going into half-time. However, to the credit of the Chargers, they really fought back in this game, and there were several nervous moments in Foxboro. The game was finally put to rest just after the 2 minute warning with a 16 yard touchdown run by Benjarvus Green-Ellis.
The Chargers are a very talented team, but as we have seen from them in the past, their mistakes cost them dearly. They had 4 turnovers, and were stopped on 4th down on one drive on the Patriots one yard line.
This was not an easy game at all for the home team. In the end, the Patriots did plenty offensively, and enough defensively to insure the first home victory of the season.
So what did we learn from watching the game on Monday Night?
The first thing we learned that is similar to last week, is that the Patriots offense is very difficult to shut down. The offensive line is giving Tom Brady so much time to survey the field and find the open receiver, and that’s one of the main reasons he’s off to such a great start. The Chargers are very good defensively, and at times gave Brady some trouble. However, the offense still could not be contained for a long period of time.
The second thing we learned is that the hurry up offense that the Patriots use has really been effective so far through two games wearing down the opposing defense. Now, the Patriots did not use it exclusively the entire game. However, when it was used, you could see the negative effects it had on the Chargers defense as the game progressed.
Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense are clearly still a work in progress. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
The third thing we learned is the defense is still evolving, but there are positive signs to take away. Just like last season, the defense is creating turnovers, and that is a very important part of the game. You give your team a better chance to win if you can win the turnover battle.
They also showed for the second straight game, a toughness near the goal line. Regardless of what people think of the play calling by San Diego, to stop this offense on on 4th down on the 1 yard line is huge. Jerod Mayo made the play, but it was the defensive surge that helped cause the stop.
The defense gave up plenty of yardage, but there are signs that the defense could really improve. It is their play in certain situations that really showed me something out of this unit on Sunday.
The Chargers I feel will be in the mix to win the AFC this season. However, their overall play Sunday made them look weaker than we’ve seen in the past.
On offense, Phillip Rivers showed me he is in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. He was 29-40 for 378 yards, and two touchdowns. What was impressive about his play was his ability to get the ball to his receivers in tight areas. His passes were very often right on target where only his receiver could get to it. The Chargers running game was decent as it ran for a total of 98 yards.
The problem with this unit has to be mistakes and turnovers. You can have a great offense, but you need to take advantage of your scoring opportunities. Against the Patriots, this unit made too many mistakes that really hurt them.
On defense, at times, this unit really got after Brady. However as the game went on, the pressure seemed to lessen. The defensive backfield had a horrible time staying with the Patriots receivers. I actually expected more out of the Chargers defense than they showed on Sunday.
For the Patriots offense, it was another great performance by Brady. He was 31-40 for 423 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The Patriots also ran for 94 yards as a team. Overall, this unit was tremendous once again.
The defense, as stated earlier is still working out what it is going to become. The defensive backfield had a tough day, but the Patriots did take away Antonio Gates, and that is definitely an accomplishment. The major negative though was this unit was not good on third down as the Chargers were 10-12 on third down conversions. There is good and bad to take away from the defense, and that is why I feel it is still a work in progress.
The most important thing to take away from this game is the Patriots defeated an AFC championship contender. These teams could meet again down the road, and knowing you can beat this team is a positive.
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 need to contain tight end Antonio Gates. As stated earlier, the Patriots did take away Gates as he had no catches. Vincent Jackson had a big game with 10 catches for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, taking away a huge weapon like Gates clearly had a positive effect on the game for the Patriots.
2. The Patriots tight ends have to be huge in the middle of the field. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski again had huge games. Hernandez had 7 receptions for 62 yards, and 1 touchdown. Gronkowski had 4 receptions for 86 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The tight ends were huge in the middle of the field, and also in the end-zone.
3. The defensive tackles need to be disruptive and push the pocket back. I think at times the defensive tackles did push the pocket back. I did see Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork have their moments. Unfortunately, I don’t think the defensive ends got enough pressure on Rivers to compliment the defensive tackles’ play.
4. Patrick Chung needs to be very active in this game. I thought Chung did his job on Sunday. He had 4 tackles, and was pretty active at times. He could be a very important part of this defense this season.
5. Center Dan Connolly needs to stabilize the offensive line. Connolly definitely did a real good job in protecting Brady. The offensive line as a whole gave Brady plenty of time to throw the ball. They did give up 2 sacks, but against this defense, I think that is a job well done.
So what did we learn from this game? I think the offense continues to just dominate its opponent. On defense, the parts are still learning how they all fit together. But, I see this unit having a huge upside that could pay huge dividends as the season goes on.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 35-21 victory against the Chargers.