New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Patriots come away with the win in a game decided by special teams

The Patriots-Chargers game was far from pretty. The Chargers in the first half seemed to pretty much do what they have been doing all season long, play uninspired, careless football. The Patriots didn’t play their best football either, but yet again found a way to win.

Let’s start with the Patriots offense. In the first half, they netted just 38 yards, but came out with a strong 8 minute+ touchdown drive to open the third quarter. In this drive, they went to a lot of no huddles which made it hard for the Chargers to sub in different players for different packages. It was clear they made significant changes at halftime, as they netted 141 yards in the second half. The thing that stuck out most from the pats offense was the poor play of the O-line.

San Diego would mix it up every now and then with an outside blitz, but the majority of the snaps they only had a 4-man rush. Brady was sacked a total of 4 times, 2 of which were in the red zone which ultimately led to a field goal. Such a performance makes one think that when Logan Mankins reports in a couple weeks (assuming he will), he will have an active role with the offense.

Aaron Hernandez had a good game, and the more he plays the more he reminds me of 49er’s TE (but really WR) Vernon Davis. The running game was just about nonexistent today, which in my opinion was another example of the O-line’s poor play. The Pats combined for only 51 rushing yards.

The Pats defense was hit or miss, and for most of the 2nd half, you could definitely categorize the 11-man unit as a big “miss.” In the first half, they played tough and capitalized on San Diego’s mistakes (they had 4 turnovers in the first half). One of the few positives of the day for the defense was their run stopping ability. They held San Diego to 38 total rushing yards.

This forced the Bolts to move the ball through the air, which they did effortlessly all day. Yet again, the patriots played a lot of cover 2’s, often leaving the flats and middle of the field open. It appeared Brandon Merriweather was slow on a couple plays which led to a lot of 10-15 yard throws down the middle. Another player in my mind whose stock went down was Gary Guyton.

Guyton, who primarily comes in on passing downs, seemed flat footed and missed multiple tackles that resulted in an extra 5-10 yards. The pass-rush was also very lackluster today, which allowed Philip Rivers to set his feet and survey the field. Even though the pats-D let up 363 yards today, we have to remember that this is a very young defense that played against the league’s #1 offense today (they were also without Patrick Chung for most of the game). Although the performance wasn’t the best, they did come up with a huge stop at the end of the game that forced a long field goal attempt.

The decision to go for it on 4th and 1 with about 2 minutes to go in the game was a gutsy call by Belichick. It is pretty much identical to what the Patriots did against Indy last year, where they felt that their defense couldn’t stop the offense regardless of field position. They went for the win on that play, and even though it was unsuccessful, I like the call.

Special teams, as I talked about in my preview, turned out to be the game changer today. It makes you wonder if the Chargers had at least a mediocre ST, would the score be the same? Kris Brown saved his day when he kicked a near perfect onside kick to get his offense back on the field in the 4th quarter. Other than that, he failed miserably on an earlier onside kick attempt, kicked the ball out of bounds on a kick off, and missed the game winning FG.

A couple of closing notes:

Patrick Chung left the game and did not return with a knee injury. Chung has been a huge difference maker for the Pats this year and with him out of the lineup, the defense becomes a lot weaker.

Matt Slater, who is arguably one of the Patriots best special teams players, left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.

After a slow start to the season, Kicker Stephen Gostowski has now nailed 9 field goals in a row. This looks more like the player that the Patriots franchised this offseason.

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