Like the rest of Charger Nation, it was agonizing seeing our beloved bolts shoot themselves in the foot repeatedly in Foxboro against the Patriots. Four turnovers are a sure way to lose a game against the Patriots. Despite the disappointment of their first big game of the season, I saw a number of great signs in that game which will come into play down the road when the two meet in the playoffs. After reading this, I hope you all will have the same optimism I do. Here’s the good news…
Tom Brady got the headlines as he went 31-40, 423 yards and three touchdowns. Brady went for 400 yards for the second game in a row. Philip Rivers stayed with Brady step for step, unphased by the big game atmosphere in a hostile environment. Rivers went 29-40, 378 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers also threw two critical interceptions, both of them deep into New England territory. The first was a screen to Tolbert that Vince Wilfork jumped, tipped and picked out of midair. Ok, who knew Vince Wilfork could jump over a sheet of paper? Not me. I give Rivers the benefit of the doubt on that one. At 6’2, 325 (seriously doubt that, look at him on the highlight reel, if Vince Wilfork is 325, i’m the King of England!), we know he saw Wilfork but i’m sure he figured he could loft that ball over him regardless. The second pick was when he underthrew the ball to Antonio Gates. Gates hadn’t caught a ball all game but he was containing two Patriots every play he was on the field. Gates isn’t T.O., he’s not going to pout when he doesn’t get catches.
The Chargers outgained the Patriots on the ground 98-94. The longer the Chargers stick with the run the longer Brady rides the pines. Both teams use the pass to set up the run. Mathews touchdown on an inside handoff was the perfect example of that. Everyone on the field expects pass so make them play the run. Speaking of the run, what was Tolbert thinking when he backed out of the hole and tried to bounce outside? Call it a moment of temporary insanity. For a moment Tolbert thought he was Barry Sanders and could just dart out of a hole. Bulldozers don’t go in reverse. Tolbert, obviously realizing the gravity of the situation, tried to do too much and he fumbled the football as a consequence. Think he will ever try that move again? Nope.
My biggest takeaway from the game is the Chargers defense held the score at will Patriots to zero points in the third quarter. They caused three and out situations twice, forced the patriots to punt twice. Conversely, the Chargers punted once the entire game. The Patriots did not cause a single three and out. EVERY Chargers drive ended on the Patriots side of the field in position to score a touchdown or field goal. Unfortunately four of those opportunities ended with turnovers and another ended when the Patriots defense stopped Tolbert short of the goal line in a bid to take the lead early in the second quarter. Philip Rivers torched the Patriots secondary. Jackson and Floyd made great use of their height to make big catches. If Floyd doesn’t get injured late in the first quarter the outcome could have been very different. Vincent Jackson caught ten balls by himself. How many more balls are completed if Floyd plays the whole game? He had already made two circus catches for 59 yards and was on his way to a big day.
Simply put, if the Chargers don’t turn over the ball the Chargers win the game. The Chargers stood toe to toe with the mighty Patriots, drove the ball down the field better than the Patriots and Philip Rivers showed he is every bit as good as Tom Brady. The Chargers will learn a lot from this loss and become a greater team for it. And from what i’ve seen of the AFC action so far, we’ll see a rematch in January.