Key Matchups in Week 4

<b><u>The Chargers defense vs. the Patriots offense</b></u> <br></br> Tom Brady went after Alex Molden 17 times in last year's game. The Patriots targeted Molden because he was two weeks removed from arthroscopic knee surgery and coming off a tough outing in a loss at Cleveland the previous week.

Brady threw 3 consecutive passes against Molden in overtime to setup Adam Vinatieri for the overtime winner, a 44-yard field goal. The first went incomplete, but on the next down Brady got a 37-yard pass interference call against him, then had an 8-yard completion against him on the next play. "That wasn't one of my better games," Molden said.

Strong safety Rodney Harrison took all the snaps with the first team for the second consecutive day and said afterward he felt good. "It's starting to come slowly but surely. We still have a few days before the game, so we're just going to keep taking it day-by-day. I want to play really bad. After these next two days of rest, we'll be able to tell if I'm going to play." Now Harrison is the player in the spotlight who may be tested deep should he play. If not, there is always Quentin Jammer to pick on as he plays in his second NFL game.

The point is unlike last weeks Cardinals who did not target Jammer, Bill Belichick and the Patriots will not be so kind. Brady will send his plethora of receivers downfield, up-field, and everywhere in-between. The Patriots will look to exploit the weakest link and do it until the Chargers or the individual player targeted proves he is worthy of defending the pass.

There are several keys to stopping the Patriots. The front four of Marcellus Wiley, Jason Fisk, Leonardo Carson and Raylee Johnson must collapse the pocket and besides applying pressure, stop the run and take away the play-action-pass. Adrian Dingle is a key here as well as he has provided a ton of pressure playing on passing downs. They will get little help as the Patriots come out in 4 and 5 WR sets to spread the field. Brady excels in 3 step drops and quick release plays. Blitzing Brady in the first 3 weeks has not yielded good results but the Charger front four may be the best the Patriots have faced this year. They will need to disguise their blitzes well and throw Brady off, if that is possible.

The Chargers linebacking crew must stay with the coverage and not bite on play-action. The Patriots have speedy receivers who make quick cuts and Brady is hitting on near ¾ of his passes. Donnie Edwards will again get the duty of covering the TE Cam Cleeland. Last week Edwards did a fine job against Freddie Jones of the Cardinals including blanketing him in the end zone in the crucial 4th quarter drive that essentially sealed a Charger win. Ben Leber will also see a ton of action as he will need to prove he can be solid in covering receivers and backs. Junior Seau, whose status is still uncertain for the game, will need to not overplay. "What we're going to do is take it day-by-day and see how it feels tomorrow with the exercises and treatment we did today. I don't expect anything; I'm just hoping for the best." Seau sometimes has a tendency to attack and over pursue the play.

This brings us to the cornerbacks. Molden has been fantastic this year and is healthier than a year ago. Ryan McNeil is also playing well which prompted coach Marty Schottenheimer to say you should not look for rookie CB Quentin Jammer in the starting lineup soon. They will be severely tested this week with diminutive speedsters Troy Brown, who leads the league with 31 receptions, Deion Branch, who has 15 catches as a rookie, and David Patten, who also has 15 catches running routes. All are listed in the 5'10 190 lbs. area, but size is not a concern when they make plays. Tight coverage is a must and the corners cannot give the Patriot receivers any cushion. They must play up on the line of scrimmage and bump receivers at the line. This will help in throwing off the timing of the quick drops, quick release of Brady. They will also need to keep the play in front of them. Last week the Chargers were beat for two long touchdown passes and cannot allow that this week as they face a more talented group.

So what's the solution to actually stopping the Patriots? Execution. The Charger defense must play a complete game. When an offense is scoring at a clip of 38.3 points per game it demands perfection from an opposing defense. Dale Lindsey will need to change things up to keep the Patriot offense off-guard if at all possible. Since it is unlikely the Chargers will be perfect they must execute their gameplan in all facets of the game. Tackles must be made by the player who makes the initial hit, pressure must be applied on Brady, and the secondary must cover their assigned receivers. It's not like we are asking for a lot here.

Part 2, the Chargers Offense vs. the Patriots Defense comes tomorrow.


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