Each week we hand out Game Balls (Good Things) and Goats (Bad Things) for the action on (and off) the field. Week 7 match-up against the San Diego Chargers, the Patriots had to hang on to a late lead to win 23-20.
Patriots Secondary – It seems strange to hand out a game ball to a unit that gave up 336 yards and a touchdown, but that's exactly what is happening here. Chargers QB Philip Rivers turned in a career 34 completions, but was unable to hit targets early to capitalize on the Patriots vulnerability. When it mattered most, the secondary stopped the Chargers short on the final drive forcing the long FG attempt that didn't make it.
Patriots Defense On Field Savvy – Heads-up plays by James Sanders and Rob Ninkovich turned two non-eventful plays into big swings of momentum for the Patriots. Sanders jumped on a fumble by Chargers WR Richard Goodman who left the ball on the ground when he wasn't touched down. Ninkovich jumped on a backward pass that turned out to be a fumble. Ninkovich didn't just secure the ball, he got up to run it back 63 yards to the SD 8, setting up another Patriots score. Only one gaffe, but that was on special teams.
Stephen Gostkowski – after a rough start to the season, Gostkowski delivered when it mattered most. Three Field Goals were crucial in New England's win. Gostkowski hit from 40, 35 and 35 yards out.
Honorable Mentions: Patriots Run Defense, The Chargers final false start penalty, Sergio Brown
Undrafted Free Agents -- Dane Fletcher forced a fumble, made some solid tackles, and even recovered some sort of kickoff attempt. Danny Woodhead was again a nuisance for the opposition, while Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis scored in his 4th straight game. All budding starts, all undrafted - the Patriot way.
2nd Half Offense -- The modus operandi so far this season has been for the Patriots to have a vastly improved offense in the 2nd half. That certainly held true today as they needed each of the 13 points scored after halftime.
Patriots Mental Discipline -- Two turnovers were created by Patriots not quitting on plays that the Chargers did. Rob Ninkovich and James Sanders each capitalized on mental mistakes by the Chargers.
Honorable Mentions: The right upright, Stephen Gostkowski
Patriots Pass Protection – Until the Patriots moved into a two-minute offense, the team struggled to get the ball downfield. When Brady ran hurry-up the offense clicked. Brady's quick release masked a lot of the issues the team had with protection. Brady was sacked 4 times
Kick Return Unit – Typically the strength of the team, the Patriots special teams gave up a crucial onside kickoff late in the game. The mistake allowed San Diego to capitalize on the drive closing to 23-20.
Red Zone Offense – Field goals?
Gary Guyton -- For a linebacker who has built his reputation based on playing fast - he certainly looked slow today. He routinely failed to break down in open space - beaten easily by a hobbled Antonio Gates and left grasping air by the admittedly quick Darren Sproles. Guyton certainly wasn't at his best today.
Jake Ingram -- We have been harping on the long-snapper all year. Due to Zoltan Mesko's athleticism and hands there hasn't been a major gaffe yet, but the bad snaps just keep on coming.
Matt Light -- The Patriots left tackle had his worst game of the year, giving up multiple sacks and allowing constant pressure on Tom Brady. Antwan Barnes shouldn't be looking like a Shawne Merriman from five years ago.
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