PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Nothing great, nothing bad. The Patriots didn't make too much noise in the passing game as they continue to struggle in the aftermath of trading Randy Moss. Tom Brady threw for 159 yards and a touchdown and finished 19-for-32. The key here was no turnovers. Brady kept it clean, which makes this more than a manageable effort.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The lack of depth is finally starting to catch up with the Patriots. No Kevin Faulk and no Fred Taylor is trouble. Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for just 48 yards, and Green-Ellis got stuffed on what could've been a critical fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Patriots had a tough time closing this one out as the Chargers scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before Kris Brown missed the game-tying field-goal attempt in the closing seconds. Philip Rivers threw for 336 yards, though most of that came in the second half with the Chargers trailing big. Credit CB Devin McCourty with an acrobatic interception on one of Rivers' few mistakes.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Chargers didn't try to run the ball much, and when they did, they didn't get much yardage. Had the Patriots given up some big plays early, San Diego's game plan might have changed, but New England's ability to hold its ground up front put the burden on Rivers' shoulders.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Stephen Gostkowski nailed all three of his field-goal attempts, and Julian Edelman chipped in with a 34-yard punt return. There were no major impact plays on special teams, just an overall solid effort on both sides of the ball.
COACHING: C -- The decision to go for the first down on fourth-and-1 late in the game might be criticized, but Bill Belichick had the right idea. He just made the wrong call. Putting the ball in Green-Ellis' hands with the game on the line is dangerous. A sneak by Brady would've been more appropriate. Thanks to the Chargers' gaffes on offense, Belichick's blunder wasn't costly.
CHARGERS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Too many drops, too many careless throws, too much pressure, although when throwing 50 times, two sacks might not be all that bad. But it's clear the more Philip Rivers throws the more likely the Chargers are facing a losing situation. The balance the team craved is nowhere to be found. Antonio Gates turned in a gritty effort with a bad toe. Richard Goodman caught his first NFL pass and then laid the ball on the ground for a fumble. Then Jacob Hester didn't go after what he thought was a swing pass -- it was a fumble.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Five different rushers handled the ball and not a one could spit out a two-yard average. The Chargers fell behind -- their excuse -- so they didn't establish the running game. Instead, it was the lack of running lanes with the backs often making their best moves just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Good stuff here with Tom Brady never really carving up the secondary. There was decent pressure on Brady as OLB Antwan Barnes continues to show he is a player. Antoine Cason was nailed for a questionable pass interference call late in the game, which was critical. Brady managed but 159 passing yards and an 82.7 rating.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Not much here for the Patriots as they were consistently stuffed by the linemen and the linebackers. Antonio Garay was solid in the middle -- save a 15-yard personal foul on third down that kept a Patriots scoring drive alive. DE Luis Castillo, hard to believe, had one less tackle than Philip Rivers -- no, really.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- A pooch kick that went wrong, a field-goal attempt that hit the upright, a 34-yard punt return - should we go on? This unit continues to rob the Chargers of yards and momentum. They did recover an onside kick.
COACHING: F -- Different week, same bugaboo. The Chargers seldom exit the locker room looking prepared and it showed again when the team went behind 13-3 in the first half. There is very little inspired play or even the hint of it from a vast majority of the team. That's on Norv Turner. Kudos to Ron Rivera and his defense as they played so well but had so very little to show for it.
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This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange