Game Preview: Chargers @ Patriots

News, Notes, links and more for Sunday's Week 2 matchup between the Patriots (1-0) and the Chargers (1-0).

San Diego Chargers (1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 9/18/11
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
SURFACE: FieldTurf
Weather: Foxboro, Mass
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms

PREDICTION:
Patriots 37-27

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers want to create more offensive balance and be more physical this season, and no better time to assert both principles than on the road against a Patriots attack capable of wearing down any defense. RBs Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews combined for 36 touches last week. If they can approach that number, it will create more one-on-one for the wideouts downfield, where the Chargers will enjoy big mismatches. Brady is effectively using TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to attack the seams and underneath routes, creating more single coverage against his wideouts. The Chargers are counting on DEs Vaughn Martin and rookie Corey Liuget to take over for injured Luis Castillo on the right side.

FAST FACTS: The Patriots have a nine-game regular-season winning streak and have won nine consecutive home openers, while QB Tom Brady has won an NFL-record 28 consecutive regular-season home games. ... The Patriots won the last meeting, 23-20, at San Diego on Oct. 24 last year. ... Chargers TE Antonio Gates needs five receptions to pass Kellen Winslow (541) for second-most in franchise history behind Charlie Joiner's 586. ... Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 14 rushing TDs since the start of last season is second in the NFL behind Arian Foster's 16.  

  SERIES HISTORY: 36th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 19-14-2. The Chargers have lost four of their last five games with the Patriots, and that includes the heartbreaking, 21-12, loss in the AFC title game. Of course it was in 2006 that the Patriots came back from trailing by eight with eight minutes remaining in an AFC divisional game. The loss not only bounced the top-seeded Chargers from the playoffs, but cost Marty Schottenheimer his job, despite a 14-2 regular-season record. The Chargers' lone championship season came in 1963, when they defeated the Boston Patriots, 51-10, in old Balboa Stadium in the American Football League.

BY THE NUMBERS:
906 -- Number of passing yards the Patriots and Dolphins combined for on Monday night. That set an NFL record for most passing yards in a single game.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

CHARGERS

 Going to be new faces among some key players when the Chargers face the Patriots on Sunday.

   Defensive end Luis Castillo is out for an extended period of time and he'll be replaced by Vaughn Martin.

   Kicker Nate Kaeding is on IR after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Nick Novak is being asked to fill a huge void there.

   Keep an eye on the Chargers' secondary as it will be tested by Tom Brady. Among the key players not normally in the spotlight could be nickel back Dante Hughes and Marcus Gilchrist, a backup rookie cornerback who'll be pressed into action with the Patriots going to multiple-receiver sets.

PERSONNEL:
   --WR Patrick Crayton (ankle) continues to work in his bid to be healthy for Sunday; he missed the opener. If Crayton is active, it might mean Bryan Walters sits.
   --ILB Jonas Mouton (shoulder) isn't practicing and won't be in the mix again this week.
   --WR Vincent Jackson could be in for a big game, one game after a similar sized pass-catcher, Miami's Brandon Marshall, exposed the Patriots' undersized cornerbacks. The same is true for Jackson's teammate, the lanky Malcom Floyd.
   --OLB Larry English is working, but coach Norv Turner always hems and haws when asked about his chances of going Sunday. English is a former first-round pick slowed by leg and foot injuries.
   --WR Vincent Brown (hamstring) continued to practice but he could be a healthy inactive on Sunday.



PATRIOTS

 With Dan Koppen likely to miss six to 10 weeks due to an ankle injury, LG Dan Connolly will serve as the backup center until further notice.

   For now, it's business as usual offensively, particularly after an impressive offensive display in Monday's win at Miami. The Patriots got tremendous production from their tight ends, which will likely continue Sunday against the Chargers.

   As for personnel changes, the Patriots signed former Miami offensive lineman Donald Thomas to add depth. Thomas has played three seasons, including one with Detroit.

   The Patriots also released OL Thomas Welch from the 53-man roster and signed TE Garrett Mills and LB Jeff Tarpinian to the practice squad while releasing LB Aaron Lavarias from the practice squad.

PERSONNEL:
   --Recently acquired LB A.J. Edds has been seen wearing the black jersey in practice this week, which indicates he was one of last week's most productive practice players in terms of preparing the starters for what they faced in Miami.
   --RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis entered the Miami game tied for 10th place in franchise with Mosi Tatupu with 18 rushing touchdowns and added a 4-yard rushing touchdown to move into ninth place.
   --QB Tom Brady threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to TE Rob Gronkowski early in the second quarter to move into sole possession of 10th place on the NFL's all-time passing list with 262 career touchdowns. He added three more touchdowns for a career total of 265.
   --WR Wes Welker extended his streak to 62 straight games with at least one reception as a member of the Patriots. He needs two more games with at least one reception to surpass the team mark of 63 set by TE Ben Coates. 
   --WR Matthew Slater registered his first NFL reception with a 46-yard catch from QB Tom Brady in the first quarter.
   -- OT Sebastian Vollmer has been limited in practice this week due to a back injury, but all signs point to him returning to the lineup Sunday against San Diego, which limits rookie Nate Solder to more of a backup role.
   -- CB Leigh Bodden is back in practice after missing Wednesday's session with a back injury. He should be ready for Sunday's game.
   -- C Dan Koppen was not at practice and likely won't be for a while due to a broken ankle that will probably sideline him for at least six weeks.
   -- DL Mike Wright reportedly suffered another concussion in Monday's win at Miami. This is problematic considering the issues he dealt with last year regarding concussions. No timetable on his return.

LINKS:
Patriots Newswire
NFL News
Bolts Notebook: Time to Make a Statement Premium Story
Another Youngster Drawing Brady Comparisons Premium Story
Communication Is Key For Secondary
Shuffling The Offensive Line a Necessity Premium Story
Patriots-Chargers: Matchups, Gameplans... Premium Story
Sparano: Forget About The Patriots Premium Story
Patriots Gridiron Report Week 2: Chargers
Double Trouble: Patriots TE's A Big Threat

Other Games This Weekend:

Sunday

Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Oakland Raiders (1-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Washington Redskins (1-0)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
Chicago Bears (1-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)
Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)
Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at Detroit Lions (1-0)
Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Dallas Cowboys (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) at Denver Broncos (0-1)
San Diego Chargers (1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0)
Houston Texans (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1)
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

Monday
St. Louis Rams (0-1) at New York Giants (0-1)


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