Report Cards: Patriots - Chargers

A final look back at Week 2. Grades handed out to each unit, for both teams. For a hint at which area earned an "F", see the picture.


   PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Spreading the ball around to eight different receivers, throwing for 400-plus yards and adding three touchdown passes with no interceptions is as good as it gets. Tom Brady was once again terrific Sunday, and Deion Branch was his No. 1 target, catching eight passes for 129 yards. Through two games, the passing has been flawless.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- There weren't too many rushing opportunities, but give BenJarvus Green-Ellis credit for icing the game with his 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The team's ability to pass has opened up opportunities in the running game, albeit on a limited basis, but the players are taking advantage when they have a chance to make a big play.

   PASS DEFENSE: C -- This is still a concern, whether it's the lack of a pass rush or the propensity to give up big plays. The secondary deserves some kudos for the two interceptions on Philip Rivers, but the Patriots are too easy to throw against in situations where it's obvious the opponent is going to throw the majority of the time. That is probably the most alarming issue.

   RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The front seven did a nice job against the burly Mike Tolbert, stopping him on a goal-line stand early in the game and then forcing him into a crucial fumble down the stretch. The Chargers converted on a couple of long runs, but the run defense held up overall. The turnovers were critical.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Nothing to bark about here. The Patriots rendered the return game irrelevant by not allowing any punt returns and also held up defensively on kick returns. Stephen Gostkowski bounced back from last week's miss by hitting two field goals Sunday.

   COACHING: A -- Give credit to Bill Belichick for the play-calling toward the end of the first half when the Patriots marched up the field in a matter of seconds to set up a field goal in the closing seconds. The rest of the game was fairly simple from a play-calling standpoint -- let Brady carry the team on his shoulders.


   PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Philip Rivers threw for two touchdowns and 378 yards -- a big deal? Most games it would be. But his three turnovers (two interceptions) trump all. He didn't take care of the ball and that is always the main goal for any quarterback. Vincent Jackson was stellar with a career-high 10 receptions. The pass protection had a leak or two -- two sacks -- but for the most part Rivers had the time to survey the defense. TE Antonio Gates was missing in action; the Patriots made sure the Pro Bowler wouldn't be the one to beat them by using near-constant double team help from a safety.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- A lack of ball security is the big red flag flapping in this category. Mike Tolbert's fourth-quarter fumble inside the New England 35 with the Chargers poised to march in for the go-ahead touchdown was a killer. Ryan Mathews continues to blossom; he had a combined 126 yards, showing his versatility as a runner and a pass-catcher. But the turnover by Tolbert can't be ignored.

   PASS DEFENSE: F -- Shredded, mutilated -- you pick the adjective. Tom Brady went for three touchdowns and 423 yards as it looked at times as if he was in a 9-on-7 drill. The pass rush seldom put him in a hurry; Brady's hurry-up offense exploited the Chargers lack of communication and coverage skills. Tough day for the safeties, as Bob Sanders and Eric Weddle had subpar games. The corner got picked on as well, with them giving too much cushion as Brady continually took advantage of it.

   RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Chargers kept the Patriots under 100 rushing yards and that is always a milestone the defense wants to reach. But the Patriots ran but 23 times as Brady was more than content to burn the Chargers through the air. Rookie ILB Donald Bulter had a good day; Takeo Spikes added seven tackles. Longest run of the day by the Patriots was 16 yards -- not bad when compared to what was being allowed through the air.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- No complaints here as the coverages were keen. But the Chargers are still searching for a spark in the return game, especially on punts. Richard Goodman had a 27-yard kickoff return and that was the lone highlight in the return game. New kicker Nick Novak didn't get tested on any field goals; he was perfect on his three extra-point attempts.

   COACHING: F -- Norv Turner was upbeat after the game, saying how excited he was in what this team can accomplish. That's nice coachspeak but his team was dreadful on both sides of the ball in the most important areas. His offense gave up four turnovers; his defense got zero takeaways and allowed the rival to run-up 504 yards and 35 points. New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was hired to shine in games just like this one and the Chargers fell flat. There was doubt in defending the no-huddle and Brady often stood in the pocket for extended lengths of time to find the right receiver. Yes the Chargers had a chance to go-ahead late in the game -- so what. There are no moral victories in the NFL and the Chargers don't need to go claiming one here.

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