By Site Staff
PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Tom Brady (19-of-32, 224 yards, touchdown, interception) looked sharp early, completing 14 of his first 20 throws for 203 yards. Then he threw incomplete three times from the Chargers' 6-yard line in the final minute of the first half. That was the start of a cold streak that saw him go 5-for-9 for 21 yards and an INT after halftime. He was sacked once, pressured often and found his best receiver, Deion Branch, only once for 6 yards. Third-stringer Matt Cassel had an INT returned for a score in garbage time.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Corey Dillon (14 carries for 63 yards) finally crafted a decent yards-per-carry average (4.5), but his numbers were inflated by a 29-yard run on his second attempt. Not counting his 1-yard TD run, he had eight carries that went for 2 yards or fewer, including one for a 7-yard loss. He shows flashes of his 2004 form now and then, but the running game is still AWOL.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- No Rodney Harrison at safety. No pressure on Drew Brees, who threw only five incompletions in 12 attempts and wasn't sacked. No clue as to how to cover tight end Antonio Gates (six catches for 108 yards). Again, no interceptions, leaving the Patriots with just one through four weeks. New England's worst crime here? Allowing Drew Brees (who has a 137.5 passer rating) to complete his first six third-down throws (all for conversions) to begin the second half.
RUN DEFENSE: F -- Really, what other grade is there when you allow 183 yards and two touchdowns on the ground? LaDainian Tomlinson ran 25 times for 134 yards, and Michael Turner chipped in 44 more on 11 attempts. Turner also had a 46-yard TD run nullified by a holding penalty. Tomlinson's long run was only 11 yards, but he was a model of consistency with nine carries of 8 or more yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Played Chargers to a draw, which is more than the offense or defense could say. Patriots had plenty of practice on kickoffs, returning eight of them. Bethel Johnson had a 51-yard gallop. Luckily, he recovered his own fumble at the end of it. The Chargers' return teams didn't do much, averaging 8.0 yards on punts and 20.0 yards on kickoffs. No penalties here, but a rare Adam Vinatieri field goal miss.
COACHING: D -- A rare whiff for the Patriots' staff. The Chargers didn't do anything fancy, but the Patriots were unable to come up with any answers. The offense sputtered to a halt in the second half, and the defense never figured out a way to cover Gates or to stop Tomlinson from cutting back for big gains. Playing without Harrison, left tackle Matt Light and third-down back Kevin Faulk, the Patriots looked out of sync on both sides of the ball.
CHARGERS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Drew Brees had his second straight stellar game, this time completing 19-of-24 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball around to eight different players. The protection for Brees was outstanding, as he wasn't sacked and was seldom pressured without first going through his reads at least once.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- LaDainian Tomlinson noticed something in his film work on the Pats. If C Nick Hardwick could reach DT Vince Wilfork, it opened up the cutback lanes. Hardwick was able to do so, and Tomlinson did his thing to the tune of 134 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. The run-blocking was solid, and it was proven when Michael Turner entered the game and averaged 4 yards on 11 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- Any time a pass defense can beat a Tom Brady-run team, that's impressive. And don't think this unit didn't stub its toe a time or two in the game -- Sammy Davis was burned by Tim Dwight in single coverage for a score. But there are some small steps being taken here. And some of that much be attributed to a pass rush which sacked Brady once and made him hurry his throws on numerous occasions. But the defensive backs, who have been wearing a target, get some credit for doing their part.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Corey Dillon had two good runs; other that, he was bottled up: he rushed for 63 yards and a score on 14 carries. Once the Patriots fell so far behind, it was predictable they would ditch the running game. Nose tackle Jamal Williams had a good game, as did Edwards (a team-high 11 tackles). Overall, the Patriots managed but 73 rushing yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Darren Sproles was bottled up for really the first time this season, held to a 20-yard average on four kickoff returns. The Chargers got burned by Bethel Johnson on a 54-yard kickoff return. Mike Scifres didn't have to do much; he averaged 34.3 net yards on three punts. Nate Kaeding was something that Adam Vinatieri wasn't: perfect. Kaeding nailed his two attempts, from 42 and 21 yards.
COACHING: A -- A tip of the hat to coach Marty Schottenheimer and his staff. Schottenheimer wouldn't let the players fall back on the excuses of traveling cross-country or having to play the world champions to intimidate them. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had a super mix of run and pass. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips went with a press coverage on the Pats receivers, and with a decent pass rush, they couldn't get any separation in time for Brady to hit them with a pass.
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