1. Mental Toughness.
The Patriots are mentally tougher than the Chargers, especially with the game on the line. That speaks volumes when it comes crunch time. Look at this years San Diego vs Denver game. True it was a bad call on a fumble that gave Denver the ball back in the red zone. It was San Diegos defense that let Denver score a touchdown. Then if that wasnt enough the same defense allowed Denver who elected to go for a two point conversion and the win to be successful and win the game.
That wasnt the first time the Chargers had lost a game in the closing seconds. The first game of the year verses the Carolina Panthers was lost in the closing seconds when Carolina scored a touchdown. Both times in the closing seconds San Diego has given up touchdowns to lose the game. If this game comes down to the closing seconds count on the Chargers remembering their inability to stop their opponents on a game saving drive. The Patriots on the other hand when presented with that situation performed a goal line stance stopping the Chiefs from scoring the tying touchdown in week one. Another thing that has haunted the Chargers are the dumb personal foul penalties that will keep the opponents drives alive at the end of the game. All of these are related to the mental toughness of the Chargers.
2. San Diegos pass defense
The Chargers are tied for seventh place in the NFL in sacks along with the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers . So it is known that the Chargers can get to the quarterback. The Patriots beat the other two teams tied with San Diego in sacks. This begs the question, what are the Chargers doing when they are not sacking the quarterback? Answer: Giving up 265.6 pass yards a game. In case youre wondering that is good for 32nd place in the NFL. Can you say dead last? Imagine how bad theyd be if they didnt get to the quarterback for the sacks. No one will ever confuse Matt Cassel for Tom Brady. If the Chargers defenders dont get to Cassel, he should be able to make them pay with enough plays to score touchdowns and most importantly keep the Patriots offense on the field and San Diegos offense on the sidelines.
3. San Diegos total defense
The Charger defense is ranked 24th in the NFL allowing 25.8 points a game. The also include allowing 113.4 rush yards per game to their opponent, 18th in the NFL. Although the pass defense so far this year has been horrible for the Chargers, expect New England to run the ball. The Patriots average almost as much as the Chargers allow per game at 113 rush yards a game, a mere 0.4 yards difference. A healthy dose of Sammy Morris should slow down the Chargers pass rush. As of Friday Lamont Jordan did not practice. If somehow he gets himself ready and able to play on Sunday it could be a long night for the Chargers. This will also cut down on Cassel making mistakes and allow him to just manage the game while cutting down on opportunities for the Chargers to make plays on defense. If the Chargers cant make any plays on defense and get the Patriot offense off of the field on third down, they are looking at making their 2008 record 2-4.
4. San Diego Rushing offense
The Chargers are 21st in the NFL in rushing averaging 98.6 yards a game. Thats with one of the games best running backs in LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers are at their best when they are running the ball. In contrast the Chargers are averaging 226.6 passing yards a game, ranking 9th in the NFL. When the Patriots have had trouble with the Chargers in the past, LT as he is called had big days rushing the ball. New England welcomes the chance to force Philip Rivers to beat them instead of LT. Although the Charger passing yards rank in the top ten, they have a sub .500 record. That plays into the Patriots hand on defense. The Patriots only allow 175.2 passing yards a game, 8th best in the NFL. Chambers and Jackson, the starting wider receivers for San Diego both appeared on the injury report, with Chambers most likely out. No word yet on Jackson. If Chambers and Jackson cannot play it changes the Chargers game plan. If they do and the Chargers cant run effectively at the Patriots (124.8 rushing yards allowed, ranking 20th in the NFL) they will most certainly put themselves at a major disadvantage.
5. Team Leadership and Coaching.
Norv Turner is piloting the Chargers to a slow start for the second straight year. Maybe because he takes it easy on his starters in the pre-season has something to do with it. Turner has a reputation for being a players coach and that laid back attitude shows up in the pre-season. This could explain why the Chargers with all of the talent they have on the field start the regular season slowly then have to play catch up. Doing that this year may really prove to be a hazard with Denver leading the way in the AFC West Division. The slow start can really put San Diego in jeopardy of not making the playoffs this year, especially if they struggle to knock off the Brady-less Pats. After New England the Chargers fly east to face Buffalo, another well disciplined team.
Contrast the Chargers coaching direction with the camp Belichick runs with the Patriots. The Patriot training camp is not easy on the players and it shows. When the Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first game of this year they didnt fold up tent and give up. They are taught when one player goes down its up the other player to step and do his job. Even when the Miami Dolphins beat the Patriots at home, New England came out after the bye week to beat San Francisco on the road. They believe in Belichick and his track record of three Super Bowl Championships. The Patriots have leaders in the locker room to make sure everyone stays focus and does their job the same leaders who have been through the undefeated regular season and the Super Bowl wins. I dont see the same thing from the Chargers. Listening to LT cry over spilled milk during his press conference after a Chargers loss is like night and day compared to listening to Tedy Bruschi after a Patriots loss. In a nutshell, that explains everything you need to know about the differences in leadership.
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