A quick look at the Chargers game is one that gives most fans an opportunity to relive the AFC Championship game from last year that the Patriots won to continue their march toward history at 18-0. These aren't your same Patriots, and here are five reasons they won't beat the Chargers on Sunday.
1. The Chargers Still Have L.T.
Critics can use whatever adjective they'd like to describe Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlison; Soft, Prima donna, injured, misunderstood. What they still need to do is call him one of the best runners in the league. San Diego has struggled to get Tomlinson into space the way they were able to in years past. When Tomlinson has a hole to run through with plenty of open space, he's still pound-for-pound one of the best pure running backs in the NFL. Tomlinson has rushed for 331 yards on 89 carries (3.7 avg.) with 4 TDs. Tomlinson gets to run against a Patriots defense, which has allowed opposing runners to gain 4.9 yards per carry. If San Diego's line can give him any space, this is the game LT gets on track
2. New England Is Down Two Running Backs
Compared to the Chargers, New England's running game is still in the dark ages. The team's first round pick is talking about having "issues, while it's top performer will miss today's game with a calf injury. New England's top runner, Sammy Morris is averaging just 43 carries for 143 yards (3.3 avg.) and just 1 run over 20 yards. Jordan at least averaged over 4 yards per carry as he bulldozed his way through opponents. New England's home run threat used to reside with Maroney, but his shoulder injury is obviously limiting his ability to gain tough yards. The one part of San Diego's defense, which still works well, is their rush defense allowing just 113 yards per game. Without two of their top runners the Patriots will have trouble gaining the tough yards with Kevin Faulk and recently activated BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the interior Chargers defense - the place New England has had the most successful runs.
Matt Cassel is growing into his role as the game manager of the Patirots offense, but the way that the Patriots were able to defeat the Chargers in the past has been on the arm of Tom Brady. The ground game helped, but New England used a late drive in 2006 to knock the Chargers out at home. Brady threw for 280 yards, 2TDs and 3 INTs in that game, leading New England to an 11 point rally late to win 24-21. If that happens this week, Matt Cassel doesn't' have the same experience leading the team back. He's never had to lead a game winning drive as a starting quarterback, and his mundane performances this season have given no indication he even possess the ability to lead the Patriots back from behind.
4. The Chargers Are Better At Making Big Plays
If San Diego wants to get into a shootout like they did in the middle of their 5-game season so far, they're going to be able to put up points in a hurry against the Patriots. The Dolphins ran up 38 on New England before the Patriots knew what hit them. San Diego has averaged 34.8 points per game before they hit Miami's buzz saw, the same one that limited New England to just 13 points in week 3. San Diego has 18 passing plays over 20 yards and 6 over 40 yards so far. New England has just 7 passing plays over 20 yards and 2 over 40. While New England's pass defense is ranked 8th best in the league, they've only faced 107 passing attempts (3rd fewest in the NFL).
5. Turnovers Are Against Them
The Patriots still have a negative 1 ratio in the turnover department. That may work against lesser teams, but against a team like San Diego it will be serious trouble. Though New England won 30-21 against the 49ers last Sunday, they gave the ball away twice on interceptions. Fortunately J.T. O'Sullivan gave the ball right back after one play, and tossed up a gimme interception toward the end of the game. San Diego has a +4 turnover ratio with no mistakes in their close loss to the Dolphins last week. If New England is sloppy with the ball, the Chargers will make them pay.
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