New England Takes Control In San Diego: 3 Things We Learned
There was a lot at stake in San Diego this Sunday Night...
The New England Patriots came into town straight from a heart-breaking loss to the Green Bay Packers which broke a seven game winning streak. A win means holding the tie-breaker over the Broncos and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
San Diego is on a quest to keep pace with the Broncos, as well, who won today to go up two games in the West pending tonight's outcome. A loss would mean a very difficult road to the playoffs, and possibly being on the outside looking in with teams like the Ravens, Chiefs, and Steelers. And it doesn't get any easier with the Broncos, Niners, and Chiefs to end the season.
New England has it a bit easier, with the remainder of the season pitting the division leader against all three division rivals. None of them are playing well, and the worst of them, New York, is the only away game.
In a very important contest with playoff implications, here is what we learned.
1. The Referrees have no idea how to call hits on receivers.
I can't help myself; this has got to stop! I have seen so many of these horrible calls on defensive backs who are killing themselves to comply with the insane NFL rules about hitting receivers and STILL get called for penalties. Either change the rules, educate the refs, or review those calls! There is no excuse for changing the outcome of a game with a bad call. Brandon Browner may be an aggressive player, but he did not make contact with Green's head. I say: fine the ref who has the nerve to throw that flag. Enough with the BS. This is football!
2. The Patriots looked like they forgot how to block.
Tom Brady depends on his front line more than any QB in the league. He is great, if he has time. Knock him around and it's a whole different ball game. For the past seven games, they seemed to have that solved. The Charger defense got to him early and often and did just that. And the Patriot offense had more trouble moving the chains, lost yardage, and committed uncharacteristic errors because of that rush. Even worse, promising drives fell short for the same reason.
3. Don't make the Patriots mad; you won't like them when they are mad.
Brady doesn't like to lose or to made to look like a fool. This is how you overcome adversity and finish the job. After a putrid first half, one that saw what I described above, the Patriots bore down and took control. The Chargers kept the damage to a minimum for a while, but one of the most resilient offenses in the league came back with a vengeance.
While Brady rattled-off 20 unanswered points, it was their defense that kept them in this one. Guys like Rob Ninkovich and Jamie Collins did what they had to do to keep the Chargers off the scoreboard. Revis Island and Co. did the rest, keeping a great receiving corps in front of them and frustrating Philip Rivers. Ryan Matthews never got going, while LeGarrette Blount did enough damage with his legs to soften the defense for Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to do what they do best.
If I am giving out game balls, I give it to a defense that keeps finding ways to fill the gaps and keep fighting in the trenches. Rivers is not an easy QB to hold to under 200 yards, and bottling-up Matthews is quite a feat.
As one-sided as the first half was for the Chargers, the second half belonged to the Patriots. Now, the AFC belongs to them, as well. Bill Belichick has his team right where they need to be. Mike McCoy has his work cut out for him to get his team back to winning and hopefully vying for a wild-card spot.