Patriots

Patriots 23, Chargers 20: Best and worst

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Patriots 23, Chargers 20: Best and worst

By Tom E. Curran and Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

SAN DIEGO -- The best and worst of the Patriots' 23-20 victory over the Chargers.
BEST RESPONSE TO A LONG WEEK In the first quarter, Patrick Crayton caught a pass at the sticks in front of Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather.After a week of being vilified (rightly) for his hit on Todd Heap, Meriweather lowered his shoulder and arrived at the right time, decleating Crayton. Crayton held on for the catch, though. BEST INSTANCE OF UNREWARDED TRICKINESSIn the first quarter, Tom Bradyhanded off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis who swept right then lateraled to Wes Welker who swept leftwho then lateraled to Brady who made a hurried throw into coverage intended for Deion Branch. In. Com. Plete. BEST INSTANCE OF UNREWARDED TRICKINESS IIThe Chargers attacked the Patriots with an onsides kick in the first quarter. The Patriots' Dane Fletcher recovered but New England didn't cash in, failing to make a first down.
BEST IMITATION OF THE 2002 PATRIOTS
Rob Ninkovich as KGB. The Chargers' lateral that Jacob Hester didn't pursue, for assuming an incomplete, was recovered after an awkward pause by Patriots OLB Rob Ninkovich. The move was reminiscent of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's recovery against the Patriots of a Brady backward pass that Kevin Faulk missed on October 13, '02. Ninkovich ran the ball 63 yards.

BEST HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTSAfter a stagnant first half, the Patriots took the second-half kickoff and went 89 yards in 17 plays with two third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion. The Chargers didn't get the ball until 6:19 remained in the third and the score was 20-3. WORST MIC MANAGEMENTBetween the third and fourth quarters, referee Tony Corrente left his on-field mic on. The stadium was treated to nuggets like, "Whadda we got, fourth-and-7?" "Just to let you know, we're behind three TV timeouts." The sounds of Corrente jogging to the other end of the field and his lament that "I can't hear poop in this thing."
WORST REALIZATION OF A POST-GAME GOAL
Tom Brady said that the Patriots "can't just play 30 minutes of good football" in reflection of his team's need to hustle for a last-second comeback win against Baltimore. New England followed up on its QB's statement with roughly eight minutes of good football this Sunday.

BEST UNDERRATED LINEBACKER
Jerod Mayo continues to impress. The defensive captain had nine tackles and a fumble recovery on the day. It's looking like Mayo will be the first Patriot to have three 100 tackle seasons since Lawyer Milloy. But New England some defensive issues on the front burner right now and not enough people are noticing.

WORST NERVES
Mary Paoletti, Comcast SportsNet New England, diving for cover when cannons and pyrotechnics accompanying the Chargers introductionswere set loose.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

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Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.

1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right. 

They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected. 

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3

2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead. 

The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards. 

3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one. 

They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.

4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late. 

They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.

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