Patriots' defense stands tall in 35-21 victory


Patriots' defense stands tall in 35-21 victory

By ArtMartone

FOXBORO -- Yes, they gave up 21 points. Yes, they gave up 470 yards. Yes, they probably made things a little more interesting than they'd have liked.

But don't let it be said that the Patriots' defense didn't have a hand -- a big one -- in Sunday's 35-21 victory over the Chargers at Gillette Stadium.

They had their second goal-line stand in two weeks -- stopping San Diego on a first-and-goal from the 4, with Jerod Mayo stuffing Mike Tolbert on fourth down from the 1 -- to protect a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

Vince Wilfork's first career interception set up a last-play-of-the-first-half Stephen Gostkowski field goal that put the Pats in front, 20-7.

An interception by Sergio Brown, his first since high school, on the New England 7 stopped a Chargers scoring chance in the third quarter.

And after the Pats had turned the ball over after a failed fourth-and-four from the San Diego 49 in the fourth quarter with a slim 20-14 lead -- a decision made in part because punter Zoltan Mesko suffered a knee injury earlier in the period -- Mayo forced a Tolbert fumble that was recovered by Rob Ninkovich. The Pats then went down and scored, making it 28-14 and, even though the Chargers would score again, tipping the game in their favor.

The defense put the exclamation point on the victory when Mark Anderson recovered a Philip Rivers fumble -- the fourth San Diego turnover of the game -- with 1:02 to play.

The turnovers led directly to 10 points, and the goal-line stand led to seven more for a total of 17 . . . in a 14-point victory.

"If the defense makes a big stop like that (goal-line stand), you got to do something with it," said quarterback Tom Brady. "If the defense gets you the ball (via turnovers), you got to do something with it."

The teams had traded scores in the first quarter. A 14-yard Brady-to-Aaron Hernandez touchdown pass capped a 12-play, 92-yard drive that gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead. Then a pair of acrobaticthird-down catches by Malcom Floyd -- one for 23 yards over the middleof the field that put the ball on the New England 40, and the other a36-yarder down the sideline that moved San Diego to the Pats' 10 -- setup a 10-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mathews, finishing off an 80-yardmarch.

The Pats went ahead, 20-7, in the second quarter when, after a Gostkowski chip-shot field goal made it 10-7, they scored on a pair of defense-to-offense scoring drives.

After Mayo stopped Tolbert and the Pats took over on their own 1, two plays -- a 12-yard pass from Brady to WesWelker, and a 30-yard completion from Brady to Chad Ochocinco -- put them near midfield. From there, they marched implacably downfield until Bradyhit Rob Gronkowski with a 10-yard touchdown pass that put the Pats infront, 17-7.

TheChargers drove to the New England 29 in the final minute of thehalf, but Wilfork deflected and intercepted a Rivers pass and rumbled 28 yards into San Diegoterritory.

"There isn't a fat guy who doesn't like to run the ball," joked offensive lineman Matt Light.

A block-in-the-back penalty returned the ball to SanDiego 47, but Brady hit two quick passes to Deion Branch, of 11 and 7yards, that moved the Pats to the 29 with one second left. Gostkowski then drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired, givingNew England a 20-7 lead.

The Chargers narrowed it to 20-14 on a three-yard pass from Rivers to Vincent Jackson early in the fourth quarter, which finished off a 10-play, 64-yard drive. Then they got the ball back at the 49 after the missed fourth-and-four Brady-to-Branch pass attempt, and quickly moved to the 34 on a pair of Rivers passes to Ryan Mathews.

But Tolbert was stripped of the ball by Mayo and Ninkovich recovered on the 39. It took Brady four plays -- a one-yard loss by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, followed by completions of 33 yards to Branch, 12 yards to Welker and 17 yards (and a touchdown) to Gronkowski -- to convert the fumble into a score. A two-point conversion run by Danny Woodhead made the score 28-14.

The Chargers got back to 28-21 on a 26-yard Rivers scoring pass to Jackson, but Green-Ellis made it a 14-point game again with 1:54 to play, capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring run.

Brady had another 400-yard passing day (423, to be exact), completing 31 of 40 attempts. Branch caught 8 passes for 129 yards, and Welker and Hernandez each had seven receptions. Overall, the Pats had 504 yards total offense.

"I'm excited," said Branch. "I'm excited to see what this offense will look like once we put everything together."

If it looks as good as the defense looked when it counted on Sunday, they'll be in good shape.

ArtMartone can be reached at

Tom Brady: Achilles injury 'nothing to worry about'


Tom Brady: Achilles injury 'nothing to worry about'

FOXBORO — Within 30 seconds of his Friday press conference beginning, Tom Brady was talking about biscuits. That should tell you how small a deal he considers the Achilles tendon issue that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. 

Brady practiced for the second straight day Friday, after which he confirmed that he will be good to go Sunday against the Dolphins. 

“I feel great. Ready to go, so I’ll be excited for Sunday and it feels good to get a little extra treatment,” Brady said. “I’m feeling great this time of year. It will be a fun week. Nothing to worry about.”

After that, Brady spoke about the aforementioned Thanksgiving biscuits of which he posted pictures on Instagram. He said they were good. Rob Gronkowski said he wanted some and that there would be “problems” if Brady didn’t bring any in for him. Everyone got a real kick out of it. 

It’s hard to imagine Brady’s status for Sunday having actually been up in the air. He has gone 134 consecutive regular-season games without missing time do to injury. His only absence in that span came in the form of last season’s four-game suspension for Deflategate. 

Friday Bag: By all accounts, Brady is well-heeled


Friday Bag: By all accounts, Brady is well-heeled

I'm going dark meat to start things off. Love all meats here -- other than tofurky, which I'm not positive is a real thing -- but dark meat is the best value on the board. Give me a whole turkey leg (should qualify) and not only am I satiated, but I all of a sudden have something on my plate that few others do. Value! For potatoes, have to go mashed and gravy. My value game plan is already out the window, but I can't go with anything else. This will come back to bite me. Give me the bread stuffing and brussels for my sides. Not even factoring in cost here. When done right, those are my No. 1 and 2. Plenty of cash left. Feeling good. I'll take dinner rolls for the bread because all of those breads listed are just gravy sponges for me. Biscuits aren't $1,500 better than dinner rolls when it comes to absorption. OK. Dessert. Don't have as much cash as I thought, but this is fine. It's fine. I'm not a gotta-have-pumpkin-pie-or-it's-not-Thanksgiving guy. Give me apple and I'm happy. If I do that, I've only got $5,000 left. I'll take banana pudding pie for my final selection and use the leftover $500 for a scoop of Brigham's vanilla ice cream for my apple slice. 

Why yes, Jim. There’s my karaoke go-to “Brandy” by Looking Glass.  I also can do a nice rendition of Iggy Pop’s “Candy”, “4th of July Asbury Park (aka, Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen, “Handy Man” by James Taylor, “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Laid” by James, “Bluer than Blue” by Michael Johnson, “J’aurais Toujours Faim De Toi” by The Police and James McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo,” which is the greatest song in American music. IMHO!

If the canned stuff is in front of me, I'm eating it. Not necessarily seeking it out, but I'll never scoff at it. No place for elitism at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Yes, Dave. Sometimes I just look at the Twitter question and think, “Hmmm. Good question. I don’t think I definitively know the answer to it . . . ” and then just scroll on by. However, in this instance, because of the promise made, I must respond. The answer is: I don’t know. Brady rarely has soft-tissue injuries because that’s everything his training and conditioning is aimed at stopping. I don’t know if this is just soreness or exertion-related or if someone stepped on the thing. Honestly, you’d prefer the latter because then it’s a trauma that would be healing as opposed to the thing being stretched like a banjo string. Either way, it was related to me that it’s not a big deal.

Not a huge concern, Rich. He was back at practice Thursday. Something to keep an eye on moving forward, but nothing to lose sleep over at this point. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Giant Wally. Neither has started practicing so it’s tough to handicap. Mitchell, to me, would be the safer choice if it were one or the other. Danny Amendola’s been brilliant but he’s got a ton on his plate and needs his workload trimmed. Mitchell could help with that (even if they don’t necessarily play the same spot in the offense). And Giardi? It’s eight years this month that he and I have worked together. Long road for two guys who worked at rival weeklies back in 1992 and 1993 (Barnstable Patriots for me; Falmouth Enterprise for him). Love having him on our team. Nobody does the hockey, baseball, football combo better nor does anyone else get in the trenches in locker rooms and press conferences and formulate fact-based opinions and analysis like he does. Big value in talking to players and coaches directly then passing it on to the audience.

If I'm the Patriots, I'd hold out hope that Mitchell can get to the point where he's healthy enough to contribute. He's on the right track, but he's still not practicing so we're in a holding pattern at the moment. The reason I'd go Mitchell over Valentine is that the Patriots are relatively thin at wideout. We're expecting Chris Hogan to come back and be himself eventually, but it looks like he's going to miss another game this weekend. Another injury to that spot and things would look dire there. Though the Patriots run defense could use the kind of boost that Valentine would provide, the Patriots can make up for deficiencies at defensive tackle a little bit easier. 

Absolutely, JT. The simple fact that the Patriots are 10 games into what will be a 17-to-19-game season means that the likelihood someone gets compromised physically is still pretty high. His relevance as a bigger back is presumably coming along with the cold and the wind. The Patriots have been screwing with bad coverage linebackers the past two weeks with Denver and Oakland and every other back is a better pass-catcher than Gillislee. I don’t think he’s been exiled. 

It's probably between Waddle and Jonathan Jones. Waddle has been tremendous in Marcus Cannon's absence, and Jones may have an argument as the team's most consistent corner from Week 1 until now. That says a lot about how Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have played this year, but Jones' coverage has been sound, and his timing to contest passes has been impeccable. Kyle Van Noy deserves an honorable mention here as well. He's taken on the hybrid end/linebacker role with Dont'a Hightower out and more than held his own. Danny Amendola's volume of production would've been deemed a surprise, but with Julian Edelman out, not sure he qualifies. Always had the skill and trust from Tom Brady to do what he's doing. Just needed good health and opportunity. 

I'm looking on the defensive side. I'm looking at the front-seven in particular. I'm inclined to add to the edge with someone like Khalil Mack, Von Miller or Cameron Jordan -- all of whom are dynamic pass-rushers but would also excel against the run in Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. They need bodies there. But Aaron Donald -- who plays on the interior -- is just so talented that I wouldn't be able to pass him up. He'd rush the passer. He'd help their run defense. And he'd garner enough attention that it would make the others around him better. That's my choice. 

Just don’t call me late for DINNER!!!! Know what I mean Bob-O, Bobby, Bob-a-loo!!!!!!????? Happy Thanksgiving errrrryone.