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A win is a win, and that’s what the New England Patriots have to take from Sunday’s 23-20 victory over the mysterious San Diego Chargers.
Why mysterious? Because how does a team rank at the top of the NFL in total offense and total defense (based on yardage), and still have just a 2-5 record? We saw how in yesterday’s game, as the team continuously shot themselves in the foot with gaff after gaff after gaff.
So did New England win this game, or was it San Diego that really lost it? To me, it doesn’t matter. It takes a bad team to make the mistakes that the Chargers made on Sunday, but it takes a good team like the Pats to capitalize on those mistakes. San Diego had more than double the total yardage the Patriots had in this game, 363 to 179, but you’re not going to win many games turning the ball over four times.
Looking at the stat sheet, there really aren’t too many stars in this game. Neither team had a running back go for more than 24 yards on the day. Brady threw for just 159 yards and a single touchdown pass. And no Pats receiver caught more than five balls in the game. So this week, my “PATS on the Back” are all going to defensive players. Sure, they let Phillip Rivers through for 336 yards and helped the Chargers get back in the game in the fourth quarter, nearly tying it and sending the game to overtime. But the team’s defense was opportunistic, especially in the first half, and if it weren’t for forcing the four turnovers, this game could have looked a lot different than it did.
Here now, the three “PATS on the Back” for Week 7…
Don’t look now, but Mayo is back at the top of his game. He had another eleven tackles against the Chargers on Sunday, to go along with a first quarter fumble recovery that led to the Pats’ first TD of the day, a 1-yard catch from tight end Rob Gronkowski. This was the third straight game with double-digit tackles for Mayo, something not accomplished by a Patriot since Tedy Bruschi did it in 2006. The future is bright for this Pats defense, and having Jerod Mayo in the middle of it is a big reason why.
Wilfork wasn’t flashy on Sunday, making just one tackle on the afternoon, but since moving to the end of the defensive line, he’s been a run-stuffing machine. He, along with his fellow members of the front seven, held San Diego’s rushing game to a season-low 38 yards on the ground. Coach Bill Belichick had Wilfork on the left end of the line, knowing that San Diego loves to run patterns to the right. Nothin’ doin’ on Sunday against New England, and we have Big Vince to thank for that.
Sanders won’t wow you, but there’s no doubting his smarts on the football field. When San Diego fill-in rookie receiver Richard Goodman caught a pass in the second quarter, only to leave the ball on the ground having not been touched by a Patriots defender yet, Sanders had the awareness to scoop up the loose football, returning it 25 yards, and giving the Pats yet another turnover on their resume. Sure, New England failed to turn that play into points, but that doesn’t mean heady plays like that Sanders play don’t help contribute to victories. With Patrick Chung out for much of the game after sustaining a knee injury, Sanders was also instrumental in holding down the fort in the secondary, while down a key player like Chung has been this season.
The first interception of the rookie’s career came in Sunday’s win… by the early looks of the former Rutgers Scarlet Knight, there’ll be plenty more where that came from.