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The New England Patriots were stellar on offense, defense and specials teams in Sunday’s 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Quarterback Tom Brady passed for 423 yards and three touchdowns while the defense forced a quartet of turnovers to limit the San Diego passing game. The win is Brady’s 29th straight win at home.
New England was able to jump out to early leads of 7-0 and 20-7 to alter the Chargers’ game plan. Brady orchestrated an 12-play, 93-yard opening touchdown drive for the early lead, and later directed a 10-play, 99-yard drive for a 17-7 advantage. The Michigan alum took the offense 18-yards in two plays to give New England a field goal before halftime.
The Patriots finished the game in impressive fashion too with 15 fourth-quarter points. Brady threw his for his third touchdown to make the score 28-14 before BenJarvus Green-Ellis capped the attack with a 16-yard scamper late in the fourth.
Despite allowing 470 yards and a success rate of 10-12 on third down, the Patriots made the big plays when they had to. Vince Wilfork altered the game late in the second quarter, intercepting a Phillip Rivers’ pass right before the half that would have brought the Chargers’ within one score. Brady directed a two-play, eight-second scoring drive that resulted in a 47-yard field goal from Gostowski to make the score 20-7.
With Rivers directing another key drive down 20-7 in the third, Sergio Brown under cut Antonio Gates for his first interception of the year. Jerod Mayo forced a fourth-quarter fumble of Mike Tolbert in Patriots territory while Mark Anderson’s sack fumble on the final drive sealed the game.
The sophomore tight ends continued to exploit their mismatches, as Rob Gronkowski corralled two touchdowns while Hernandez was on the receiving end of his own score. Hernandez’s touchdown opened the scoring on a 14-yard strike before Gronkowski’s scores from 10 and 17 yards doomed San Diego.
For the second consecutive week, the Patriots’ play inside their own five yard-line turned the game around. The Chargers had first and goal at the five down 10-7 in the second-quarter, but could not punch it in on four consecutive carries including a 4th-and-1 Jerod Mayo stuff of Mike Tolbert to end the drive. San Diego was just 2-4 in the red zone.
Kicker Stephen Gostowski provided important points to the squad, contributing with field goals of 22 and 47 yards. Punter Zoltan Mesko left with an apparent knee injury, but had a vital third-quarter punt that was downed at the San Diego six. Tracy White and Matt Slater also had sensational tackles to mitigate the San Diego return game.
Brady was in command all evening, leading six scoring drives on 31-40 attempts. The offense was 7-11 on third down and accumulated 504 yards, while Brady distributed the ball to seven different receivers. Deion Branch led the team with eight catches for 129 yards.
The secondary was responsible for a majority of San Diego’s third down success, as Rivers torched the Patriots for 372 yards. Vincent Jackson had 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns opposite Michael Floyd, who had two catches for 59 yards before leaving with an injury. Tolbert and Mathews had eight and seven receptions, respectively.
Blessed with possession and a 20-7 lead out of the half, the Patriots offense was ineffective in the third frame with two punts in two possessions.
Often a staple of Belichick coached teams, the Patriots committed several penalties that put the team in precarious situations. New England was flagged eight times for 80 yards, including two Leigh Bodden holding calls that continued San Diego drives.
New week, the Patriots travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo to battle the upstart Bills in an important early season AFC East battle. Buffalo sits at 2-0 after dispatching Oakland in a 38-35 come-from-behind thriller on Sunday, and appears to be firing on all cylinders offensively. The game is at 1:00 p.m. on CBS.