Monday, January 15, 2007

Patriots Chargers aftermath

When Michael Turner went off left tackle for a six-yard touchdown with 2:10 remaining in the first half, the Chargers had a 14-3 lead in a game that looked as if it could easily turn into a blowout. Over the course of the next 32 minutes, however, the Patriots outscored San Diego 21-7, walking away with a 24-21 win.

A couple of thoughts and observations...

  • The New England Patriots have now played 13 play-off games in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. After each one of those games, I walked away feeling as though the Patriots were the better team. Either more physical (Rams, Colts) or better skilled (Steelers, Eagles) or both (Jaguars, Jets). I would have expected the Patriots to win 6 or more out of 10 against any one of those teams. Even when the Patriots lost in Denver last year, I thought that the Patriots were the better team. Not yesterday. The Chargers were big, tough, physical, fast, highly-skilled - basically everything that you're looking for. Luckily for New England, yesterday, they were also dumb.

  • I think a lot of Marty Schottenheimer's play-off problems are not his fault, he's just been in some bad match-ups, lost with some over-achieving teams, and been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he certainly cost himself and his team big-time yesterday by absolutely wasting his second challenge (which didn't hurt them) and a time-out (which did.) When Brady's 4th down pass was picked off by Marlon Mcree, who was then stripped by Troy Brown to extend the New England tying drive, Marty challenged the play. That was a waste of his timeout. There was no replay on which it was not obvious that a) Mcree had intercepted the ball and had control of it and b) had not been downed when the ball came out. It was a pointless challenge, and it came back to haunt them when they had to settle for a 54-yard field goal attempt on their last drive, because they had no timeouts.

  • I love to see teams go for it on 4th down. But I thought Schottenheimer also made a huge mistake by going for it on 4th and 11 in the first quarter. The Patriots had run 6 plays in the game, 2 3-and-outs, all from inside their own 15. If he didn't trust Kaeding to hit a 47 yard field goal, he should have punted, and pinned them back again. The Chargers failure to convert moved New England out of the shadow of their own goalposts for the first time, and set up the Patriots' first scoring drive.

  • Tom Brady didn't have a great game. He threw an interception on which he apparently missed the linebacker in coverage. He threw another by missing an open receiver short because he threw off his back foot. The third, I'll give him a bit of a pass on. It was 4th and 5, and an interception was no worse for the Patriots in that situation than an incompletion. He tried to force it in, it got picked. Luckily, it also got stripped and they recovered.

  • There are giveaways and takeaways. The Mcree fumble was a Patriot takeaway. The Colvin interception was a Patriot takeaway. The Parker fumble on the punt was a Charger giveaway - the Patriots did a good job covering the kick, making sure that Parker couldn't recover it. But they had nothing to with the fact that he dropped it, and then tried to pick it up instead of falling on it. The other two turnovers were forced - that one was an unforced error.

  • Yes, there are four turnovers on the stat sheet. I don't count the first one. The Patriots sacked Rivers on 4th down, and the ball came out. Didn't matter whether the ball came out, or who recovered it. New England's ball.

  • Dumb - Drayton Florence head-butting Ben Coates to extend a New England drive.

  • Dumb - The Chargers calling a timeout immediately following an injury. On 2nd & 4, in a tie game with under 4 minutes left, NE cornerback Ellis Hobbs went down on the play. He was down for over a full minute, and then hobbled off the ball. When the officials spotted the ball, over a minute-and-a-half after the previous snap, the Chargers lined up, and then called a timeout, because they weren't ready to run a play. Another wasted timeout that they needed later.

  • LaDainian Tomlinson is, by all accounts, one of the real good guys in the NFL. But he handled himself poorly after the game. You don't demonstrate class by asserting it. Calling yourself "classy," as he did after the game, demonstrates a lack of it. As to whether or not the Patriots players who set him off were excessive or classless or inappropriate, I can't say, as I didn't see it. If they were mocking the Chargers, well, I won't defend that - they shouldn't. But Merriman dances when he wins, when he sacks someone. If LT doesn't like to see someone exulting on his field when he loses, maybe he ought to say something to his teammate about doing it when the Chargers win...



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