Patriots-Chargers - the morning after
There were several different myths surrounding last winter's play-off game between New England and San Diego that I dealt with at the time. The bottom line, in my opinion, was that the Chargers outplayed the Patriots for the first 28 minutes, and took a 14-3 lead. After that point, the Patriots outplayed San Diego, by a fairly significant margin. This wasn't a case of a vastly superior team giving a game away - it was a case of two excellent teams, and one of them played smarter than they other.
The Patriots improved in the offseason. The Chargers didn't. In fact, they went backwards, as they downgraded the coaching staff and did not upgrade the roster. Last night's blowout illustrated that very nicely. The Chargers could not stop the Patriots. They couldn't run against the Patriots. They couldn't throw against the Patriots. They had one big break in the game, when, at 31-14, Ellis Hobbs fumbled the kickoff and the Chargers recovered. How did the Patriots defense respond? 10-yard sack. 10-yard sack. Incomplete pass. On the ensuing punt, San Diego downed the ball at the 9. The Patriots drove 91 yards on 15 plays while using 10:07 off the clock.
(The coverage took the trouble to make sure that we knew that the Chargers were missing three starters. The Patriots, obviously, weren't, unless you consider that Seymour, Harrison and Neal would have been starting if they weren't hurt...)
Coming into this season, coming into this week, there were three teams that everyone knew were on a different level than all the rest. We don't know that anymore. What we do know is that New England and San Diego are not on the same level.
Interesting stat: The Patriots are averaging 1 punt per game. 1 in game 1. 1 in game 2. If Hanson weren't holding on field goal and PAT attempts, he'd have nothing to do.