Pats squeak by Chargers
Kris Brown’s missed fifty yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining against the New England Patriots sealed the win for the hometown team, but it should have never come down to that moment in the game.
The Patriots entered the fourth quarter with a 20-3 lead in San Diego against the Chargers, and the game really was not that close. The Chargers turned the ball over four times in the first half. Two of the Chargers turnovers were gifted to the Patriots as well. One fumble was a backwards pass that nobody decided to even jump on even though “play to the whistle” is one of the first things players learn in Pop Warner Football, and the other one happened because rookie Richard Goodman forgot that if a player is not touched the player isn’t actually down and dropped the ball on the ground.
Well the Patriots left the Chargers a couple of gifts. The Patriots failed to capitalize on the turnovers from the first half and left the San Diego Chargers into the game. The Patriots offense did almost nothing in the first half. Despite having fantastic field position, the Patriots could only put up 13 points in the first half. The Patriots entire second quarter had only 1 total yard of offense. It was hard to determine if it was the Chargers defense playing well or just the Patriots offense being out of synch. Certainly, the Patriots offensive line did not help in the matter as the Chargers were able to stop the running game of the Patriots and put consistent pressure on Tom Brady. Brady was sacked four times, and it was probably the worst we have seen them play since Super Bowl XLII. Because of this, the Patriots missed the golden opportunity to end this game in the first half.
It came back to bite them in the ass. Despite getting a more consistent effort from the offense in the second half, including a long drive to open the third quarter, there was still a sense that the Chargers were in the game. They were putting together drives in the first half that were just killed because of stupid turnovers. The Patriots did not put up enough points to make any Patriots fan feel comfortable. After the Chargers got a touchdown from Phillip Rivers to Antonio Gates with 7:21 remaining, they attempted a surprise onside kick and recovered it. This caused me, and probably every other Patriots fan to go crazy. We all knew the Chargers would score again (which they did) and we cursed the offense for not ending this game in the first half.
The Patriots had one last drive to end the game, but the drive would bring back more bad memories than good memories. On third down, the Patriots attempted a pass to Wes Welker who dove forward for the first down, however, it appeared that he fumbled the ball and it was recovered for a touchdown for the Chargers. We had a heart attack. Here was a game that the Patriots simply let get away for seemingly the 10th time in the last three years. This was the kind of game that the modern Patriots seemed to lose and the old Patriots seemed to win. Thankfully, the replay showed the ball out of bounds, but that caused the next collective Patriots heart attack. It was 4th and short, part two.
I’m not going to sit here and say the decision to run the ball on 4th and 1 was the wrong decision. In most cases, if you can’t get a yard to win the game, you don’t deserve to win the game. Also, as I mentioned last year, I love Bill Belichick for calls like this. He has the balls to do go out and win the game in regulation instead of chancing the game. Here’s the difference though. The play call sucked. The Patriots had almost zero running game all day, so why call a running play on the biggest play of the day? If you thought they would get the first down by running off tackle with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, you are joking. There was no chance in hell they were getting that first down. Punt the ball and force Phillip Rivers to drive down the field for the game tying field goal. Instead, as expected, the Patriots failed to convert 4th and one and gave the ball back to Chargers at the fifty.
With three time outs for the San Diego Chargers, I was convinced they were winning the game in regulation. They moved the ball like they had all day down the field and they were quite literally a dropped pass away from a thirty yard catch and run for the game winning touchdown. Thankfully, the Chargers jumped early on a field goal attempt, and Kris Brown was clutch as usual, missing a 50 yard game tying field goal with 23 seconds remaining. A giant sigh of relief for Patriots fan.
So am I happy? Simply yes. A win is a win and the Patriots are still one of only three teams with only one loss. Patriots fans are also going to have to get used to winning games like this again. These three point nail-biters are going to be the norm. The Patriots are going to win these games more often than not, but it still doesn’t mean that they won’t give you a heart attack. It would have been nice for the Patriots to jump on their opportunities, but they still won the game and that is what is most important. With a Halloween match-up with the Brett Favre, Randy Moss, and the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday upcoming, the Patriots need to come out and prove that they are the better team on the field. Knowing that the Patriots don’t like to jump on their opportunities, they probably will be in yet another close game next weekend.