Week 2 Impressions: Bend Don’t Break

New England Patriots 35 San Diego Chargers 21

Bend don’t break.

Patriots fans are familiar with this defensive strategy and that’s just what the Patriots defense has been through two weeks. At no point was that more clear than in the second quarter against San Diego. On fourth down up 10-7 Jerod Mayo made a great play against Mike Tolbert to hold him back and keep the Chargers out of the end zone. Then Tom Brady and the offense put together a 99 yard scoring drive, in a pathetic 10 plays. Long are the days when you only needed one play to go 99 yards.

That stop changed the game. It went from San Diego going up 14-10 to the Patriots going up 17-7. The Patriots then got interceptions on the Chargers next two drives with none better than Vince Wilfork tapping the dump to the flat in the air and doing his best impression of running into Chargers territory. Said Big Vince “I’m a cover-two guy. I like to put my hands on the receiver and get physical at the line of scrimmage.”

Well that’s something the Patriots secondary could learn from as they still got torn up even with the two picks, especially on the underneath. The Chargers consistently dumped off to their running backs for major yards. Chargers running backs had a combined 15 catches for 135 yards. It’s tough to cover the underneath with Vincent Jackson running around (10 catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns) but after awhile even I saw they were relying on that too much. That underneath needs to be sealed up.

The defense did it’s best work against Antonio Gates who is normally one of Philip Rivers favorite targets. He had eight catches last week. This week? Zero. None. Zip. Zilch. (Insert your favorite term for none here). He was targeted just once. A lot of the credit for this belong to Pat Chung. Chung was all over Gates pressing him on the line and hounding him all game. But when’s the last time a tight end was an integral part of an offense?

Oh that’s right in the same game. Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez caught a combined 11 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Some bad news for the Patriots unstoppable tight end duo was the injury to Hernandez who will miss 1-2 weeks. Despite the injury the Patriots offense looked as dynamic as ever. Chad Ochocinco still look a little awed, but managed to be more involved doubling his receptions from last week, although going from one to two isn’t really that big a jump. Deion Branch caught eight balls and had 129 yards receiving as well. Branch. Branch has had three 100 yard games since returning to New England last season. He had three in his four and  half year stint with Seattle. I guess having Tom Brady throw to you helps a little more than Tim Hasselbeck’s older brother.

Speaking of Brady, last year’s MVP went 31 for 40 in the game throwing for 423 yards and three touchdowns. Yawn. What a let down from last week. Seriously though this season it just looks like there’s Brady and then a few miles below Aaron Rodger and Drew Brees are scuffling over number two. He is on pace for 7,000 yards this season and although he probably won’t get there Dan Marino might as well add single season passing yards record holder to another thing Brady has and he doesn’t.

What more can be said about Brady. He throws footballs better than anyone else. He read defenses better than anyone else. He sells Uggz better than anyone else. He marries supermodels better than anyone else.

Through two weeks two things are for certain. First, Tom Brady is unstoppable. Second the defense has to continue to avoid cracking for the Patriots to keep winning. That’s a tough task this week as they go up against the highest scoring offense in football. That’s right the 2-0 Buffalo Bills who are looking to end a 15 game losing streak to the Patriots.

-Phil

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