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A Tale of Two Halves.



October 25th, 2010

This game was a tale of two halves. The first half was a miscue of mysteries, mishaps, and mystifying happenings. In the first half the Chargers looked like the dumbest team in the NFL. In the second half the they looked like the most resilient team in the NFL. The one thing I am certain of is that San Diego has the best defense we've faced this year. 

Sand Diego came out passing smartly, and I was worried when I saw number 85 on the field for them. However both opening drives stalled leading to punts. On their second drive the Chargers charged down field and into field goal range methodically. Enter my main man Meriweather who took mystifying national abuse all week for a hit that was no worse than the rest (I may rant about it again this week, especially with ESPN's Shlong, or Mark Shrek, or whatever his name is, with his lame break down of the hits. He claimed all the other hits he could justify because the O-Players ducked down 3 inches as they braced for the hit, except Meriweather's. Meanwhile, he leaves out the fact that Heap leaped two feet into the air, was shoved from behind by Guyton, and braced just before Meriweather hit him. So he dropped approximately 3 inches when he braced and approximately 24 inches when he dropped, or using his math 27 inches and not Shrek's sad little 3 inches of the other players. What a maroon!). Meriweather laid a crushing hit on Buster Davis who caught the ball in front of him, and the Chargers wide receivers mysteriously didn't catch a ball the rest of the drive to set up a short field goal.  

San Diego then came out with a random act of stupidity and onside kicked the ball, which turned into half a Turn Over, but the Pats decided to try and match the Chargers random act of stupidity. They ran the ball on 1st down for 9 yards, and then threw the ball twice for a 4th down punt? Another mystery I can't solve, they couldn't pass on San Diego's top ranked pass defense, but they seemed to be able to run a little. Then they pick up 9 yards on a nice run, and it looks like an easy choice to run the ball for a 1st down inside the Chargers territory. Or maybe not, it's a mystery to me? But, all things considered one stupid series in a half is not bad. Just ask San Diego, who received the punt and tried to drive methodically down field again, enter the Patriots new big play defense. After two short gains to set up 3rd down, they lined up with tight end Kris Wilson in the backfield like a full back ready to pick up the blitz, but he swung out into the flat instead. With good coverage down field Rivers is forced to swing it out to him. He catches the ball in stride, but is hit low by Kyle Arrington short of the first down. However, he decides to try and fight through the block and turns his back to Dane Fletcher who dives into him helmet first, and punches out the ball with a nice right jab. TB-C leaps swing wildly onto the ball, but it bobs-an-weaves out of his hand, and flops around on the mat. But the marvelous Jerod Mayo (who is having a great season, and looking the guy we thought he was after his rookie season) is their to counter punch and lifts the ball off the mat and into his gloves. Which, because of the onside kick attempt and subsequent punt pinned the Chargers back inside their 20, gave the ball to the Pats at their 22. A nice pass to Gronkowski and a penalty brings the ball inside the five. The Pats come out in a mystifyingly new formation. It was not Trips left, but Quads left;-) which turned into a bubble screen to the elusive Danny Woodhead, who is immediately smashed by Eric Weddle. However, Woodhead bounced off the hit-an-grab, and mysteriously weaseled his way down to the one-yard line. Then a nice floating pass high over the shoulder of Gronkowski gave the Pat's the lead. New England-7, San Diego-3, San Diego Turn Over's-1 and half. 

Next came the most mystifying play of all, the "left it there" play, or the most mysterious play of the game. Half of me says it was the dumbest play I've even seen, and the other half says it was the worst call by an official I've ever seen. I am still not sure  about how to solve this mystery? It was 3rd and 15, and Rivers threw a perfect pass to rookie Richard Goodman. Usually when an offensive player "gives it up" the ref blows the whistle, like when Marvin Harrison intercepted the ball to seal the game (it seems like he did it about a half dozen times), he slide down and gave up the play, and the refs whistled it dead. But not during this mystifying game. In this mystifying game, when a player gives up and drops the ball on the ground, its a fumble. "The San Diego Receiver received the football, went down to the ground, and left it there untouched. [It was] picked up by New England. The New England player was down by contact. First down."  The only thing I could think of was, if San Diego wasn't the dumbest team in the NFL, then who was? However, NE couldn't take advantage because of the Charger's great coverage on defense. NE-10, SD-3, SDTO-2 and a half. 

Then came the "where am I play?" San Diego received the ball and started downfield until River's who was pressured of the outside by Wilfork and Deaderick and was forced to charge deeper into the pocket then he thought, as he burst past his outlet RB swinging out of the backfield. he tried to loft the ball sideways, and though he made a valiant effort, the ball flew slightly backwards. Jacob Hester saw the ball coming his way, but decided to do his best Richard Goodman imitation as he  dropped the ball, and the ball "went down to the ground, and [he] left it there untouched," like it was a hot ex-girlfriend and he was with his new hot wife. Enter the hardy Rob Ninkovich stage right, as he pounced on the ball like it was his hot new girlfriend, jumped up, and humped-on-down-the-line to the 7-yardline to set up another New England field goal. NE-10, SD-3, SDTO 3 and a half.  

SD got the ball back, and like they had done all year they drove down the field efficiently, gaining yardage like no other team in NFL this season, until they committed another random act of stupidity. Rivers dropped back on 3rd and 17, threw a deep pass to Patrick Crayton, who had a step on Devon McCourty. However, Rivers under threw the ball slightly, and rising start Devon McCourty with a burst of speed, luck in his heart, and a nice leap he intercepted the ball to receive his first interception of his career. However, NE was able to capitalize on the TO because of San Diego's great defense, again. NE-10, SD-3, SDTO 4 and a half.

San Diego is forced to punt, and Edelman receives the ball, and meanders his way down to the 48-yard line. Brady tries a bomb down the left sideline, and the Chargers counter with another random act of stupidity. Antoine Cason had excellent coverage on Deion Branch, and was even a little ahead of him when the ball was thrown. However, instead of trusting his instincts and playing the ball, he mystifyingly arm-overed Branch and purposely tried to angle him out of bounds without ever looking back at the ball, right in front of the Ref. He had position, he had the angle, and he had the speed to get the ball. However, it never occurred to him to try and play the ball, at all? It's a mystery, and instead he muscled Branch off the ball right in front of the Ref, and made it an easy pass interference call for the Ref, which gave the ball to the Pats on SD 21-yardline with 1:25 left in the Half. The offense did a nice job of  running down the Half, and still getting a field goal. NE-13, SD-3, SDTO-4 and a half at Halftime. 

I was more worried at Halftime of this game, then at Halftime of the Ravens game, because when you get 4 and a half Turn-Overs in one Half, and are up only 10 point, that is usually a recipe for disaster. Plus, the Pats only garnered 38 total yards in the half. The final mystery of the first half was how the Patriot’s Special teams (who looked like they might have the best special team unit in the NFL) was being out played by San Diego’s special teams unit (which was easily the worst unit in the NFL so far this season).

Two things happened to start the second half, first the Pats come out in the No-Huddle Power-Spread offense, and San Diego continued their random acts of stupidity. On second down the Pats ran the ball up the middle and Antonio Garay attacked Neal, who pulled a great acting job, and fell to the ground like he was taking a charge on the hardwood. The Pats stayed in shotgun, and when Hernandez caught an 18 yard pass on the fifth play of the drive, the Pats had already gained more yards in this half than they did in the entire first half. It was time for the elusive Danny Woodhead to take over, catching and running to the 32-yard line to make it forth and 1. BJ G-E ran for the first down, and the Charger’s defense was starting to look tired as Deion Branch caught his first pass of the day. Then after a Sack by BC’s own Antonio Garay, Woodhead caught a 16-yard screen to make it third and 1, and the offense ran up to the line continuing the No huddle assault of the Charger’s D, and Brady snuck it to the 4-yard line, and then went right back up to the line in a power formation with two rookie tight ends capping the line, which is the beauty of the Power Spread, it is just as effective in the Shotgun as it is in a power run formation, or pro-style  formation, and BJ G-E ran it right up the middle to the 1-foot line. Another run by G-E that didn’t make it in, and suddenly they had the ball for almost 9 Minutes on a 18 play drive capped by BJG-E 1-yard TD run to make it 20 to 3 to 4 1/2.

Unfortunately, New England had watched so many random acts of stupidity in the first half that they decided to copy the Chargers stupidity, and went into a Prevent-a-Victory Defense with 6:19 seconds to go in the third quarter. Philips Rivers didn’t even bother to say, “thank you”, he was too busy throwing underneath the deep zone to bother. 3 straight passes and a short run, and they were on New England's 35, and the Chargers were in the No-Huddle shotgun offense looking to score. But They continued their random acts of stupidity, and Rivers took his eye off the shotgun snap and dropped the ball on the ground, but he recovered his fumble, and Pats decided to raise another random act of stupidity by continuing their Prevent-a-Victory defense. And four passes later they were on the 10-yard line and ready to score, but the Pats couldn’t retreat any more, and their deep zone defense died, which led to another sack by super surprise seventh round pick Brandon Deaderick, to make it third and 13. Davis caught a short seven yard catch to end the third quarter. San Diego had to settle for a field goal to make it 20 to 6 to 4 1/2.

However, as stupid as the prevent a win defense was, the No-huddle Power-Spread offense is brilliant. Put the ball in Brady’s hands and let him throw first to Branch, then Hernandez, then Branch, then Tate, then Hernandez, and suddenly the Pats were on SD 20, and running the ball to Woodhead for 4 yards. Then they shifted to three-wide in the Power spread and Brady had his first mistake of the half, and whipped the ball way out of bounds trying to force it into Hernandez. On third and six, and another incomplete caused by excellent coverage by Paul Oliver, and Gostkowski kicked a field goal to make it 23 to 6 to 4. However only 3:29 were taken off the clock.

San Diego came out trying to prove that they were the dumbest team in the league, as NE started in their Prevent-a-Victory D, and the Chargers tried to go deep, and Rivers was sacked for minus 5, then an incomplete, and he smartened up and  looked off his throw for a long first down receptions. Then they started throwing underneath again: first for ten yards, then a drop three-yards down field, then a swing pass for 5, then another random act of stupidity as Crayton was hit right in the hands and dropped the ball. However, the resilient Rivers, who impressed me more and more throughout this game hit Crayton for a 17-yard catch. Then the resilient Rivers scrambled to the 9-yard line. And of course Antonio Gates first catch of the day was a four yard TD pass to make it 23 to 13 to 4 1/2.

Then San Diego did something completely unexpected, they attempted a random act of intelligence, and after their failed Onside Kick in the first half, they tried it again. They caught the Pats off guard, and snagged the ball barely ten yards down field. And now the Pat’s Prevent-a-Victory defense was functioning in full stupidity, and with only 3 underneath passes they were inside the Pats 40. Then Rivers finally hit a deep one, and of course it was Antonio Gates catching a 26-yard pass to put the ball on the 13-yard line. Another short pass turn into a 9-yard gain. Then Rivers sneaks it to the 6-inch line to make it 1st and goal. Pats stop a run. However, the Pats were so used to retreating that it looked like they couldn't cover a simple pass to the completely uncovered Antonio Gates, but Sanders left his man and leaps onto Gates arm to cause a misreception. But even though the Refs never signaled a touchdown, San Diego celebrated like it was a touchdown, and i guess the Refs decided to concede the TD to their celebration. Suddenly it was 23-20, and the 4 1/2 Turn-Overs no longer seemed relevant.

So while the game came down to the final four minutes, San Diego's horrible special teams finally reared their ugly heads. The backup kicker kicked the kickoff out of bounds to give the ball to the Pats at the 40 with 4:01 left to play. The Pats came out throwing, because the Chargers still had all three time outs. Brady passed the ball to Welker for nine, then tried to run it for a first down, but the O-Line really looked bad for the first time, and Kevin Burnett, who is having a great season burst through the line and crushed Woodhead for a two-yard loss. Then Welker stretches the ball out to try and reach the 1st down marker on a short pass, but the ball bounces off the ground, out of his hand, and short of the first down marker. The Pats go for it on 4th and Game on the line, but O-Connell makes his biggest mistake of the season. he lined up in the back field as a FB, and rushed to the left to led BJG-E to the hole, but instead of smashing into Kevin Burnett he smashed into Hernandez, and Burnett tackled BJG-E behind the LOS. Sand Diego's ball at the Pat’s 47 with 1:55 left in the forth. A 13-yard pass to Gates and they were a 52-yard field goal away from tying the game. But another random act of stupidity Patrick Crayton made it 2nd and 10, when he dropped a pass thrown right into his hands. Then Rivers is forced to throw the ball away, as TB-C burst around the Left Tackle and spooked Rivers. Then TB-C and Phoenix Crable force Rivers out of the pocket again, but this time he hits Gated for 8-Yards. And  it was forth and only two, but only a 45-yard field goal away from tying up the game. Sand Diego had to kick it. Enter, the dumbest team in the league, a horrible false start, ironically by Domb-rowski, made it a 50-yard field goal, and if you watch San Diego play at all this season and saw the special team almost deliberately lost three games, you know what happened. Doink! The kick doinked off the goalpost, LOL. NE 23, SD 20.

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