SAN DIEGO — The good news for the Patriots at halftime is they’re up, 13-3, on the road. The bad news is that the Chargers can’t possibly play any worse than this in the second half. Right?
The first half is a story of missed opportunities for the Patriots. The Chargers have committed a number of egregious mental miscues and exhibited general lackadaisical play. Yet, the Patriots only lead the Bolts-turned-Dults, who turned the ball over four times in the first half, 13-3 at the half.
The Patriots offense has struggled to string together positive plays against San Diego — 38 yards of total offense in the first half. New England’s longest offensive play of the half was a 29-yard pass interference penalty on Antoine Cason on their final drive of the half that set up a Stephen Gostkowski’s second field goal of the half.
The Patriots’ first score, a 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, was set up by a fumble by San Diego tight end Kris Wilson that gave Brady and Co., the ball at the San Diego 22.
Other than that the Chargers have survived their self-inflicted wounds well.
The Patriots went three-and-out after San Diego’s first case of brain lock, receiver Richard Goodman putting the ball down to celebrate following a 25-yard gain and not realizing it was a live ball because he hadn’t been touched. But the Patriots couldn’t capitalize, punting.
Football follie No. 2 for the Chargers was Jacob Hester watching as as a non-forward pass deflected off his hand and Rob Ninkovich scooped it up and ran 63 yards to give the Patriots first and goal at the San Diego 8. Yet after four plays and negative-14 yards, the Patriots ended up with only a field goal.
The Chargers are living up to their billing as the top-rated passing defense in the NFL. They’re getting a lot of heat on Tom Brady (6 of 16 for 35 yards) and disrupting the rhythm of the Patriots’ offense. San Diego has three sacks and Antwan Barnes in particular is giving Matt Light all he can handle. Brady is being rushed, so he is rushing.
Defensively, the Patriots are doing a nice job. Vince Wilfork, lining up at left defensive end, is a wrinkle that has limited the Chargers run game. San Diego, 23 yards rushing on 14 carries, has struggled to move the ball on the ground with Wilfork in the game. The Patriots defense has avoided getting burned by the big play by Philip Rivers, and Devin McCourty had a tremendous interception on a deep ball. One caveat is that the Patriots are not putting a ton of pressure on Rivers with the pass rush. That’s not good.
The Chargers offense is high-powered, so the Patriots need to keep their foot on the throttle defensively and find their offense.