Patriots coach Bill Belichick dodged a week’s worth of scrutiny when Chargers kicker Kris Brown’s attempt at a game-tying field goal hit the upright with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Patriots held on for a 23-20 victory today at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Belichick decided to have the Patriots go for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Patriots’ 49 with two minutes left in the game, a situation strikingly similar to last season’s game against the Colts when Belichick went for it on fourth-and-2 rather than punt and let his defense try to hold the Colts.
This time, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stopped for a one-yard loss. Quarterback Philip Rivers drove the Chargers to the Patriots’ 27 for the game-tying attempt, but a false start pushed them backto the 32 and Brown’s kick was off the mark and struck the right upright.
“I thought if we made it, we could pretty much end the game right there,” Belichick said at his postgame press conference.
Belichick said the same thing after the Colts loss, but his move backfired then. A short pass play to Kevin Faulk came up short, and the Colts took possession and won the game.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady defended Belichick’s decision.
“If we get the first down, the game’s pretty much over. You punt it back to them, and they have three timeouts with two minutes left, they only got to go 60 yards, and if you get the yard, it’s going to be tough for them to win the game, they’d have to use all their timeouts and you got a minute left in the game, so… we tried it, didn’t execute it very well, we didn’t execute a lot of things very well. It never should have come down to a fourth and 1. It was second-and-1, and we lost a yard there, then third-and-1, we didn’t gain any yards there… we have to do a better job when it counts,” Brady said.
On Sunday, Mike Tolbert cut the Patriots’ lead to 23-20 when he plunged through the Patriots’ goal-line defense with 4:01 left in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals for the Patriots. Brady was only 19 of 32 for 159 yards and one touchdown, but the victory allowed the Patriots, at 5-1, to keep pace with the idle Jets in the AFC East race.
“We had a hard time moving it at all. We couldn’t get into a rhythm out there, and the second half was better, I don’t think it was great by any stretch,” Brady said. “It feels good to win, see the defense play the way they did, get those turnovers. We certainly can play a lot better offensively, but it’s good to win a game when you don’t play great. And I’d say that, too.”
Rivers was 34-for-50 for 336 yards and one touchdown, but the Chargers fell to 2-5.
There were only two possessions in the third quarter.
The Patriots received the second-half kickoff and held the ball for 8 minutes, 35 seconds. Brady engineered a 17-play drive that covered 79 yards, and Green-Ellis ran it in from one yard to give the Patriots a 20-3 lead.
The Chargers then went 64 yards in 12 plays, using 6:25. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Brown kicked a 28-yard field goal that made it 20-6.
The Chargers cut the lead to 23-13 later in the fourth quarter. Antonio Gates, who was a game-time decision because of a toe injury, caught a four-yard pass from Philip Rivers to cap an 11-play, 67-yard drive.
In the first half, the Patriots capitalized on four Chargers turnovers and a costly pass interference penalty to make up for an offense that managed just 38 total yards before halftime.
A pair of second-quarter field goals gave the Patriots a 13-3 lead at halftime. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 40-yarder to make it 10-3 after the Patriots picked up a backward pass by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was dropped by fullback Jacob Hester. Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich returned it 63 yards to the Chargers’ 8, but the Patriots went backward and had to settle for the kick.
Just before halftime, Gostkowski made it 13-3 with a 35-yard field goal to cap an eight-play drive that included a 29-yard pass interference call on the Chargers’ Antoine Cason. Cason blocked Deion Branch’s path to the ball as Branch attempted to run under a bomb from Brady on third-and-8.
The Chargers scored first on a 32-yard field goal by Kris Brown in the first quarter. The Patriots forced a fumble on the Chargers’ next possession, and linebacker Jerod Mayo recovered at the 22. Five plays later, Rob Gronkowski caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to put the Patriots up 7-3.
The live blog play-by-play follows:
Game over. Patriots run out the clock and win 23-20.
00:23 fourth quarter: Kris Brown misses. Ball hits upright.
00:28 fourth quarter: Now it’s a 50-yard attempt following a false start penalty.
00:28 fourth quarter: Chargers will try a field goal for the tie. Approximately 45 yards.
1:55 fourth quarter: On 4th-and-1, Green-Ellis is stuffed. Flashbacks justified. Green-Ellis lost a yard.
2:00 fourth quarter: Patriots dodge a bullet. Wes Welker caught a pass and dove for the first-down marker, and the ball popped loose as he touched it down out of bounds. The Chargers returned it into the end zone, but the play was whistled dead. Pats have a big 4th-and-1 coming up. Flashbacks to Indianapolis last season have begun.
4:01 fourth quarter: Mike Tolbert pounds it into the end zone for San Diego. Gates dropped one in the end zone after being wide open. Gates made his second catch of the afternoon on this drive, 26 yards to the 13. Then Ajirotutu caught one for 20. You could have seen this coming after the Patriots failed to pull away after the four Charger turnovers in the first half.
7:21 fourth quarter: Momentum shift. Chargers go for the onside kick, and get the ball back pending review as rookie Richard Goodman picked up the ball on a kickoff that appeared to travel the 10 yard distance required for a live ball. Patriots have called for a review.
7:21 fourth quarter: Touchdown. Rivers finally hits Gates for a four yard completion… in the end zone. Rivers went back to Crayton right over the middle for a 17-yard gain to keep the drive alive on fourth down. Rivers had the Chargers first and goal after the first NFL reception by Seyi Ajirotutu. 11 plays, 67 yards, 4:06 on the drive.
11:21 fourth quarter: Rivers sacked by Mike Wright. Then on a third and 15 Rivers hits Crayton for a 21 yard gain to midfield. Then Sprowles takes it down to the 37 on a 14 yard reception. Note: Antonio Gates has not had a ball thrown to him today.
11:31 fourth quarter: The Patriots could not punch it in from inside the 20 this time. It’s now a three-possession game after another Gostkowski field goal. 9 plays, for 59 yards, in 3:29 on the scoring drive.
14:09 fourth quarter: Brady finally up over a 100 yards passing on the day. He’s starting to pick apart the Charger backfield. Even Brandon Tate is catching the ball on this drive. A 24-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez has it back to the Chargers 20. Note: If the Chargers fail to score a touchdown, it will be the first time since 2002 that they’ve failed to do so.
0:00 end third quarter: Chargers needed a touchdown, had to settle for the field goal. Each team held the ball for one drive in the third quarter. The Chargers scoring drive: 12 plays covering 64 yards in 6:29.
1:53 third quarter: Darren Sproles is doing his best Danny Woodhead impersonation for the Chargers. He’s catching, running, and has become the primary target in Philip Rivers’s offense.
4:42 third quarter: Rivers and the Chargers getting into a groove. San Diego has a first down at the Patriots 26 yard line. Short passes to Tolbert, Sproles, Crayton, and Davis doing the damage.
7:40 third quarter: Third time is the charm. The Patriots finally take it all the way in after a sustained drive found them in another first and goal situation. Green-Ellis found his way into the end zone on a third and one. 17 plays for 79 yards in 8:35 on the long drive. A 16 yard pass to Woodhead on 2d-and-17 was among the key plays on the drive and took the ball down the Chargers 6 yard line.
10:27 third quarter: Running game getting rolling. Danny Woodhead picked up eight on a third down play that left the Patriots a yard short at the 32 of San Diego, but Green-Ellis rammed forward for a couple of yards on a fourth and one play.
12:49 third quarter: Patriots on the move. Brady had an 18-yard completion over the middle to Aaron Hernandez in the first drive of the second half, but another penalty, holding on Sebastian Vollmer is making it difficult for the offense to get rolling. Another third down play.
0:00 halftime: Some halftime numbers of note:
– Tom Brady 6-for-16, 35 yards passing
– 27 yards rushing between Green-Ellis and Woodhead
– Chargers have committed 19 turnovers on the season after having just 16 all of last season
– 0 catches for Deion Branch, just 2 for Wes Welker for 15 yards total
0:00 halftime: The Chargers get booed heavily as they had to walk about 80 yards across the field to get to the locker room at the half. Amazingly, the Bolts are only down 10 points after committing mistake after mistake, and holding down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense for the bulk of the first half.
0:35 second quarter: Patriots can’t get the TD from close in. Antwan Barnes got passed Matt Light again (hands to the face penalty declined) to get to Tom Brady. Brady could not get a completion after being first and goal from the nine. The second time the Patriots had to settle for a field goal in the red zone.
1:25 second quarter: Just when it looked like the Chargers would get the ball back after two poor throws from Tom Brady, the Patriots catch a break when Antoine Cason gets called for pass interference on Deion Branch keeps the NE drive alive just outside the 20. Only 7 first downs in the game combined. Just 66 yards of total offense for New England.
2:00 second quarter: Charger fans booing loudly at Qualcomm after two missed tackles after a punt find the Patriots back near midfield after a Julian Edelman punt return. So many mistakes by the Chargers… but somehow they’re only down one score.
3:51 second quarter: Patriots forced to punt again. 6 penalties for 40 yards on New England after the latest, an offensive interference call on Aaron Hernandez. Brady hit hard after the pass by Antwan Barnes again.
5:03 second quarter: Make that four turnovers for San Diego. Devin McCourty just grabbed a long pass intended for Patrick Crayton at the New England 42. Ball back to the Patriots.
6:44 second quarter: Brady just 4-for-10 for 20 yards on the day. No catches for Deion Branch. Just 22 yards on the ground for New England. The difference in the game is the three fumbles by SD.
7:05 second quarter: Back to back sacks, Antwan Barnes with the crusher, on Brady forces the Patriots to kick a field goal vs. going in for the TD. The backwards drive: 4 plays, negative-14 yards in 1:42.
8:30 second quarter: Chargers look like the want to give the game away. They lose the challenge, it’s a fumble for Rivers. Patriots lose five on a Brady sack… 3d and goal.
8:45 second quarter: Was the screen pass a lateral or not? A crucial challenge for the Chargers after another big mistake. Rivers tossed the ball (back?) to RB Jacob Hester for what looked like an incomplete pass, but Rob Ninkovich picked up the ball and took it all the way down inside the 10 yard line of SD. It’s under review.
10:35 second quarter: It’s a knee injury for Patrick Chung. Return questionable. Buster Davis gains 15 on a Rivers pass for a first down. Patrick Crayton wide open for San Diego moves the ball into New England territory on the pass reception. Darren Sproles wide open on a short pass previously on the drive, but he bottled up for a one yard gain on the run. Gates moves gingerly off the field with the bad toe.
14:00 second quarter: Jake Ingram, the second year long snapper out of Hawaii is having a tough day so far between penalties and bad snaps. Patrick Chung has gone to the locker room for the Patriots. Chargers have the ball back at their 20.
14:20 second quarter: Costly mistake for the Chargers. Rookie receiver Richard Goodman was wide open over the middle for a big 25-yard gain, but he left the the ball on the ground untouched after the catch, and James Sanders recovered for the Patriots.
0:00 end first quarter: Patriots defense holding the Chargers in check. No catches for Antonio Gates so far as Rivers has relied heavily on RB Ryan Mathews and WR Buster Davis on offense. Jerod Mayo, Jermaine Cunningham, Patrick Chung have performed well on D for NE. Chargers 3d and 2 from their own 28.
1:00 first quarter: Touchdown New England. Brady to Rob Gronkowski on a one-yard pass. Patriots take advantage of the turnover. 5 plays for 22 yards in 2:24 was the TD drive. Danny Woodhead fought his way to the SD one yard line on a 4-yard pass prior to the score.
4:02 first quarter: Turnover. Ball to New England. Kyle Arrington forced a fumble on tight end Kris Wilson, Jerod Mayo recovered and the Pariots are now first and 10 from the SD 12. Prior to the SD fumble, McCourty forced Rivers into an intentional grounding, then Wilfork, Myron Pryor, and Patrick Chung tacked RB Ryan Mathews for a loss.
4:42 first quarter: Patriots can’t get the first down. A poor pass by Tom Brady to Brandon Tate was broken up. Brady has been under pressure from the SD ends. Mesko punt puts the ball back in the hands of Rivers who is 5/9 for 42 yards on the day.
5:21 first quarter: Patriots will start on their own 43 after a squib kick by Kris Brown was recovered by Dane Fletcher. Let’s see if the Patriots can do something with this good field position.
5:26 first quarter: Patriots stop the Chargers on a 3d and 9. 8 Patriots dropped back into a deep zone but Rivers threw the ball to far for Buster Matthews to stay in bounds in the end zone. Kris Brown kicked the 32 yard field goal. A 5:37 scoring drive covered 36 yards in 11 plays.
11:43 first quarter: Brady and the Patriots offense tried a little razzle dazzle with a double-reverse flip back pass down the field to Wes Welker that broken up and nearly intercepted by Quentin Jammer. Patriots forced to punt after Brady was hit in the arm under pressure. A couple of flags, holding the latest, on the Patriots punt have pushed them back and now SD will start around midfield on their second drive.
14:07 first quarter: Chargers QB Philip Rivers started with a little screen to Buster Davis who got the first down, fumbled the ball, but recovered it. Rivers went back to Davis on the right side but the pass was broken up by Devin McCourty. On 3d and 7, Rivers fires incomplete after James Sanders chased him out of the pocket. SD will punt.
15:00, first quarter: We’re just moments away from kickoff here at Qualcomm Stadium where a nearly packed house is fired up for football.
The Patriots and Chargers have been introduced. Tight end Antonio Gates is in the starting lineup for San Diego. Buster Davis gets the start at wide receiver.
Joelle James, a former contestant on American Idol as a 16-year-old in 2007, sang the anthem. She’s currently attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. Two thumbs up.
The Chargers have won the toss and will take the ball.
Be sure to continue to hit the refresh button as we will continue to update this post with news and observations as the game progresses.