There were many things about this game that seemed very unpatriotic. They didn’t march up and down the field blowing away their opponent. Tom Brady threw three interceptions, one in the red zone. Randy Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth had a combined 4 catches for 41 yards. Chris Hanson punted the ball four times. Combine that with the fact that the San Diego offense visited the red zone three times and you would think that the Patriots had finally lost. Not so much.
New England gutted out another victory for the 18th time this season. They won their fourth AFC championship in the last seven years as they elminated the Chargers from the playoffs for the second straight year.
Today showed you exactly why the Patriots are undefeated. Their defense will bend, but not break. Other teams will march down to the red zone, but they will have a difficult time getting in the endzone against a tall standing Patriots defense. San Diego went to the red zone three times and came away with three field goals. If you want to beat New England, you have to get 7, not 3. What piece of the puzzle were the Chargers missing? Obviously LT. I don’t care how good Turner and Sproles are; you can’t make up for the absence of your best player. Or can you? The Patriots seemed to. Brady looked average at best, throwing three interceptions and spraying ugly balls all over the field. He did not seem like himself. His body language wasn’t the same. But the fact is that Brady’s presence was still in the game. Tomlinson’s wasn’t. And it doesn’t matter if one or several players have an off game because the Patriots as a team have shown the ability to collectively make up for it.
New England also had to make up for Randy Moss’ debacle during the week. He finished the game with only one catch and one run for 14 yards. Were the happenings over the week affecting him? Who knows. But his presence was felt as well. The Chargers tried to double team Moss, but then either Welker, Gaffney or Stallworth will beat you. Try to take away the other three? Moss will burn you. Take away the pass? Maroney will kill you running the ball and Faulk will hurt you out of the backfield.
With Brady and Moss not the same, which weapon made the biggest impact? Here is my MVP.
I could have chosen Maroney here, but Faulk was the most valuable. If they didn’t have Maroney, I would still feel comfortable winning by putting the ball in Brady’s hand even when he is not playing well. But Faulk was Brady’s most valuable weapon all day out of the backfield. He was the reason Brady still had success today. Let’s take a look at a crucial time in the game. After Brady got sacked which made it second down and 18 with about 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter, who made up those 18 yards? Faulk. He had a 7 yard catch to make it 3rd down and 11. His next catch? A beautiful, over-the-shoulder catch. His momentum carried him forward for the first down.
Another 3rd down and 3 from the New England 42 yard line. 5:17 remaining in the game, plenty of time. Faulk made a ridiculous catch on a ball thrown behind him and took it for 14 yards. If Faulk didn’t come up with those plays, the Chargers would have had another chance or two to come back. But they didn’t and Faulk was a big reason why. In total, he led the Patriots with 8 catches for 82 yards. The Chargers did a great job of taking away Brady’s receiver options, but Faulk proved more valuable than ever today.