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Pity the Patriots

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 3, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/don_banks/10/02/pats.chargers/" target="_blank">SI.com</a>

    By Don Banks

    FOXBORO, Mass. -- They were dominated, demoralized and for the first time in more than 33 months, thoroughly defeated in their own backyard. But that may not even be the most surprising or surreal thing I saw happen to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

    After they pushed them all over the field for three hours, the triumphant San Diego Chargers, would you believe, even found it in their hearts to actually pity the two-time defending Super Bowl champs? The Chargers' compassionate tone was set by head coach Marty Schottenheimer, and echoed by many of his key players in the winning San Diego locker room.

    The gist of the (pity) party line went something like this: The Chargers beat a proud New England team on this day, the NFL's reigning gold standard, but the outmanned Patriots are just too crippled to pass for their former selves. Finally, all those personnel losses have inevitably started to begat real losses.

    "You've only got 10 fingers to stick in the dike,'' said Schottenheimer, of a Patriots team that was missing safety Rodney Harrison, left offensive tackle Matt Light and backup running back Kevin Faulk, in addition to the lineup changes they started the 2005 season with. "What they've done here is remarkable, but at what point in time are you pushed over the edge? Certainly you can't go on forever replacing players.

    "I have to be honest, during the course of the week, I looked up and counted eight new starters they didn't have a year ago. That's a problem for anybody. It had to be difficult for them.''

    New England's 41-17 defeat at the hands of the clearly superior Chargers was difficult in every way. Throughout the game, the Patriots had no answer for San Diego quarterback Drew Brees. They had no answer for Chargers Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. And they certainly were rendered without a notion of how to stop San Diego's superback, LaDainian Tomlinson, who's simply the best player at his position in the NFL.

    The Chargers didn't just beat the Patriots. They beat them up and wore out the heart of New England's defense. They ate the clock, churned out third downs with mind-numbing consistency and confused the savvy Patriots on offense. Most importantly, they slowly drained the Pats -- the Pats, of all teams -- of their will to win. In other words, they out-New Englanded, New England, turning a 17-17 halftime tie into a blowout that started emptying Gillette long before the final gun. The final margin was 24, but it really didn't feel that close.

    "I'd be hesitant to say this was a breakthrough, but it does say what we knew going into this season, that we're a pretty good football team,'' Schottenheimer said. "We were disappointed in the way we started [0-2], but if we play to the level we are capable, we have a chance to compete.''

    Compete? The Chargers didn't just compete, they dictated to the Patriots, who wore silver jerseys for a change, but fell short of a sterling performance.

    San Diego only sacked New England quarterback Tom Brady once, but it hurried and harried him all day long, and made him look, well, like a poor man's version of the game's most respected quarterback (19-of-32 for 224 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and a 78.1 rating). In the second half, Brady finished with a mere 21 yards on 5-of-9 passing, before Bill Belichick opted for a mercy yanking in favor of rookie Matt Cassel.

    "San Diego played the game as well as they could have, and we didn't,'' Brady said. "You look back at the end, 41-17, it's not very pretty. We just didn't match their level of play.''

    On offense, defense, or special teams. You want snap shots that told the story of the Chargers' rout?

    How about the determined Tomlinson running over Patriots linebacker Monty Beisel on an eight-yard touchdown run in the second quarter?

    How about Gates out-jumping Patriots safety Guss Scott -- making his first NFL start, in place of the injured Harrison -- for a 38-yard reception to the New England 1, setting up San Diego's go-ahead touchdown?

    How about Brees threading the needle to Reche Caldwell in the back of the end zone, striking for a 28-yard back-breaking scoring pass on third and eight, making it 31-17 late in third quarter?

    "We came out and matched their intensity out there and just kept hanging around,'' said Gates, who finished with six catches for 108 yards, exploiting Harrison's absence as much as anyone in San Diego's potent lineup. "It's definitely a confidence booster for us. We definitely set the bar pretty high for ourselves.

    "I mean, we beat the New England Patriots. That says a lot. That says we're a pretty good team and now we shouldn't settle for anything less than being a pretty good team.''

    This is the Chargers team we thought we'd see when the season started, the squad coming off last year's surprising 12-4 finish, but looking even stronger. But then San Diego got sloppy and let games against Dallas and Denver get away late, landing them in an 0-2 hole. The Bolts started climbing out with last week's 45-23 thrashing of the Giants, and now, with another 40-plus-point effort on the board, they're clearly the best .500 team in the league.

    "When [the Patriots] are down, you've got to keep them down,'' said Chargers receiver Keenan McCardell, whose club finally exhibited some killer instinct. "It's tough. I understand what the Patriots are going through with the injuries. You can't lose that many players and not feel it eventually. But we knew our backs were still against the wall. We knew we were 1-2 and we had to get back to .500. We came in here ready to play.''

    On a picture-perfect Sunday in New England, the Chargers didn't just play. They played more like the Patriots than the Patriots. They embarrassed the champs, punctured their aura of invincibility at Gillette, and left them looking mortal and far from immune to the ravages of attrition.

    And when the whipping was complete, they even said they felt almost bad for the shorthanded Patriots.

    First, a New England loss at home. And then an "I'm sorry for your troubles'' from San Diego.

    I still don't know which was more surprising.
     

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