AFC East: Clinton Hart
SAN DIEGO -- What a glorious opportunity Sunday night for the New England Patriots to declare they would not fade away, that they very much remain viable contenders.
The Patriots resurfaced from their Week 4 bye to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a game that brought much relief to their fretting fans. Next up were their cross-country rivals, the San Diego Chargers.
No, this wasn't the same matchup it has been in recent years, but it was a convergence of two teams eager to make a statement.
To carry out that analogy, the Chargers went on a filibuster with a loud and rambling 30-10 victory in Qualcomm Stadium.
The Patriots either couldn't get a word in edgewise or simply had no response at all. Their only touchdown came in garbage time.
"They did a better job than we did," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I would say that about the players, the coaches, the whole works. The San Diego Chargers were better than the New England Patriots tonight. That's across the board."
The Patriots never had lost two games by 20 or more points in the same season under Belichick. Until now.
Here are five storylines that emerged for New England in their setback.
|Christopher Hanewickel/US Presswire|
|New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is sacked by the San Diego Chargers defensive end Igor Olshansky during the first quarter Sunday.|
The Patriots' offense and Matt Cassel failed to follow up.
The Patriots scored a season-high 30 points against the San Francisco 49ers, generating optimism the Patriots just might be able to cope without Tom Brady. In their previous games they managed only 17, 19 and 13 points.
Cassel completed 22 of 38 passes for 203 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He had a 61.6 passer rating. The Chargers sacked him four times.
"He did more moving around than Brady, and with experience he'll become better with that," Chargers safety Clinton Hart said. "He held the ball a lot more than Brady would've. That's inexperience.
"We put pressure on him and gave him looks that I'm pretty sure that he wasn't confident in seeing because we were moving around back there."
The Patriots also failed to get Randy Moss involved. They threw at him, but connected only three times for 26 yards. At halftime, Moss had one catch for 6 yards.
"When you remove the best quarterback in the National Football League, of course, they're [licking] their lips," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said of opposing defenses. "They're excited because they feel like we lost an integral part or the most important part of our team.
"But we realize that's over and done with. We can't harp on that. This year is totally different than last year. We're not going to score 38 points a game. We're not going to blow people out by 25 points at halftime. It's just not going to happen.
"We don't have that type of team. So we're going to have to go back to ways of fighting, scrapping and just fighting for every single bit of yardage, every single bit of victory that we can get."