- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Some things that caught the eye when re-watching the Patriots-Chargers game:
1. Wes Welker put on a good clinic on how a receiver can be an effective blocker on the first offensive play, the quick pass to Deion Branch, when he cleared out linebacker Shaun Phillips to turn a possible loss of yardage into an 11-yard gain. Branch returned to the favor at the start of the second quarter on an 8-yard quick pass to Welker. Good blocking by the receivers in this game.
2. Underrated play of the day by QB Tom Brady -- holding on to the ball on Shaun Phillips' first-quarter sack. Strong hands and good awareness saved a possible turnover.
3. The microphones near the field really captured the fire and intensity in which Tom Brady operates, as it came through loud and clear on the broadcast. At one point, Brady yelled to offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, "Billy, give me the personnel!" The Patriots ended up calling a timeout after that as there was some type of confusion or a look like they didn't like.
4. Cornerback Devin McCourty was often in position in pass coverage, but looked like he had breakdowns in technique as the ball arrived (Malcom Floyd's 36-yard catch in the first quarter as one example). Those are correctable issues, also serving as a reminder of how solid play in one season doesn't necessarily carry over to the next.
5. Running back Danny Woodhead had some struggles in blitz pickup. While he's done an admirable job filling Kevin Faulk's old role, he hasn't yet reached Faulk's level in pass protection.
6. If linebacker Dane Fletcher plays like he did in the second quarter, he could vie for more playing time in sub packages in the coming weeks, challenging Gary Guyton for that role.
7. After the two-minute/end-of-half offense struggled throughout the preseason and in the season opener, the two-play drive to set up Stephen Gostkowski's 47-yard field goal was a combination of terrific execution by the Patriots and curious defensive scheming by the Chargers (why were the receivers given such a free release off the line?).
8. Veteran guard Brian Waters showed he can still get up the field. He had a key block on safety Bob Sanders on the "second level" to help spring tight end Rob Gronkowski on his 30-yard tight end screen catch-and-run to open the third quarter.