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Sunday, October 24, 2010
Rapid reaction: Pats 23, Chargers 20

By Mike Reiss

SAN DIEGO – Rapid reaction from the Patriots 23-20 win over the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium:

What it means: Stunning finish. The Patriots hold on. This was a game that the Patriots were in control midway through the third quarter, ahead 20-3 after a terrific long drive. But the Chargers came roaring back. With the Patriots leading 23-20 at the two-minute warning, they went for it on fourth-and-1 but BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stopped for a loss, turning the ball over to the Chargers. It was almost like fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis all over again. But a Kris Brown 50-yard field goal with 23 seconds left hit the right upright and bounced into the field of play, giving the Patriots the hold-on-by-the-seat-of-your-pants victory. The field goal would have been 45 yards, but a false start penalty pushed it to 50.

What’s next: The Patriots improve to 5-1 and return home for a late-afternoon Halloween game against the Vikings. Think there will be some pre-game hype for that one with receiver Randy Moss returning to town? The Patriots will be donning their throwback uniforms in the game.

Onside kick hurts Patriots. After the Chargers closed to 23-13 midway through the fourth quarter, they successfully executed an onside kick. The Patriots had their regular return unit on the field, and while it was an extremely well-executed onside kick, the result also led to some natural second-guessing as to whether the Patriots should have done something differently from a personnel perspective in anticipation of the onside kick. The Chargers moved up the field for a touchdown, closing to 23-20 with 4:01 remaining.

Kickoff out of bounds aids Patriots on fourth-quarter drive. After the Chargers scored to make it 23-20 with 4:01 left, the Patriots got the ball at their own 40 after Kris Brown’s kickoff sailed out of bounds. The Patriots worked the clock, not snapping the ball until late on the play clock, but faced a fourth-and-1 from their 49 after an 8-yard catch by Wes Welker, a run for no gain by Danny Woodhead and then a 1-yard catch by Welker. The Patriots challenged the spot on the Welker catch at the two-minute warning, but the ruling on the field stood. That set up a fourth-and-1 and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stopped, although the defense rose up.

Offensive adjustments at start of the second half. The Patriots’ offense played as poorly as it has all season in the first half. They had just 38 net yards in the first two quarters. But some adjustments at the break sparked an 18-play touchdown drive (including penalties) that chewed up 8:35 and culminated in BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard touchdown run as the Patriots went ahead 20-3. It was the drive of the game, as it featured two third-down conversions and a fourth-and-1 conversion as well. The touchdown came on third-and-goal from the 1. The adjustments included going to a semi no-huddle type attack and inserting Ryan Wendell at left guard in place of Dan Connolly.

Defense bends but doesn’t break. A unit that is growing on the job, the Patriots’ defense did its part against the NFL’s No. 1-rated offense, and of course, received some help from the Chargers, who shot themselves in the foot. Still, credit must be given to a defense that back in Week 3 against the Bills looked like one of the worst in the NFL as they came up with the big stops in the critical situations. Solid tackling. The final stop -- making the Chargers set up for a long field goal -- was huge.

Patriots injuries to watch: Safety Patrick Chung left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Receiver Matthew Slater, one of the Patriots’ top special teams players, left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.