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Thursday, September 15, 2011
Patriots secondary ready for 'fun' challenge

By Chris Forsberg

Elsa/Getty ImagesDevin McCourty and Patrick Chung are excited for Sunday's test against San Diego.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Fun would seemingly be one of the last adjective that would come to mind for a defense preparing to play the San Diego Chargers. After all, San Diego was second in the league in scoring last season (27.6 ppg), first in total offense (6,329 yards), and third in first downs (357).

Quarterback Philip Rivers picked up where he left off in Week 1, completing 33 of 48 passes for 335 yards with two touchdowns and San Diego piled up a league-best 31 first downs in a 24-17 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings. Yet, "fun" was the word of choice when Patriots safety James Ihedigbo referenced Sunday's game.

"They've got a very talented receiving corps and a very talented offense with big playmakers like Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates," said Ihedigbo. "They can get down the field and make plays. You just have to try to do your best to neutralize them. They are talented, they are going to make plays, and they have a great quarterback in Rivers. We'll have our hands full on defense, so it'll be fun."

While the Patriots' defense played better than the stats might have revealed in Monday's season-opening triumph, it still allowed Chad Henne to pass for more than 400 yards. And he's no three-time Pro Bowler like Rivers. Members of the Patriots' secondary know they must take a step forward this week.

"You gotta just compete," said second-year cornerback Devin McCourty, who pointed to Jackson and Malcolm Floyd as receivers that will challenge the secondary. "We've got our hands full again, but that's what you expect in the NFL. There's more receivers now that are bigger and can run well. Every week you gotta be ready to go against top guys."

In three career regular-season games against New England, Rivers has completed 71 of 107 passes for 821 yards with six touchdowns and only three interceptions. Last year in San Diego, he completed 34 of 50 passes for 336 yards with a touchdown and an interception as New England escaped with a 23-20 triumph. Unlike last year, the Chargers should be healthier this time around.

"Even when we played [the Chargers] last year, they were the No. 1 offense and this year, they have same type of weapons," said Ihedigbo. "One thing I think [Rivers is] happy about is that he's got a lot of guys healthy right now. It's a different team than we played last season, they were going through a lot of injuries. He's got a full staff with him at the receiver and skill positions, and he’s still a great QB, so we have to really be prepared."