Patriots quash doubts, beat Chargers convincingly
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick's "genius" is often credited for winning games and Super Bowls for the New England Patriots.
This time, the players won one for their coach and demonstrated they don't need to spy on the opposition to succeed.
"After everything that went on this week, we wanted to do our best for him," said Tom Brady, who threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns as New England routed San Diego 38-14 Sunday night.
The game came three days after the NFL fined Belichick $500,000 and the team another $250,000 for spying on the New York Jets. The Patriots also will forfeit what is almost sure to be a first-round draft pick next spring.
Brady got major help from several players acquired during the offseason to try to get the Patriots back to the Super Bowl. New England has missed out for two straight years after winning three championships in four seasons. Randy Moss had two touchdown catches and his second straight 100-yard receiving game, and Adalius Thomas returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown.
New England came out in a high-tempo, single-back set that spread out Tom Brady's receiving options. This put pressure on the Chargers' secondary, the weakness of their defense, and pulled their pass rushing outside linebackers farther away from the ball, making it easier for the Pats to recognize blitzes. Brady sat back and chose the matchup he liked best without a great deal of opposition from San Diego while timing his shots downfield extremely well. After keeping the tempo up and affecting the stamina of the Chargers' defense, New England finally mixed in some running plays and play action. Brady was a maestro who orchestrated an outstanding offensive game plan with precision and poise. His ability to look off and manipulate coverage is remarkable. New England's weapons also are quite frightening.
-- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
"I know we won last week, too, but it really didn't feel like it," said an emotional Tedy Bruschi, one of the Patriots with three Super Bowl rings. "This was coming from all directions. To come out here and win, it's an exclamation point victory. It's really satisfying."
The way the Patriots played Sunday night, they didn't need Belichick's spying against a San Diego team that finished 14-2 last season but lost to New England 24-21 in its first playoff game.
"They just jumped on us like a spider monkey," San Diego fullback Lorenzo Neal said. "I don't care how you look at it, they just played better than us."
Moss, who had nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown in an identical 38-14 win over the Jets last week, had eight more for 105 yards and 23 and 24-yard TD catches. Wes Welker had 8 catches for 91 yards, including a 34-yarder on the first drive of the game that set up Brady's 7-yard TD pass to Benjamin Watson and got the Patriots (2-0) off to a quick start.
"He's Randy Moss," said Shawne Merriman, one of San Diego's few standouts with two sacks. "He's Randy Moss. He still has the same athleticism he's always had when he came into the league. It makes them very hard to match up with."
Rosevelt Colvin, signed as a free agent in 2003, had two sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles to help lead a defense that held LaDainian Tomlinson to 43 yards on 18 carries. He and Mike Vrabel, one of the longest-serving Patriots, combined for two straight sacks in the fourth quarter as the Chargers were threatening to get back in the game.
Belichick thanked the players and fans for staying with him during a difficult week.
"At times it was challenging but they stayed focused," Belichick said of his players.
He also thanked the fans who cheered him when he walked on the field -- uncharacteristically, he waved to them in acknowledgment. And he thanked owner Robert Kraft, who was critical of him in remarks made at halftime during a television interview.
"I want to thank the fans for their support," Belichick said. "I definitely felt that from the time I walked on the field. We've got great fans and we've got a great owner. He's been awesome all week in a tough situation."
Philip Rivers threw for just 63 yards and had two interceptions in the first half. One of those was the romp by Thomas who grabbed a toss in the flat and raced untouched down the left sideline
The Patriots scored on the first drive after the opening kickoff and never looked back.
"We wanted to get off to a fast start," Brady said. "This isn't a team you want to play from behind.
Trailing 24-0 at halftime, San Diego (1-1) took the opening kickoff of the second half and moved 72 yards on 16 plays to score on a 1-yard pass from Rivers to Neal.
However, Brady, who completed 25 of 31 passes, drove New England right back down the field, capping the drive with his second TD toss to Moss and putting the former Minnesota and Oakland receiver over the 100-yard mark for the second times in two games with the Patriots. Moss didn't play a down in the exhibition season.
Rivers threw a 12-yard TD pass to Antonio Gates 12 seconds into the fourth quarter and finished 19-of-30 for 179 yards.
Ellis Hobbs, who had a 108-yard return for a touchdown last week, fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Vrabel sacked Rivers for a 10-yard loss on the first play and Colvin pushed them back 10 more yards on the next play, forcing the Chargers to punt.
San Diego, meanwhile, will go home to regroup.
"It's not about Randy Moss or Tom Brady," said cornerback Quentin Jammer, victimized several times in the secondary. "It's about us. We didn't do what we needed to do to win."
This was Moss' 47th 100-yard receiving game in nine seasons plus two games. ... Merriman recorded his eighth multiple-sack game in 24 regular-season NFL contests.
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