The Patriots are one of three teams in the NFL with just one loss. But they did not look like a 5-1 team for most of their Week Seven win over the Chargers.
Luckily for the Patriots, they played a team that does its best to give away games — the Chargers. The Patriots totaled just 38 yards of offense in the first half. Granted, the Chargers have the league's top defense, but nothing was working for the Patriots, even with good field position thanks to Chargers fumbles.
Tom Brady turned it on in the third quarter, completing 10 consecutive passes over two drives, one a TD drive and the other leading to a field goal. During those drives, they looked like the Patriots.
The biggest positive to take was the Pats' rushing defense that held the Chargers to just 38 yards on 19 carries. But the passing defense slid to 30th in the league after allowing 325 yards.
The biggest concern head coach Bill Belichick should have, though, was in two areas where the Patriots usually excel: the offensive line and special teams.
The PFW Spin
The Patriots began Sunday's game by being called offside on Stephen Gostkowski's opening kickoff. And thus began the special-teams miscues.
Second-year LS Jake Ingram had two bad snaps to P Zoltan Mesko, one Mesko had to field off the ground and barely got a kick away. On Mesko's first punt, LB Dane Fletcher was called for a false start, and then when the punt was away, Ingram was called for defensive holding. The Chargers got the ball at midfield and drove into position for a field goal.
For the game, the team made four special-teams penalties. While it is a young special-teams unit made up of some undrafted rookies and second-year players, Belichick's special-teams' squads are usually mistake-free. Plus, San Diego recovered an onside kick that led to a late touchdown, cutting the lead to 23-20.
The veteran offensive line didn't help the Patriots' cause either. After allowing Brady to be sacked just twice in the first three games, the O-line has allowed 10 sacks in the past three contests, including a season-high four on Sunday.
After LB Rob Ninkovich recovered a fumble and returned it to the Chargers' eight-yard line, Brady was sacked on second and third down, pushing the Pats out of the red zone and forcing them to settle for a field goal. On the second-down sack, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis missed his block on LB Shaun Phillips. Then OLT Matt Light, who has been beaten for a few of those sacks this season, was beat again.
It seemed as though the left side of the line was the cause for concern. Belichick must have thought the problem was on the inside with OLG Dan Connolly, who has been starting for Pro Bowl OG Logan Mankins, because Ryan Wendell replaced Connolly in the second half. The Pats allowed just one sack in the second half while Connolly came on the field to play fullback in short-yardage situations.
With the Vikings' pass rush next on the schedule and meetings with the Bears, Jets and Steelers still remaining, the Patriots' O-line needs to fix the mistakes made the past three games. Brady and the offense have enough pressure to score with such a poor passing defense, they don't need to compound that pressure with miscues from the O-line and special teams.