Patriots-Chargers matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Sept. 15, 2011 @ 7:21 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a matchup to watch in the Week Two game between the Patriots and Chargers:

Patriots TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez vs. Chargers safeties Eric Weddle, Bob Sanders and Steve Gregory

If Tom Brady doesn't want to target an opponent's cornerbacks, he doesn't have to. It helps that he has two of the league's best receiving tight ends in the league in Groknowski and Hernandez.

Gronkowski is the big target who is a beast near the goal line. He is also one of the team's main run blockers. Hernandez has the versatility to line up in the slot and is very good in space.

The pair combined for 13 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots' season-opening win against the Dolphins. When the Chargers shut down the Patriots' passing attack in last year's meeting, Hernandez still led the team with five catches for 54 yards, and Gronkowski had two catches for 10 yards and a score.

The Chargers have a stout defensive backfield, and while their safeties might not have the size to match up with the Patriots' tight ends, they are hard-hitting, instinctive safeties. ILB Kevin Burnett is gone, so Donald Butler could also get some snaps covering a tight end.

Should CBs Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason lock down the Pats' wideouts, Brady will rely heavily on Gronkowski and Hernandez, meaning the young pair will have to create separation and keep the safeties from making plays.