by Scott Benson
Before last night’s game with the Patriots, Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson told NBC’s John Madden that if San Diego played New England ten times, the Chargers would win nine.
Make it eight.
After a week in which they and their head coach were the object of national scorn, ridicule and cheap talk like Tomlinson’s, the stoic Patriots did their talking on the Gillette Stadium field last night, blowing out the chatty Chargers 38-14 before a national television audience.
Madden’s broadcast partner Al Michaels called it: “Pretty much no contest from early on.”
Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, two to Randy Moss, and the New England defense forced three San Diego turnovers while adding a score of its own, as Bill Belichick and his three-time champions offered their first extended response to the controversy that continues to swirl around them.
Tomlinson, who attacked Belichick last January and again this week before his amateurish boast to Madden, carried 18 times for a meager 43 yards. It is not known who or what Tomlinson will blame his team’s latest failure on, but rest assured, it will be something.
If he wants to be honest (he doesn’t), he can start with Patriots linebackers Rosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas, who harrassed Phillip Rivers and the San Diego offense to the extent that it was the third quarter before they could muster something other than bumbling inefficiency.
Colvin intercepted Rivers on the Chargers first offensive play, strip sacked him on two others, and led all Patriots in tackles in perhaps his most dominant performance as a Patriot. His new teammate Thomas, who was all over the field despite a modest stat line, stepped in front on another Rivers pass before returning it 65 yards for a touchdown that gave the Patriots a 24-0 halftime lead that all but put the lights out in San Diego.
The game began with a hysterically laughable Andrea Kramer report from just outside the San Diego locker room, where head coach Norv Turner happened to share with Kramer a fantastic tale of “extraordinary meaures” taken to ensure that shadowy New England operatives, most likely trained by G. Gordon Liddy (if Kramer could be believed), didn’t abscond with Chargers trade secrets, including a closely guarded list of scripted plays that Turner prepared specifically for the occasion.
It might have been the most ridiculous moment in a week that was filled with them. One question: how did that script work out for you, Norv?
Well, three turnovers and three punts in the game’s first thirty minutes of play. Don’t expect any Academy Award nominations for that script, Norv. But don’t worry – you’re still in the running for Best Dramatization by a Totally Overmatched Coach.
Brady (25/31/279) and Moss (8-105) were incredible again, throwing and scoring at will while opening up the field for teammates like Wes Welker (8-91), Ben Watson (5-49 and the game’s first touchdown) and Laurence Maroney (15-77 after a slow start). I have neither the time nor the words to describe the difference Moss is making in New England; it matters not how many defenders bracket him, he simply runs by them to create a Great Wide Open that makes it look like the Patriots are playing on a CFL field.
The success was keyed again by an offensive line led by Dan Koppen and Logan Mankins, who combined to drive Pro Bowl tackle Jamal Williams to the ground, and then finally, from the game. Even two sacks (and a strip) by dangerous pass rusher Shawne Merriman were rendered irrelevant by New England’s mastery of the team that many had deemed their superior.
The Chargers finally put together two scoring drives in the second half, but for the second straight week, the Patriots owned the fourth quarter, controlling the ball for nearly thirteen of the fifteen minutes before punctuating their dominance with a late Sammy Morris touchdown run that closed out the scoring.
The night ended with Belichick, haggard but unbowed, acknowledging the well wishes of the Gillette Stadium faithful as he made his way to the New England locker room. Behind him, his quarterback, left to deal with Kramer (who added a report that the last place Jets are considering further charges – shocking), called him “the greatest coach in the history of the NFL.”
He is that – and once again, he’s coaching the best team in the league.