]()The only good thing to be said about this game is that the Patriots did not beat themselves. The bad news is the Chargers completely took care of that by dominating the Patriots to the tune of 41-17, handing them their first home loss since December of 2002.
All of the Patriots 17 points came in the first half when things still looked promising. But by the second half, San Diego began dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 134 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. Drew Brees had his way with the Patriots secondary while under no pressure from the Patriots front seven. His numbers were 19 of 24 passing for 248 yards and two scores. Tight end Antonio Gates had 6 receptions for 108 yards.
For the fourth time this season, Corey Dillon was held under 100 yards, this time gaining only 63 yards on 14 carries, although he did have a touchdown run.
In the end it was a sound beating by a team that had to come cross country to do it.
New England had a chance to take an early lead but there was a collective gasp from the crowd as Adam Vinatieri missed on a 37-yard field goal attempt. The first quarter drive looked hopeful after a 29-yard Corey Dillon run right up the and two David Givens receptions for 15 and 11 yards.
Instead, it was the Chargers Nate Kaeding knocking home a 42-yard field goal after his team got the ball back. A 21-yard Brees to Gates hook-up was key to the drive.
]()The Patriots offense bounced back on its next try with Brady doing most of the work through the air. Troy Brown made a fantastic catch for 21 yards on third and 10. Dillon chipped in with a 23-yard screen pass and run. Once on the goal line, Dillon carried it in to put New England on top, 7-3.
New England's defense looked shaky on the Chargers first touchdown drive which came at 8:39 of the second quarter. Despite three San Diego penalties on the drive, it managed to overcome the setbacks with Brees finding receivers, primarily Gates and Eric Parker. The scoring play was an 11-yard catch by Keenan McCardell.
San Diego's lead was short-lived as New England immediately went up 14-10 on its next possession. Bethel Johnson set the table with a 51-yard kickoff return. A couple plays later, Brady hit Tim Dwight from 30 yards out for the score.
A 44-yard pass interference on Eugene Wilson in coverage against Parker aided the Chargers cause to grab the lead right back. That play was followed up by two Tomlinson runs for 8 yards each, the second for six points.
To this point in the game (2:47 left in the first half), Chargers quarterback Brees was under no pressure from the Patriots attack.
The flurry of scoring continued right to the end of the first half. New England went into its two-minute offense, beginning with a 23-yard pick-up to Benjamin Watson. Givens had a 17-yard catch and on a third and 1 play, Brady kept for 4 yards. On the next play, Patrick Pass made a nice grab on a lobbed sideline pass from Brady, holding on while toeing the line with both feet. The play was reviewed but the call on the field of it being a reception held up.
The Pass catch moved the ball to the 6, but Brady was imcomplete on three straight tries and Vinatieri came on for a 24-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.
]()The Chargers struck first in the second half. On their first drive, Brees continued to have time and find open receivers, hitting Gates for 14 early and then throwing a ball up from the 39 that Gates came down with on the 1. Tomlinson scored on the next play.
Still in the third quarter, San Diego added to its lead. Tomlinson cracked the 100-yard mark -- even Michael Turner was knocking off runs of 18 and 7. From the 28, Brees, again with all kinds of time, lofted a pass into the end zone for Reche Caldwell with Duane Starks in coverage. Caldwell made the catch and now it was a two-touchdwon lead for the Chargers at 31-17.
After the Patriots were held to three plays on their first possession of the first quarter, it was imperative for the defense to make quick work of the Chargers offense or this game would be out of hand.
When Brees hit Tomlinson for 21 yards on a third and 7 and then Mike Vrabel was called for a facemask on the tackle, the game was officially out of hand.
New England held on to force a 21-yard field goal but with under five minutes left to play and trailing by three scores at 34-17, fans headed to their cars in droves.
Those that stayed watched Brady throw up an interception on his next play, the first Patriots turnover of the game. Matt Cassel followed suit by throwing a pick of his own, this one returned by Donnie Edwards who lateraled to Clinton Hart, for the final score of the day.