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News Blitz 12/8: Defense saved the day for the Patriots

On a night when the Patriots' offense wasn't its usual self, the defense stepped up to the plate and provided a strong performance against the Chargers. Comcast SportsNet's Tom Curran says the defense saved the day for the Patriots and that they've become the team's strongest unit. Even with Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones on the inactive list, the defense forced 8 punts and gave up just 7 points in the win.

"The Patriots are better on defense than they are on offense," stated Curran. "And that's why they can win by nine on the road despite going 1-for-4 in the red zone and 0-for-2 in goal-to-go situations. It's the defense."

ESPN Boston's Lee Schechter posted his report card on the Patriots win over the Chargers. The offensive line had a very poor showing on Sunday night, which earned them a C- as a group. The worst player on the field may have been Nate Solder who was repeatedly embarassed by Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney all night. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Schechter gave A's to the defensive front seven, the secondary, the special teams unit, and the Patriots receivers (specifically, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski).

"Edelman was a true workhorse as he hauled in eight catches for 141 yards and the play of the game, a 69-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a comfortable 23-14 lead. He also took hits while still battling through a thigh injury," wrote Schechter.

Edelman's performance also earned praise from Doug Kyed who listed the 5-foot-10 receiver as one of the Patriots four 'stars of the game'. In his article on NESN.com, Kyed notes that Edelman seems to be earning more of Tom Brady's trust each game and is on pace for his second consecutive 100-catch, 1,000-yard season. Also on the list was Rob Gronkowski, Darrelle Revis, and second-year linebacker, Jamie Collins.

Just like Edelman, Jamie Collins earned a lot of praise for his game against the Chargers. While Dont'a Hightower watched from the sidelines with an injury, Collins stepped into the signal-caller role and had arguably his best game of the season. Boston.com's Erik Frenz had the second-year linebacker's stock on the rise after he finished the evening with two sacks and six additional tackles. Brandon Browner, on the other hand, found himself trending down after getting flagged twice for his physical play in the secondary.

"Penalty-magnet Brandon Browner was once again flagged twice, although one of those penalties seemed bogus (flagged for helmet-to-helmet hit in the third quarter, negating an interception)," said Frenz.

The penalty that Frenz is referring to, caused quite the stir on twitter last night from fans and media members who disagreed with the call on the field. Sid Saraf of Fox Sports recapped the play and highlighted some of the tweets following the controversial penalty.

"At full speed, the hit did appear to be rough, but in slow motion? Not so much. The reaction on Twitter was instant ... and negative," explained Saraf.

After beating the Chargers on Sunday, the Patriots improved to 52-9 in December under Bill Belichick. Before the start of the game, Shalise Manza Young wrote an article in the Boston Globe claiming that the Patriots have been nearly unbeatable in December. She says that Belichick's ability to get his team ready at the end of the year when it matters most, may be his most impressive quality.

"Of course, having Belichick as coach isn't the only necessity for late-season success," wrote Manza Young. "A great quarterback helps. All but six of those 51 December wins under Belichick have come with Tom Brady under center."

Team photographer, David Silverman, offers his best photos from the Patriots-Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, December 7, 2014.

It always helps to get a road win when the stadium you're playing in is filled with Patriots fans. That was the case last night in San Diego. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote a column about the support the team received from its fans in San Diego. He said there was a playoff atmosphere from the start of the game and it helped that many of the 68,815 fans who were in attendance were rooting for New England.

"You really had to be here to appreciate the sound and spirit of the New England fans," said Shaughnessy. "Playing 3,000 miles from home against a playoff-bound team that had won two-thirds of its games, the Patriots were the home team in this game. I have seen and heard Red Sox fans take over Camden Yards and the TropDome, but I never have seen nor heard anything quite like this."

Way to go Patriots Nation!

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