Brady comes through big again

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and 423 yards against the San...

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and 423 yards against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. (Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. - If you thought there wouldn’t be much left in Tom Brady’s tank, think again.

In the New England Patriots’ season opener last Monday in Miami, Brady threw for a franchise-record 517 yards and tossed four touchdown passes in the most dominating aerial show of his career.

Brady, though, saved plenty for the Patriots home opener Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

Riding a first-half performance where he was 20-for-23 for 240 yards and two touchdowns, Brady and the Patriots offence left the high-octane Chargers in their dust as they downed San Diego 35-21.

It marked the 29th consecutive victory at home in the regular season for Brady and increased the Pats record to 10-0 in home openers at Gillette Stadium.

“I’m proud of our football team today,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “It was a good team win all the way around. It’s good to win and it’s nice to be 2-0.”

On the day Brady was simply superb, going 31-for-40 for 423 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think we were able to spread the ball around and ran the ball pretty good (94 yards on 25 carries). It was a good team win,” the quarterback said. “We took advantage of opportunities that we got and had a big 99-yard drive in there that was good for us.”

Brady was referring to four San Diego turnovers off two interceptions and two fumbles plus a critical goal-line stand when New England stuffed running back Mike Tolbert on fourth and goal from the one midway through the second quarter.

If the Chargers are looking for any culprits, they need only to glance in a mirror.

The Patriots also survived the temporary loss of punter Zoltan Mesko, who was injured late in the third quarter.

His absence forced the Pats to go for it on fourth and four from their own 49-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Brady missed on a pass to Deion Branch turning the ball over to the Chargers with New England up 20-14.

Three plays later, though, Tolbert would fumble and the opportunistic Patriots made them pay.

Starting from their own 39, it took Brady just four plays, the final one a 17-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots were on their way.

Defensively, the Patriots made the big plays and big stops time and again.

Trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, the Chargers drove from their own 24 down to the New England one-yard line. From there, they gambled on fourth down and attempted to run right.

Tolbert got the call but he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Jerod Mayo for no gain, turning the ball over to New England.

The Patriots then applied the hammer as they drove the length of the field and on the 10th play of the drive, Brady connected with Gronkowski for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put New England up 17-7.

“It was huge,” Belichick said of the stop by Mayo. “We got a good push inside. We just made plays, huge plays and it was big for us.”

In the first half the Patriots had the ball four times and on each possession came away with points on two Stephen Gostkowski field goals and two TD tosses by Brady. His first was to tight end Aaron Hernandez for 14 yards in the opening quarter and the second, the backbreaker to Gronkowski.

In was the sixth meeting between the two teams in the Brady-Rivers era with the Patriots holding a 4-2 edge.

Last season the two teams met in the regular season in San Diego and despite being outplayed — Brady threw for just 159 yards — the Patriots emerged as 23-20 victors.

The Chargers sport one of the better overall defensive units and last season ranked first overall in pass defence but this day they could not come up with the big plays when needed.

Time and again Brady went to the soft underbelly of the San Diego defence, connecting for several big-yardage plays over the middle in front of the two Chargers’ safeties.

The game was billed as an aerial battle between the quarterbacks and although Rivers was able at times to take advantage of the height mismatches he had with his receivers, he couldn’t keep up with the relentless pressure applied by Brady and the New England offence.

Rivers ended the day 29-for-40 for 378 yards and two touchdowns but also threw the two picks and late in the proceedings, with the game out of reach, was stripped of the ball and turned it over.

But on a day when Brady was once again nearing perfection, the turnovers proved to be disastrous for the Chargers, who dropped to 1-1.

The Patriots now move on to Buffalo to meet the surprising 2-0 Bills.

Branch, who had 10 catches for 129 yards, offered this warning.

“We look good now, but it’s still not where we want to be,” he said.

That should make the rest of the league shudder.


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