FOXBOROUGH, MASS. - On a day when Tom Brady shone bright, so too did the Patriots defence.
They may not have been happy to have given up 470 yards of total offence to the San Diego Chargers but they made the big plays that counted as they picked off two Philip Rivers passes, caused two fumbles and made one momentum-changing, goal-line stand at their own one-yard line.
It all added up to a convincing 35-21 victory.
“We showed great mental toughness coming up with huge turnovers and playing complimentary football,” said New England linebacker Jerod Mayo who made the tackle on Chargers running back Mike Tolbert at the one. “Stopping the run and doing things on the goal line really shows the toughness of a defence. I think the guys really showed that today.”
It was a big game for Mayo who led the Patriots with eight solo tackles and one forced fumble on another hit on Tolbert, this one on the New England 37.
On both the goal-line stand and Tolbert’s fumble, the Patriots would make the turnovers into 15 points including a two-point conversion after the second touchdown.
“We said ever since training camp that the goal line has to be ours,” Mayo said.
He was asked what happened on the big stop.
“They had a run blocking tight end on that side (Randy McMichael) and if they were going to run a play action, they would run it on (Antonio) Gates’ side, throw the ball to him,” he said. “But on that side (his left), there really was no pass rush so I played the run real hard.”
The fact that Brady and bunch would then take the ball and go 99 yards for a score was added icing on the cake.
“We always say, ‘When you kick the ball off, special teams goes and makes a play, pins them deep. Then the defence goes three and out, the offence goes and scores. That is complimentary football like I’ve been saying. It’s just great to go out and play like that.”
Still, the defence knows that it has to tighten up, that four turnovers don’t come your way every game.
“We would still like to have more out of our defence, we still have to improve,” linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. “We still have some things to work on.
“I’m happy for the win and the team played great in all three phases but we still have work to do. There are still things that we have to get done as a team to keep improving.”