Pats unhappy with defensive effort

Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty (left) was a target of the Chargers on Sunday. Here, Vincent...

Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty (left) was a target of the Chargers on Sunday. Here, Vincent Jackson hauls in a touchdown pass for the Chargers. (Getty Images)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:53 AM ET

FOXBORO, MASS. - Monday morning musings following the New England Patriots 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers late Sunday afternoon:

- Football is by its nature a negative thinking sport and it seems like there is no shortage of finding folks who view the glass half empty.

Despite the victory, there was plenty of grumbling on New England’s defensive side of the ball.

Sure, they held the high octane Chargers and their great quarterback Philip Rivers to just 21 points, but it could have been a whole lot more but for the Chargers’ screw-ups, topped by their four turnovers.

Yes, the Patriots did make some big stops, particularly during their goal-line stand in the second quarter when they stuffed a Mike Tolbert run on fourth and goal from inside the one-yard line.

What has the Patriots concerned is that the Chargers rolled up 470 total yards and were successful 10 of 12 times in third-down situations. And six times, the Chargers put together drives of 50 or more yards.

So if you happen to be a Patriots fan you have to wonder if the defence is of championship calibre, can it hold up when the temperature turns chilly and you’re playing the cream of the crop? Can it really make stops at the one-yard line game in and game out?

And do you really believe that Tom Brady can throw for 400-plus yards and the offence doesn’t have a turnover through the rest of the season?

“The offence had a great game and our stop on fourth down was huge for us, but we would still like to have more out of the defence,” Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. “We still have work to do.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick agreed.

When asked how he would characterize the play of his defence overall, he replied: “Well, we’re 2-0. We did some good things; there are some things we’ve got to do better, things we need to work on.

“We’ve done enough to win two games. We beat two good football teams (Miami being the other) but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

- The Chargers lost a key cog in their attack in the second quarter when wide receiver Malcom Floyd had to leave the game with a strained groin. Prior to that Floyd made two acrobatic catches for 59 yards.

With part of the Patriots defensive game plan being to double team tight end Antonio Gates — he had zero catches with just one ball thrown his way — and Floyd knocked out early, it put a lot of pressure on star wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

The Rivers-to-Jackson aerial show proved to be almost unstoppable. At 6-foot-5 and with a great vertical leap and soft hands, Jackson caught everything thrown his way.

He finished with 10 receptions for 172 yards — both career highs — and scored two touchdowns.

Both Floyd, when he was in, and Jackson simply out-muscled and out-jumped the Patriots defensive backs for the ball. Rivers had to merely throw it up, like a jump ball, and they would come down with it.

- The corner who had the toughest game for the Patriots was Devin McCourty, who is in his second season in the NFL and second season with New England. Time and again the Chargers went his way and with great success.

“Defences can’t be just a few great plays,” McCourty said. “It’s got to be strong, consistent play. There are some plays which we’re making the right plays on and then there are plays where I was beat for two touchdowns, so it comes down to being more consistent.”

- With all the buzz about Brady and his second great day throwing the ball — 31-for-40 for 423 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions — the Patriots also showed a decent running game. The development of same could loom large as the season plods on and the competition gets tougher.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis picked up 70 yards on 17 yards for a 4.1 average and scampered around the left side late in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to put the game away.

- Nose tackles are not supposed to make interceptions but in the second quarter when Rivers attempted a screen pass to Tolbert, there was the Patriots’ Vince Wilfork, all 325 pounds of him, tipping Rivers’ pass in the air, catching it and lumbering 36 yards down the field. Three plays later, the Pats would kick a field goal.

It was Wilfork’s first career interception and his presence came as a complete shock to Rivers.

“There was no way I could ever see him coming,” Rivers said. “I’d throw that one again every time. He made a great play.”

One of many the Patriots would make and in the end, that was the difference.


Photos