Final, Patriots 35-21: The Pats are 2-0 and they’ll head to Buffalo for a game that looks a whole lot more interesting now than it did a couple weeks ago. Stay with NESN.com for complete postgame coverage.
Fourth quarter, 1:02, Patriots 35-21: Philip Rivers coughed up the ball, and the Patriots will win this one after taking a knee or three.
Fourth quarter, 1:54, Patriots 35-21: That’s a big-time put-away drive by the Patriots, who used nine plays to traverse 80yards, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran off Nate Solder, Matt Light and Rob Gronkowski to score a 16 yard touchdown without getting touched. Green-Ellis had 33 yards on the drive, and the Patriots are closing in on a 2-0 start.
Fourth quarter, 2:19, Patriots 28-21: Tom Brady has surpassed 400 yards again. He’s in some kind of rhythm.
Fourth quarter, 5:40, Patriots 28-21: The Patriots are taking over at their own 20 after the touchback. They put 10 guys on the line to make sure the Chargers weren’t going to try a surprise onside kick. Both teams still have three timeouts.
Fourth quarter, 5:40, Patriots 28-21: Devin McCourty is going to catch some heat this week, and some of it will be deserved, but he’s gotten beat by some absolutely perfect throws, including that 26-yard lob to Vincent Jackson. It wasn’t Kyle Arrington’s responsibility, but I think Arrington could have taken a harder angle to hit Jackson to try disrupting that play.
Fourth quarter, 8:40, Patriots 28-14: What a momentum turn. Tom Brady completed three consecutive passes to Deion Branch, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski for 62 yards, and the Patriots scored in a hurry. The last one was a 17-yard score to Gronkowski, who caught his second touchdown pass of the game. Danny Woodhead then took the draw out of the shotgun formation and dove into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
No one kills themselves like the Chargers, and the Patriots can capitalize as quick as anyone.
Fourth quarter, 10:21, Patriots 20-14: It’s the same old story for San Diego after coughing up the ball with a chance to take the lead. Mike Tolbert, who has become one of the best downhill, short-yardage runners in the game, tried to escape the pocket and run backward, and he fumbled the ball away. Jerod Mayo forced it, and Rob Ninkovich recovered it at the New England 39.
Fourth quarter, 11:41, Patriots 20-14: Tom Brady missed on consecutive chances to get four yards, and the Patriots turned it over on downs to give the Chargers possession at their own 49. I wonder how much of the decision to go for it was based on Zoltan Mesko’s knee injury. Mesko was on the sideline looking ready to go into the game.
Patrick Chung has returned to the field, and he’s got a hard cast on his right thumb. Off the top of my head, that makes Chung, Dane Fletcher, Leigh Bodden and Josh Barrett part of the Patriots’ broken-thumb club. Crazy.
Fourth quarter, 13:33, Patriots 20-14: This was one has gotten a lot tighter. Vincent Jackson ran a perfect route and was on the same page with Philip Rivers, who lobbed a three-yard touchdown pass to beat Devin McCourty. Jackson broke off a baseline route to the post to head back to the sideline, and he caught McCourty with his weight shifted in the wrong direction, allowing for the easy scoring connection.
The Chargers have been clicking in the second half, and this will be a very important series for Tom Brady to take away some momentum.
Also, Zoltan Mesko has a knee injury, and his return is probable. The Patriots hardly ever call someone probable in the middle of a game, so that’s a great sign for his health.
End of third quarter, Patriots 20-7: The Patriots are suffering through a crazy rash of injuries right now. Albert Haynesworth briefly left with an apparent groin issue, but he returned after getting stretched out by the trainers. Zoltan Mesko is walking around the sideline and trying to simulate a slow punting motion. He’s also working on his holds. James Ihedigbo left the game but appears to be OK. There’s no sign of Patrick Chung. Ras-I Dowling is on the sideline but hasn’t been back in the game.
Third quarter, 3:36, Patriots 20-7: The Patriots went three-and-out, and their offense has struggled in the second half. The bigger news, though, is the injury to Zoltan Mesko, who was run into on the punt (with no penalty) and fell to the ground clutching his left leg. He called for the trainers to help him as he stayed on his back in the end zone, and he was helped off the field with an apparent knee injury. On the other side of the play, Matthew Slater made a great tackle to keep the Chargers at their own 36.
The Patriots announced that Patrick Chung has a hand injury, and his return is questionable. There’s been an epidemic of hand injuries in that locker room this season.
Third quarter, 4:35, Patriots 20-7: Patrick Chung appeared to suffer a right shoulder injury early on the Chargers’ last possession, and he went to the locker room unable to move his right arm. Looks like a possible stinger. Chung has been instrumental in the Patriots’ game plan to stop Antonio Gates, and I’ll detail that after the game.
With Chung out, Sergio Brown intercepted Philip Rivers’ attempt for Gates to halt a deep San Diego drive. Rob Ninkovich flagged on Gates at the line, and Brown was playing a zone over the middle. Rivers’ throw wasn’t good, and Brown jumped it to get the Pats the ball at their own 9.
Third quarter, 11:13, Patriots 20-7: Patriots fans might want to thank the football gods that Tom Brady’s left knee is still all good. Antonio Garay was on the ground and drove his arm into Brady’s knee to twist it a little bit, but Brady was fine.
The Patriots actually punted, so that’s news. Zoltan Mesko, who has been more of a holder than anything this season, spun it out of bounds at the San Diego 6.
Third quarter, 14:55, Patriots 20-7: Tom Brady and the Patriots start off at their 15 after Julian Edelman’s kickoff return.
Malcom Floyd has a groin injury, and his return is questionable. Ras-I Dowling has a thigh (read: hamstring) injury, and his return is questionable.
Halftime, Patriots 20-7: Drew Bledsoe and Jon Morris are being recognized during a halftime ceremony, and both greeted the crowd with some nice speeches. The place is going crazy for Bledsoe with loud cheers of “Drew!” and he’s shedding some tears. He interrupted by saying, “OK, y’all gotta stop” because he was having trouble getting out the words.
Forgot to mention in the last post, cornerback Ras-I Dowling appeared to injure his right hamstring on the Chargers’ previous possession. He was on the ground for a minute before heading to the sideline to stretch it out. Dowling missed a large chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury, so this might be a concern going forward.
Halftime, Patriots 20-7: Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, Vince Wilfork records his first career interception and receives a standing ovation when he’s shown on the video boards. Wilfork deflected a pass at the line and returned it down the left sideline to set up the Patriots for a field goal before the half. Great display of athleticism. No lie, the building was shaking when Wilfork was returning the ball 36 yards because this place was jumping like mad.
Then, Tom Brady hit Deion Branch for two completions for a total of 18 yards to set up Stephen Gostkowski for a 47-yard field goal. That’s incredibly deflating for the Chargers.
You know how I said you never know what to expect with a Patriots-Chargers game? I think that’s the first example of this edition.
Second quarter, 2:49, Patriots 17-7: The Patriots have two 99-yard drives in the last three quarters, so that’s pretty good. Rob Gronkowski’s hands are phenomenal. It all stems from his strength, but it looks like it’s impossible to jar the ball away from him. He caught a 10-yard touchdown pass and withstood a hard hit for a couple of Chargers to hang onto the ball.
Tom Brady is now 17th all-time in career passing yardage. Why? Because this team looks like it’s practicing out here. They are in such a rhythm that it’s wild. The awareness from the tight ends has made the offense more of a machine than it was last year.
Second quarter, 8:14, Patriots 10-7: The Patriots’ goal-line defense is playing with so much confidence that it’s just amazing to watch. Jerod Mayo was a stud on that defensive series, and he made the stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1. With Albert Haynesworth, Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love on the interior of that package, it’s tough for any offensive line to get the push they need. And when Mayo and Chung read the ball that well, it’s an advantage for New England every time. Not even faulting Norv Turner for that call, especially with Mike Tolbert in the backfield, but New England’s execution was perfect.
Remember when Bill Belichick told his 2009 team to get excited about making a play? Well, after the fourth-down stop, there were about 40 Patriots on the field celebrating the stand. That team was fired up.
Second quarter, 13:20, Patriots 10-7: The Pats stalled inside the 10 with a couple of strange plays. On first down, Tom Brady overshot Aaron Hernandez, who was well-covered, but it looked like Brady might have had him if he waited another second. Then again, the safety might have been closing from the middle quicker than I realized.
On third down, Brady missed Deion Branch badly in the end zone, and the two spoke on the way to the sideline. The Patriots like to run the baseline route where the receiver crosses the back of the end zone toward the goal post, then reverses course toward the sideline. Since Brady’s throw was behind Branch, I wonder if that’s what he read.
Either way, Gostkowski capped off the drive with a 22-yard field goal.
End of first quarter, 7-7: The Patriots are moving down the field again, and Aaron Hernandez has again been Tom Brady’s favorite target with four catches. The Pats have used the no-huddle on this drive, and it’s amazing what types of matchup problems they can create. Danny Woodhead has gone from the backfield on one play to out wide on the right, and Hernandez has moved all across the line, too. It’s got to create communication issues for the Chargers’ defense.
Linebacker Shaun Phillips, who already has one sack, left the game at the end of the quarter, and it looked like he might have been cramping up. He got a 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade as soon as he sat down on the bench.
Rob Gronkowski is having a tough game so far. He gave up the sack to Phillips, and he got called for holding on this drive.
First quarter, 2:55, 7-7: That was a poor defensive showing for the Patriots. Safety Josh Barrett waved at a pass that went for 23 yards to Malcom Floyd on third down. If he attacked it just the slightest, San Diego would have gone three and out. Devin McCourty was also beat by Floyd for 36 yards. McCourty was there, but he wasn’t in perfect position, allowing Floyd to outjump him for the high throw. Ryan Mathews, who looks suspect in the passing game, ran past Barrett for a 10-yard touchdown.
The Patriots have also used different looks on Antonio Gates, who doesn’t have a catch yet. McCourty has lined up in a man look before dropping into a zone, and they’ve also used Patrick Chung and Rob Ninkovich on the line, leaving Chung in coverage Ninkovich rushing the passer. That variation will be used plenty in this one.
First quarter, 6:15, Patriots 7-0: Aaron Hernandez just chumped Bob Sanders, who singled him up in the right seam. Sanders was tight on Hernandez, but Tom Brady threw it off Hernandez’s back shoulder, allowing the tight end to out-muscle Sanders while turning around to get in perfect position to haul in the 14-yard touchdown pass. The referee didn’t take it to an official review, as the man upstairs must have ruled Sanders flipped the ball out of Hernandez’s hands after he landed on his back with the ball in possession.
The only time the crowd has been louder in this one was after Brady’s 15-yard strike to Chad Ochocinco on third down one play before the score. Beautiful throw and catch to beat cornerback Antoine Cason.
Nate Solder checked in as a sixth offensive lineman three times on the drive, giving the Patriots great blocking each time. That was a very useful set for New England, so I’d expect to see more of that.
First quarter, 12:03, 0-0: The Patriots stopped the Chargers at midfield and will take over at their own 8 after the punt. No Albert Haynesworth on the first series, and Josh Barrett started at safety, even with the hard cast on his right thumb.
Ras-I Dowling started at right cornerback, and Kyle Arrington was the first corner off the bench, lining up on Vincent Jackson in the slot on San Diego’s failed third down.
First quarter, 14:56, 0-0: Richard Goodman took the opening kickoff to the San Diego 20 where he was stuck by Tracy White. You remember Goodman. He caught the pass over the middle of the field in last year’s meeting and placed the ball on the turf to celebrate. Except he was never touched down, and the Patriots recovered the fumble. To this day, it’s still Goodman’s only career reception.
4:12 p.m.: The Gillette Stadium crowd stood for a moment of silence for Myra Kraft.
Also, the guy who sang the national anthem was wearing a Drew Bledsoe jersey.
Speaking of Bledsoe, he and Jon Morris were honorary captains for the coin toss, walking to the 50 with five of the Patriots’ captains, sans Tom Brady.
The Chargers called tails, won the toss and elected to receive. It’s game time, folks.
4:08 p.m.: The Patriots have taken the field to “Crazy Train” and this thing is moments from kickoff. It’s 63 degrees under partly cloudy (let’s call it mostly sunny) skies with 12 mph winds.
3:48 p.m.: Gathered a few notes here from pregame warmups. First, I thought it was good to see Ryan Mallett close to Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer as they went through the passing tree. Even though Mallett is inactive, it’s beneficial to get the feel for the pregame scene. It’s extremely rare to see inactive players on the field this close to game time, so I’m guessing that’s an initiative from Bill Belichick.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Brian Waters and Sebastian Vollmer look like the starters from left to right, judging by the warmups. The linemen who take the first reps can almost certainly be counted on as the starters.
Nate Solder rotated with Vollmer at right tackle. Light took every snap on the left side. Newly-signed Donald Thomas took snaps at both guard positions, and Connolly took every snap at center. With Ryan Wendell inactive, I’d guess that Thomas would be the emergency backup at center.
3:31 p.m.: The Chargers stretch in a layered circle around the strength and conditioning staff. Very different from the Patriots, who line up in rows and face Tom Brady and Jerod Mayo.
3:26 p.m.: Tom Brady has taken the field for pregame warmups, and the fans have really started to move into the stadium. Less than an hour from the home opener.
3:10 p.m.: Wide receiver Patrick Crayton, cornerback Shareece Wright, running back Jordan Todman, linebacker Darryl Gamble, linebacker Jonas Mouton, wide receiver Vincent Brown and defensive end Luis Castillo are inactive for the Chargers.
3:08 p.m.: To complete the uniform theme, the Patriots are wearing their silver pants, navy jerseys and silver helmets.
3:05 p.m.: The Chargers left their powder blues in San Diego. They’re wearing navy pants, white jerseys and white helmets.
2:57 p.m.: Sebastian Vollmer, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes will all make their 2011 debuts Sunday, while Gary Guyton (hamstring), Dan Koppen and Mike Wright will miss their first game of the season. Guyton’s absence might be the most surprising on the team’s inactive list.
Ryan Mallett, Shane Vereen, Taylor Price and Ryan Wendell fill out the inactive list. This has got to be pretty frustrating for Price, who has been inactive for 18 out of 19 career games, including the playoffs.
2:43 p.m.: Sebastian Vollmer is on the field wearing game pants, meaning he’ll make his regular-season debut.
2:40 p.m.: Brian Hoyer, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen and James Ihedigbo have taken the field for the Patriots. Since the inactive list is due to the officials in five minutes, I wonder if that means Vereen will dress for the first time in the regular season.
2:07 p.m.: The only Patriots who have emerged so far have been the specialists, which is typical. At this point, that likely means there are no game-time decisions in terms of health. Those players are usually out 2-3 hours before the game with a trainer.
1:40 p.m.: Zoltan Mesko was the first Patriot to take the field. While standing around the 30-yard line, he lobbed a ball toward the end zone, and it took a couple of hops and bounced past the goal line. Clearly, he’s better with the left foot.
1:25 p.m.: It’s a beautiful day here at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots are less than three hours away from kicking off their first Sunday of the 2011 season. The lube is flowing in the parking lot, and a few Chargers have been loosening up on the game field.
8 a.m. ET: The Patriots wrap up an historic weekend at Gillette Stadium with a highly anticipated game against the Chargers at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
Former Pats quarterback Drew Bledsoe and center Jon Morris were enshrined in the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, and they’ll both take part in a halftime ceremony again Sunday. Bledsoe can hope a few of his former teammates, most notably Tom Brady, can pull off a victory against a tough opponent.
The Patriots and Chargers have played some wild games over the last decade, and it’s almost impossible to figure out what’s going to happen, whether Brady pulls off his first career fourth-quarter comeback to beat Doug Flutie, Troy Brown forces a game-turning fumble or Richard Goodman inexplicably places the ball on the turf to celebrate his only career reception.
Stay with NESN.com’s live blog throughout the day to see what these opposite-coast rivals have in store for one another in their latest rendition.