Final, Patriots 23-14: That’s all she wrote from San Diego, as Tom Brady closed it out with two kneel-downs. The Patriots (10-3) still sit in the driving seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye.
Fourth quarter, 2:05, Patriots 23-14: The Patriots did their best to waste the clock, killing over four minutes. They left the two-minute warning for the Chargers, however.
LeGarrette Blount helped with a 29-yard run. Brady also picked up a key first down on the ground.
Fourth quarter, 6:10, Patriots 23-14: The Patriots’ defense did its job, halting the Chargers, who elected to punt at midfield on fourth-and-4. They might live to regret that decision if the Patriots’ offense can bleed out the clock.
Fourth quarter, 8:41, Patriots 23-14: It took the Patriots a while, but they’re finally running away with this game.
Julian Edelman just caught and ran for a 69-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. Edelman had to break a tackle, and a key block from Brandon LaFell sparked the score.
Fourth quarter, 10:34, Patriots 16-14: The Patriots finally have retaken the lead, going 55 yards on 10 plays. Julian Edelman picked up some tough yards with two 10-yard pickups. He now has 65 yards on six catches.
Stephen Gostkowski booted it through for the go-ahead field goal after the Patriots couldn’t convert on third-and-3.
End of the third quarter, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots’ defense didn’t force a three-and-out this time. They allowed a first down.
They’re playing lights out and single-handedly keeping the Patriots in this game.
The Patriots just recorded their first first down of the half. Perhaps that will give them the spark they need to get back in the end zone.
Third quarter, 3:09, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots weren’t able to do anything after their interception, going three-and-out again. The Chargers have the ball on their own 10-yard line after a great special-teams tackle by Brian Tyms.
Third quarter, 4:43, Chargers 14-13: Well, it’s obvious what to blame if this game doesn’t happen to go the Patriots’ way.
Brandon Browner creamed Ladarius Green with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, which appeared to knock the Chargers tight end unconscious. The refs saw Green lying motionless and threw the flag, believing it was a helmet-to-helmet hit. Meanwhile, Devin McCourty ran an interception back to the end zone, after he caught the ball deflecting off Green.
The penalty brought back the touchdown and the interception, and the Chargers got to keep the ball.
GIF: Brandon Browner called for helmet to helmet. https://t.co/fHUqe6Cvb9
— Marcus (@_MarcusD_) December 8, 2014
The Patriots made up for it two minutes later, when linebacker Akeem Ayers picked off Philip Rivers.
Third quarter, 6:55, Chargers 14-13: This has become a defensive battle.
The Patriots forced a three-and-out after Rob Ninkovich sacked Philip Rivers on third down. The Chargers responded by forcing their own three-and-out after the Patriots’ drive started with a false start by Dan Connolly.
Third quarter, 10:26, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots really don’t want to lead in this game. They went three-and-out again, and Tom Brady still seems a little out of sorts.
The Patriots are winning the field-position battle, however. Patriots punter Ryan Allen just pinned the Chargers at their 10-yard line.
Third quarter, 11:33, Chargers 14-13: The Chargers lost punter Mike Scifres to a shoulder injury, and it’s really hurting them, since kicker Nick Novak is having trouble getting anything under his punts.
The Patriots have the ball on their own 48-yard line after forcing a three-and-out. Jamie Collins made an impressive third-down stop, pushing Donald Brown out of bounds before he could get to the first-down mark.
Third quarter, 12:43, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots opened the second half with a whimper, going three-and-out.
A turnover and three-and-out probably wasn’t what the Patriots hoped for to end and start the half when they chose to defer.
End of the half, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots had a chance to take the lead at the half, but Tom Brady threw a terrible pass off his back foot directly to Chargers linebacker Manti T’eo for an interception. Brady then sat on the turf and cursed himself out.
The Chargers kneeled on it and took the first-half lead into the locker room.
Second quarter, 1:32, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots have the ball back inside two minutes. They forced a punt despite letting up a costly first down on third-and-29 earlier in the drive, when Kyle Arrington was hit with a costly tripping penalty.
Second quarter, 3:28, Chargers 14-13: The Patriots are right back in this one.
Second quarter, 5:31, Chargers 14-6: Brandon Bolden, ladies and gentlemen.
For those who wonder why the reserve running back is on the team, well, he just blocked a punt. He’s a special teams ace who also can contribute on the ground.
The Patriots shut the Chargers down three-and-out on that series. Rob Ninkovich had a huge third-down stop on a scrambling Philip Rivers.
The Patriots have the ball on the Chargers’ 25-yard line.
Second quarter, 7:38, Chargers 14-6: The Patriots had to settle for another field goal after Tom Brady seemed all out of sorts inside the red zone. He threw incomplete passes to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, and LeGarrette Blount, with no momentum on his back, managed no gain on first down.
The Patriots’ defense will need to step up and possibly cause a turnover to turn this game.
Second quarter, 11:06, Chargers 14-3: The Chargers just officially turned this game.
Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell caught a first-down pass from Tom Brady, then spun and fumbled the ball. Darrell Stuckey picked it up and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown.
The Patriots probably regret not running with LeGarrette Blount from the 2-yard line on their opening drive.
Second quarter, 13:29, Chargers 7-3: We’ve got a ballgame here.
The Chargers took the lead on Malcolm Floyd’s tremendous diving catch in the back of the end zone. He beat cornerback Brandon Browner on a stop-and go-route. Browner had just defended Floyd nicely on an incomplete pass on the previous play.
End of the first quarter, Patriots 3-0: The Chargers aren’t having much trouble working their way down the field and have the ball on the Patriots’ 35-yard line. SAn Diego has 24 yards on six carries, and Philip Rivers is 4-of-7 passing for 42 yards.
The Patriots have a solid rotation going at defensive tackle with Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch and Chris Jones.
First quarter, 3:15, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots were magnificent until they had goal to go at their 2-yard line. Then they decided to call two passing plays when running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray were having zero trouble running the ball down the Chargers’ throats.
That’s on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The Patriots settled for a field goal, and they were lucky to get that. On their first attempt, the field goal was blocked, but it was called back because San Diego was offsides.
Blount finished the drive with seven carries for 39 yards. He also had one catch for 10 yards.
First quarter, 11:11: The Patriots’ defense did their job on their first series. They allowed two first downs, then linebacker Jamie Collins sacked Chargers QB Philip Rivers on third down, and the Patriots fans in San Diego erupted.
The Patriots opened in nickel with Jonathan Casillas at linebacker and Akeem Ayers at defensive end. Darrelle Revis followed Keenan Allen, Brandon Browner was on Malcom Floyd and Kyle Arrington covered Eddie Royal. On third down, Browner followed Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
First quarter, 15:00: The Patriots won the toss and chose to defer.
There’s a “Let’s go Patriots chant” here at Qualcomm.
8:16 p.m.: There are a ton of Patriots jerseys in the stands here, and the crowd definitely was mixed when the teams came onto the field for warmups. The Chargers might not have a full-on home-field advantage tonight.
8:03 p.m.: Here’s how the Patriots lined up during warmups:
Patriots defense, per warmups: DL: Ninkovich, Wilfork, Chris Jones, Moore LB: Ayers, Casillas, Collins DB: Browner, Revis, McCourty, Chung
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) December 8, 2014
We’ll see if that sticks during the game. It hasn’t in the past, but Dont’a Hightower’s injury changes things.
7:40 p.m.: There’s an interesting atmosphere here in San Diego. The Chargers and Patriots both received cheers and boos as they ran out of the tunnel.
7 p.m.: Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, offensive linemen Cameron Fleming and Jordan Devey, defensive end Chandler Jones, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Chris White, and running back James White are inactive for the Patriots.
Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, who hasn’t played since injuring his foot in Week 2, will make his return from short-term injured reserve tonight.
6:35 p.m.: Long snapper Danny Aiken is warming up like he’s going to play. Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming is wearing a track suit and sneakers, so he’s looking unlikely to play. Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell warmed up like they’re playing.
There’s no sign of Seavler Siliga, Chandler Jones or Dont’a Hightower yet.
6:24 p.m.: The Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower watch is on here in San Diego. Hightower is questionable with a shoulder injury, and Jones hasn’t played since Week 7 with a hurt hip.
6 p.m.: Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brian Tyms, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, cornerback Brandon Browner and linebacker Darius Fleming are among Patriots player on the field early.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on “Sunday NFL Countdown” that Edelman, running back Shane Vereen and receiver Brandon LaFell are expected to play.
4:55 p.m.: The New England Patriots were wise to spend the week in San Diego.
Not only were the Patriots able to get acclimated to the beautiful weather, but they also weren’t forced to take a long flight just days before the game. They practiced at the University of San Diego and enjoyed a nice little work-cation in Southern California.
Not to rub it in to those freezing in New England, but it’s 76 degrees and sunny here in San Diego, and we have an open-air press box.
The Patriots won’t have it easy tonight at Qualcomm Stadium. The 8-4 Chargers always are tough in December, and they’re fighting for a playoff spot. Philip Rivers statistically is having one of the best seasons of his NFL career. He’s completing 69.1 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Rivers will be throwing to tight end Antonio Gates and wide receivers Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal. I expect Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis to follow Allen, with Brandon Browner on Floyd, Kyle Arrington on Royal and a combination of linebacker Jamie Collins and safety Patrick Chung on Gates. At 6-foot-5, Floyd is the perfect matchup for 6-foot-4, 225-pound Browner.
On a personal note, if you think the traffic on Rt. 1 in Foxboro is bad before a Patriots game, you should see the traffic here in San Diego. I left five hours before the game and hit terrible traffic on the highway and trying to get into the parking lot.
Also, it appears the Chargers haven’t invested in new TVs since they remodeled Qualcomm Stadium in 1997. Seriously.