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Brandon Browner on 15-yard penalty: ‘If you make a big hit nowadays, they tend to call a penalty’

12.08.14 at 1:42 am ET
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Brandon Browner didn't like the 15-yard personal foul penalty called on him, taking away a Devin McCourty touchdown. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Brandon Browner didn’t like the 15-yard personal foul penalty called on him, taking away a Devin McCourty touchdown. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Even though Devin McCourty’s interception returned for a touchdown was called back because of a Brandon Browner helmet-to-helmet hit on LaDarius Green, it was still a game-changing play for the Patriots as they seemed to rally following the questionable call and came away with a 23-14 win over the Chargers.

With the Patriots trailing 14-13 with 6:44 left in the third quarter, on 1st-and-10 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hit LaDarius Green with a pass at the New England 44-yard-line. Green couldn’t handle the initial pass and the ball hung around his finger tips. In came Browner who delivered a huge hit on Green — knocking him down on the field for several minutes after the play — and the ball popped in the air, which McCourty caught and returned it for a touchdown.

The play was called back as Browner was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver, even though replays showed Browner’s shoulder went right into Green’s shoulder. Since the hit was so hard, and by the way Green hit the ground, it looked more violent than it really was.

“It’€™s just part of the game nowadays If you make a big hit nowadays, they tend to call a penalty,” Browner told reporters following the game. “I felt it was pretty clean. I hit him with my shoulder to his chest. You know, that’€™s just the nature of the game.”

“At the moment it was tough, but I think that set the tone right there,” Browner added. “You win some, you lose some. Good thing that didn’€™t bite us in the butt. I’€™m really happy we won the game.”

The drive ended with an Akeem Ayers interception, and the Patriots came away with the win, scoring the last 20 points of the game, so the penalty didn’t come back to hurt the team. But, for plays like that in the future, Browner wishes they could be reviewed to make sure they were called correctly on the field, so what happened to him doesn’t happen again.

“Most definitely,” Browner said. “I think that’€™s a smart thing to do, instead of costing guys 15 yards and that cost us six points. … I think whoever handles those things, I think they should. They review everything else. You took away a hard effort play. That’€™s all it was. Hard effort.”

Some of Browner’s former teammates in Seattle weighed in on Twitter during the game:

Richard Sherman seemed to agree it was a bad call, as he retweeted a tweet from Stephen A. Smith.

Read More: Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty, LaDarius Green, Philip Rivers

Tom Brady says defense was ‘phenomenal’ in Patriots’ win over Chargers

12.08.14 at 12:39 am ET
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Tom Brady credited the Patriots defense in Sunday's 23-14 win over the Chargers. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Tom Brady credited the Patriots defense in Sunday’s 23-14 win over the Chargers. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t the typical dominant Brady performance.

The quarterback and the offense struggled at times, but were picked up by the defense and special teams, as the Patriots defeated the Chargers, 23-14 in San Diego.

The Patriots are now 10-3 and stand alone atop the AFC standings.

After the New England defense allowed a touchdown drive in the early stages of the second quarter, they didn’t allow another score after that. The following Chargers drives went: blocked punt, punt, half, punt, punt, INT, punt, punt, punt, downs. The defense finished with four sacks and an interception, as well as holding the Chargers to 4-for-13 on third-down, after they started the game 3-for-4.

Although it wasn’t pretty at times, the Patriots fought back from a 14-3 deficit and scored the games’ final 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter to top the Chargers.

“They were phenomenal,” Brady said of the defense to reporters following the game. “They did a great job. That was the key to the whole game, the way the defense played. We turned it over a couple of times and we always hate doing that, but the defense — blocked punt was huge, interception was huge and we kind of got the momentum once we kicked the field goal. Made a great kick and the the long score to Jules [Julian Edelman]. Everyone needed to contribute and everyone did. I’m real happy.”

The big blow for the Patriots came in the fourth quarter with the Patriots clinging to a two-point lead with just under nine minutes left. Brady connected with Edelman for a 69-yard touchdown strike to seemingly put the Chargers away.

“Great play,” Brady said of the catch and run. “It was a good opportunity for us to throw it. We were pretty heavy on the run and we found a little spot to throw it and Jules made a great catch and run. We needed that type of play at that point in the game and the defense took over from there.”

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Read More: Julian Edelman, Patriots defense, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

Poll: Who gets most credit for Patriots’ win?

12.07.14 at 11:50 pm ET
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Poll: Who deserves the most credit for the Patriots' 23-14 win over the Chargers?

  • The defense. It held San Diego to no points in the second half and just one offensive touchdown. Jamie Collins was the key with two sacks, and Darrelle Revis held Keenan Allen in check. (93%, 473 Votes)
  • Special teams. Brandon Bolden blocked a punt -- the first in franchise history since 2010, which gave New England great field position for its first TD -- and Stephen Gostkowski had three field goals. (4%, 20 Votes)
  • The offense. Julian Edelman was nails, with eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, while Rob Gronkowski had eight catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. (3%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 510

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What we learned: Patriots roll over Chargers, 23-14

12.07.14 at 11:39 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski caught his 10th touchdown of the season in the Patriots' win. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski caught his 10th touchdown of the season in the Patriots’ win. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The Patriots completed their six-game gauntlet in style, knocking off the Chargers in San Diego Sunday night, 23-14. Tom Brady finished 28-for-44 for 317 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman had eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and LeGarrette Blount had 20 carries for 66 yards.

On the other side of the ball, Philip Rivers helped spark the Chargers to a 14-3 lead, but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone after that. The San Diego quarterback ended the game 20-for-33 for 189 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Malcom Floyd had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown and Ryan Mathews had 11 carries for 44 yards.

The Patriots spotted the Chargers an 11-point lead — thanks in large part to a pair of early turnovers from New England. But while the Patriots offense struggled at times (including four straight 3-and-outs in the third quarter), the defense was spectacular. The Chargers were unable to do anything at all in the second half, as San Diego was held scoreless over the third and fourth quarter.

New England improved to 10-3, and holds on to the top spot in the AFC playoff race. The Patriots will face the Dolphins next week in Foxboro. Meanwhile, San Diego saw a three-game winning streak snapped, and dropped to 8-5 with the defeat. The Chargers will host the Broncos next Sunday in Southern California.

Here’s what we learned about the Patriots Sunday night:

They won despite a miserable performance by the offense for the better part of the second and third quarters.

The Patriots, who came into the game with a 100-point advantage in second-quarter scoring over the course of the season (their 156-56 edge was the greatest point differential in the league for any team in any quarter this season), were outscored 14-10 in the second against the Chargers. It was a quarter that ended with a really bad throw from Brady for Gronkowski that was picked in the red zone. It was part of a miserable sequence for Brady and the Patriots, who went 3-and-out on their first four drives of the third quarter and picked up their first first down of the third in the last play from scrimmage.

Their special teams are among the best in the game.

Their second-quarter touchdown came as a result of a terrific blocked punt by Brandon Bolden, who busted through and knocked down a Mike Scifres punt with just over five minutes left in the second quarter. (Scifres was knocked out of the game.) It was the first blocked punt of the season for the Patriots, and first since Pat Chung did it in 2010. The Patriots cashed in four plays later when Brady found Rob Gronkowski in a 14-yard pass play to give New England its first touchdown of the night. (With the touchdown, Gronkowski became the first tight end to have four seasons of 10-plus touchdowns.) Gostkowski connected on three field goals for the Patriots on the night (two from 22 and another from 38).

They’re still not confident in anyone other than LeGarrette Blount running the football.

The Patriots were able to run the ball really consistently in the early going, as Blount accounted for 50 yards on New England’s first drive as the Patriots powered the ball all the way down to the San Diego 1-yard line. But that was pretty much it for Blount, who was a nonfactor for most of the rest of the evening. (Part of that could be scheme, part of it could be situational. Either way, another look at the film is warranted for what was some curious play-calling at some key moments.) No other back was much of a factor on the night.

Julian Edelman is feeling OK.

The wide receiver, who has been banged up the last couple of weeks (he left the Packers game early) was a difference-maker much on the evening for the Patriots. He was able to consistently move the chains and pick up key yardage throughout the night, and had the 69-yard touchdown catch that effectively ended things against the Chargers. Edelman, who appeared to disappear into the background for a few games over the course of the last six games, (he had one catch against the Bears and five against the Colts) is now well-positioned to be a go-to guy down the stretch and into the playoffs for the Patriots.

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Halftime analysis: Chargers 14, Patriots 13

12.07.14 at 10:03 pm ET
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Two quarters are in the books in San Diego, and the Patriots trail the Chargers, 14-13. Here are a few quick notes:

Tom Brady is 14-for-25 for 171 yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, he threw a bad ball at the end of the first half that resulted in a pick. Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski has three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. The best Chargers defender of the first half was Melvin Ingram, who has one sack, one pass defensed and one quarterback hit, and has done a good job putting pressure on the New England offensive line.

— Meanwhile, Philip Rivers is 8-for-14 for 77 yards and a touchdown, and running back Ryan Mathews has nine carries for 52 yards. Darrelle Revis has taken away Keenan Allen — the Chargers’ No. 1 option in the passing game was not targeted at all in the first half.

— The Patriots were likely to play more nickel because of the Chargers’ overt emphasis on throwing the ball, but the fact that they were without Dont’a Hightower made for an easier transition. New England came out in a 4-2-5, with Jamie Collins and Jonathan Casillas at linebacker. Collins stopped San Diego’s first drive of the game with a third-down sack when he shot through the A gap to take down Rivers, forcing a punt. (Akeem Ayers appeared to get some work as an outside linebacker/defensive end for a portion of the first half as well.)

— The Patriots responded with one of their longest scoring drives of the year, a 17-play sequence that stalled out in the red zone and led to a 22-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 3-0 midway through the first quarter. (It tied the 17-play drive New England had against Chicago earlier in the season.) On the sequence — which took 7:56 — the Patriots were able to run the ball consistently, but went away from it in the shadow of the San Diego goal line, and ended up settling for three. (It wasn’t without drama, however, as the first field goal attempt was blocked. However, there was a flag on the play — defensive offsides — and Gostkowski got a second chance. He connected on that one.)

— The Chargers got their first score of the game at the end of an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard pass from Rivers to Malcom Floyd on a play where Floyd beat Brandon Browner to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. That made it 7-3 early in the second quarter.

— The low point of the first half came when Brandon LaFell fumbled a pass from Brady early in the second quarter. (Jahleel Addae poked the ball away.) Brandon Stuckey scooped up the ball and took it all the way back for the touchdown, a 53-yard return to give the Chargers a 14-3 advantage. It was just the fourth lost fumble of the year for the Patriots, and the first one that didn’t come from Brady.

— The Patriots added another field goal in the second quarter when Gostkowski connected on a 22-yarder to make it 14-6 with just over seven minutes remaining in the half. The drive was highlighted by a 30-yard pass to Gronkowski on a play where the big fella was covered initially by defensive end/linebacker Dwight Freeney. The Patriots steered clear of the run for the most part on the drive, preferring to pass on 11 of the 12 plays from scrimmage.

— The best play in the first half for the Patriots likely came relatively late in the second quarter when Brandon Bolden blocked a Mike Scifres punt, setting New England up with terrific field position at the Chargers’ 25-yard line. (It was the first blocked punt of the season for the Patriots, and first since Patrick Chung did it in 2010.) The Patriots made them pay with a quick sequence that ended with a 14-yard pass play to Gronkowski to make it 14-13. With the touchdown, Gronkowski became the first tight end to have four seasons of 10-plus touchdowns.

— The Patriots were able to exploit the soft spots in the Chargers offensive line on a few occasions, particularly when Collins picked up two sacks on blitzes up the gut. Expect more of that in the second half.

Chandler Jones (hip) inactive for 6th straight game, Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) also inactive

12.07.14 at 7:03 pm ET
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Dont'a Hightower will miss his third game of season Sunday night in San Diego. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Dont’a Hightower will miss his third game of season Sunday night in San Diego. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Chandler Jones will miss his sixth straight game with a hip injury. Jones is one of the seven inactives for Sunday night’s game here at Qualcomm Stadium.

Also inactive is linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who is nursing a right shoulder injury suffered last week in the second half of the loss at Green Bay. This could mean much more significant playing time for Jonathan Casillas, acquired in a mid-October trade with the Buccaneers.

This is the third game missed for Hightower, who didn’t play against the Bengals and Bills with a knee injury.

Backup linebacker and special teams core player Chris White (ankle) will miss his second straight game. The other four inactives are offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, running back James White, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard and offensive lineman Jordan Devey.

Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga is active and will play after being activated on Saturday from the short term injured reserve list. Siliga injured his foot in the Week 3 win over the Raiders.

For the Chargers, rookie center Chris Watt (calf) is active and expected to start for the Chargers. Right tackle D.J. Fluker suffered a concussion on Wednesday in practice and passed testing protocols after missing practice Thursday. He returned to practice Friday and is active for the game.

Read More: chandler jones, Chris Watt, D.J. Fluker, Dont'a Hightower

Live blog: Tom Brady’s Patriots take on Philip Rivers’ Chargers in San Diego

12.07.14 at 5:50 pm ET
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The Patriots are looking to bounce back after last week’s loss in Green Bay, while the Chargers are seeking their fourth straight win — a game which will go a long way in the shaping of the AFC playoff picture. Follow the game through tweets before, during and after.

Live Blog Patriots vs. Chargers, live blog
 

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