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Nuggetpalooza’s Patriots-Chargers preview!

10.22.10 at 9:12 am ET
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Great win last week by the Pats. HUGE disaster potential this week in San Diego. New England is going to need its defense to continue the improvement it showed last Sunday, and the offense has to put points on the board. This San Diego team is scary.  Especially if Antonio Gates is able to play.

Here’s a bunch of stuff to help you break these two teams down:

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* – New England has scored five miscellaneous touchdowns in 2010 (two kickoff returns, two interception returns, return of a blocked field goal). That’s tied with Arizona for the most in the league. San Diego has ALLOWED six miscellaneous touchdowns (two kickoff returns, two fumble returns, a punt return, return of a blocked punt), easily the most in the league.

Out of 37 miscellaneous touchdowns in the league this season, the Patriots or Chargers have been involved in 11 of them (30 percent).

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* – San Diego has lost nine fumbles this season already, the most in the NFL. However, New England’s defense has forced fumbles on just 0.8 percent of opponent offensive touches, the lowest percentage in the league. They have recovered just one fumble by an opponent all season (tied for last).

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* – Moss fallout? New England’s wide receivers averaged just 3.44 yards after the catch last weekend against Baltimore, their lowest average in the last 18 games and just the second time since at least 2003 that they’ve averaged less than 3.50 YAC despite 15 or more catches.

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* – Over the last two games, the Patriots are 4-for-4 on passes to their tight end caught behind the line of scrimmage. So what, you ask? Well, they had attempted only one such pass in their last 25 previous games. More evidence of an offense evolving beyond Randy Moss?

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* – The Chargers are throwing deeper passes to their wideouts than any team in the NFL this season. Their average reception has come 13.7 yards downfield. That’s on pace to be the highest mark since at least 2003. New England’s wide receivers have made their catches an average of 5.3 yards downfield, the shortest passes in the league and on pace to be the first sub-6.00 mark in the NFL since at least 2003.

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* – The Patriots have rolled up 18 or more first downs in 21 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the league. And look who is second:

21 – Patriots
16 – Chargers
6 – Colts

The 21-game streak is three games shy of the longest in the league since 1991, set by the Saints last season.

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* – San Diego leads the NFL in 2010 in first downs (24.0/game) and net first downs (+9.7/game). The Chargers are the only team in the league that has had more first downs than their opponent in every game this season. New England is allowing 22.4 first downs per game (29th).

Only two teams since 1991 have ended a season with average net first downs of +7.0 or better: The 2007 Patriots and the 2004 Broncos.

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* – The Patriots are now 65-8 since 2003 when they out-rush their opponent (.885). That’s the second highest such winning percentage in that span:

.915 – Colts (43-4)
.885 – Patriots (65-8)
.813 – Chargers (52-12)

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* – New England has not allowed a rushing touchdown in the first quarter in 34 games, the longest streak in the league.

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* – The Chargers have allowed 10 or more points in the first quarter in each of their last two games. You’ll have to go back to 2003 to find the last time that happened to San Diego.

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* – The Patriots have had success (gained four yards or more) on 59 percent of their first down plays this season, the highest percentage in the league. San Diego’s defense has allowed success on just 41 percents of those plays, the fourth-best mark. On offense, the Chargers lead the league with an average gain of 6.98 yards on first down plays, thanks to gains of 10 or more yards 27 percent on the time.

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* – San Diego’s defense has forced three and outs on 30 percent of opponent possessions (ranked third) while the Pats’ offense has gone three and out 24 percent of the time (ranked 21st).

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* – The Chargers have been pretty scary when throwing deep (more than 30 yards downfield) this season as they are 6-for-12, with a 49-yard average and three touchdowns. Since 2003, the most touchdown passes in a season on throws of 30 or more yards is eight, set by the Eagles last year.

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* – A couple of sack notes from last week: The Chargers took seven sacks last Sunday, their most since 1997. The Patriots lost 25 yards via quarterback sacks last Sunday, their most since Week 7 of the 2008 season (30 games).

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* – New England receivers suffered five more dropped passes last Sunday, accounting for 15 percent of catchable balls. For the season, they’ve dropped 11.8 percent of catchable throws, the second-worst percentage in the NFL.

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* – Speaking of catchable throws, 76.5 percent of Tom Brady‘s passes this season have been considered catchable, the highest percentage in the league. The Chargers’ Philip Rivers ranks surprisingly low (14th) at just 67.0 percent.

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* – On offense, New England receivers have five touchdown passes that were caught outside the end zone this season. San Diego’s defense is one of just three that have not allowed a pass to be caught outside the end zone and run in for a touchdown yet. The Bears and Steelers are the other two.

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* – The Patriots had two penalties declined last week, leaving San Diego as the only team in the league in which every penalty against them (38) has been accepted.

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* – Last week against Baltimore, the Patriots allowed an average of just 1.21 yards after contact per reception, the second lowest average allowed in the league.

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* – After completing a ridiculous 30-of-32 short passes (1-10 yards downfield) over the previous two games (94 percent), Brady came back to earth last week against Baltimore, hitting “just” 55 percent (12-of-22) of those throws.

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* – On longer throws (21 or more yards downfield), Tom Brady went 0-for-2 last Sunday and has completed just 4-for-23 (17 percent) over the last nine games.

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* – So far in 2010, the New England pass rush has knocked down the opposing quarterback on just nine percent of pass plays, the second lowest percentage in the league. They’ve caused hurries on just 4.6 percent, ranked third lowest.

On the other side, San Diego’s defense ranks in the middle of the pack (18th) with 12.9 percent knockdowns and near the bottom (31st) in hurries (4.5 percent).

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* – The Chargers lead the NFL with 35 pass plays of 20 or more yards and 52 percent of their total passing yards have come on those big plays (also ranked first). New England’s defense has done well in limiting big plays through the air, as only 27 percent of its pass yards allowed have come on big plays (ranked second).

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* – There is quite a contrast between these teams so far in opponent starting field position: New England’s opponents have started at the 26.7 yard line (ranked third), while the Chargers’ opponents have set up shop at the 32.4 (27th).

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* – The Chargers have a league-high 567 receiving yards from their tight ends (mainly from a now-gimpy Antonio Gates) this year.

Read More: Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Randy Moss, Tom Brady
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