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Snap Judgments: Patriots 35, Chargers 21

09.18.11 at 7:19 pm ET

FOXBORO — The Patriots moved to 2-0 on the season with a 28-21 victory over the Chargers, a win highlighted by a brilliant Tom Brady (again) and a host of standout defensive plays, including a pair by Jerod Mayo, another by Vince Wilfork and a key interception by Sergio Brown.

The Patriots travel to Buffalo to battle the 2-0 Bills next week.


– Brady — who passed for 517 yards in the Monday night win over the Dolphins — completed 31-of-40 passes for 423 yards and three TD passes. He finished the game with a 135.7 passer rating, the ninth straight regular-season game he has topped the 100.0 mark. He was at his best on the 99-yard TD drive following the Mayo tackle, completing passes to five different receivers, including a 10-yard scoring strike to Rob Gronkowski. Brady also authored a 92-yard TD drive in the first quarter.

– The defense again allowed the opposing quarterback to put up big yardage (Philip Rivers finished with 364 yards passing) but made key plays when it counted. Mayo stopped Mike Tolbert at the NE one-yard line on fourth-and-goal to end a second-quarter drive, and Sergio Brown (with Patrick Chung in the locker room with an arm injury) stepped in front of Antonio Gates at the NE 17 for a first-down interception to halt another promising San Diego drive. And after the Patriots failed to convert a fourth-and-4 at midfield in the fourth quarter, Mayo stripped Tolbert in the backfield. Rob Ninkovich recovered, setting up the second Gronkowski TD that put the game away.

– But it was Wilfork with the signature defensive play of the early season for the Patriots, tipping and then intercepting a Rivers pass at the NE 29. Wilfork returned the pick 28 yards (though 10 yards were wiped out by a Devin McCourty penalty), Brady hit Branch with a pair of passes for 18 yards, and Gostkowski converted on a 47-yard field goal to end the first half.

– Both tight ends caught touchdown passes for the second straight week, as Aaron Hernandez capped the first New England drive of the game with a catch over Bob Sanders and Gronkowski put the finishing touches on the 99-yard drive. Gronkowski also caught a fourth-quarter TD and now has seven scores in his last six regular-season games.

– Branch did not catch a touchdown pass, but did finish with eight catches for 129 yards to lead all Patriots players.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a 16-yard TD with 1:54 left in the game to finish off a 80-yard drive that put the Patriots up 35-21. Ellis finished the game with 68 yards on 16 carries as he served as the lead back (Danny Woodhead had only four carries).

Chad Ochocinco still wasn’t a featured player in the offense, but did make a key third-down catch on the opening drive and hauled in a 30-yard grab on the second play of the 99-yard TD drive.


– Injuries. Chung (hand), Ras-I Dowling (thigh)and Zoltan Mesko all left the game in the third quarter. Aaron Hernandez left (knee) in the fourth quarter and was not on the field for New England’s final drive.

– Danny Woodhead was virtually a non-factor (just four carries for 12 yards, though he did run in the two-point conversion to put the Patriots up 28-14) in the offense and struggled blocking, failing to pick up a pair of blitz pickups.

– The secondary had another shaky outing. Devin McCourty has his second straight up-and-down game, allowing several big plays against Vincent Jackson (career-high 10 catches, 172 yards). Kyle Arrington also had troubles in matchups with Jackson and Malcom Floyd.



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