We all saw Brady light up the Dolphins last night. But I thought the Patriots D was real unimpressive the first half. After watching the remainder of the game today, the final score definitely paint the picture that, as I read a few places, that it was "domination" or that the Pats D "shut down" Miami in the 2nd half. Let's face it, without a few Miami mishaps it's a real close game - they settled for a field goal after that Brandon Marshall catch at the 2 yard line, or the score would have been knotted at 21, and then would have become 31-28 if not for the goal-line failure. That was a real lame-duck playcall and execution on that 4th and goal. Also is doubtful that ridiculous Welker reception occurs had the Dolphins pulled out the TD, kicked off, etc. Would have come out on defense a lot more fired up if not facing a 31-17 deficit after a spirit-crushing turnover on downs.
Essentially the 2 teams traded scores all day, with the more polished NE offense cashing in more consistently and pulling ahead late with Miami making critical mistakes. To a lot of pundits and annoying fans, this points to NE "dominance," and even during the broadcast you hear Turico comment how "it's too easy" for the Pats to move the ball with their no-huddle. The truth is, the Dolphins moved the ball almost just as easily. They responded to almost every NE score by marching straight down to the red zone. And that says a lot more than witnessing Brady run his pass offense. That's not a surprising identity, as better teams will key on Welker and TE passes and they won't put up 600 yards every weak. The fact that such production was needed for the W is a lot more telling of the Patriots' weaknesses than their strengths.
What does this mean for the Chargers matchup? Well it will certainly be a test for the pass defense, but it's not very likely Brady puts up 500 again. The name Donald Butler will possibly be heard a lot, hopefully not after being burned by a TE, but rather after blowing up plays. Who will match-up with Welker? It will (as always) come down to the run game - fill gaps, contain, and you will force 3rd-long and be able to bring in extra DBs. The Pats will get short completions, the key to slowing them is being alert and closing on the ball-carrier, putting the hurt on Welker/Woodhead or anyone coming across the middle, and breaking that timing/confidence.
What it also means is that Rivers and Co. have a whole bunch of tape of Miami driving the ball on NE, and doing it in a style (attacking man coverage deep, jump balls, etc.) which Rivers and his receivers are also fond of and do much better. With the match-ups in the secondary, the Chargers offense should be able to either hit some deep balls (welcome to 2011, Vjax?) or open things up underneath where Gates and Matthews can do damage. It could be a great shootout, in which either team has a fighting chance. But of course we've all seen the SD offense struggle to get started, move the ball, and score, and that will put them in a tight spot against Brady. Though if Rivers and co. can come out firing, the bolts D (which seems ready to emerge as a real strength of the team) has the chance to come up big and be the difference maker.
What are SD's chances for slowing down the NE passing game? Did anyone look impressed by the NE pass rush, coverage, or run defense? I certainly was not - Sunday should be a fun game!