I know what you're thinking. "Tom Brady threw for 517 yards! He's going to start breaking records and hearts once again! No man or woman is safe!" Look, the only reason Dreamboat and the Patriots didn't slice apart the Dolphins to the tune of 500+ passing yards last year is that they didn't have to. When New England went down to Miami last season, Brady threw for just 153 yards and 1 TD. He also completed over 79% of his passes and the Patriots won 27 points.
The point is, the Dolphins defense stinks. The Chargers defense isn't exactly the 1985 Chicago Bears, but it's no slouch either. Not only does San Diego have more talent on the defensive side of the ball than Miami, it has more experience (including a former Defensive Player of the Year....that felt good) and lots of game tape on the New England offense.
There's several reasons you're scared. One, it feels like the Chargers never beat Tom Brady. Two, Tom Brady has won 28 consecutive home games. Three, the Patriots offense is really, really good. How good? As good as the Chargers offense. The fear San Diego strikes into the heart of it's opponents? That's what you're feeling now.
When the Patriots Run the Ball
In a word, New England's ground game is "efficient". The Patriots use the pass to set up the run (and often run draw plays that look like pass plays), so usually their RBs are running against LBs and Safeties that start the play on their heels. It's a nice advantage and it equals to a consistently nice yards per carry average. Both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who split carries about 60-40 respectively, finished Week 1 with a 4.9 average despite their longest run being just 13 yards (that was BGE, Woodhead's longest was 9 yards).
The only time you'll see NE stack the line and try and power through on the ground is near the goal line, and even then they're still a threat to throw the ball. The key is for the defensive line to win it's battles and for guys like Bob Sanders and Takeo Spikes to diagnose the play quickly and not miss tackles. If those groups can do that, the Patriots running attack shouldn't be able to do much behind a shaky offensive line.
When the Patriots Pass the Ball
How do you stop the best passing offense in the league? With the best passing defense, of course!
The good news here is that the Chargers have faced Tom Brady and this New England offense recently. They held them to 23 points last year, and kept constant pressure on the Pats' QB.
When was the last time the Patriots saw a Greg Manusky-led defense? Well, it's only happened once: Week 5 of the 2008 season, with Matt Cassel at the helm. The Patriots hung 30 on a pretty thin 49ers defense, one week before losing to the Chargers by 20. Manusky is still somewhat of an unknown, because he's coaching with an entirely new group of coaches and players at his fingertips. That can only bode well for San Diego.
It will be curious to see how Manusky wants to go about guarding the New England TEs. The good news is that the Chargers CBs are probably good enough to be left on an island with the Patriots WRs (pretty happy that Randy Moss isn't around anymore, honestly). More good news, as mentioned earlier, is that the Patriots have a fairly old, injured and thin offensive line. Antwan Barnes, who got two sacks on Brady last season, could play a large role.