The Patriots just finished an onslaught of "must win games" and won pretty much all of them. However, they were coming off the least-needed "must win" game, which was a loss to the Packers. The Patriots were on the road against a great team and they were unable to pull out a victory, a continuous trouble thought to be overcome with the road victory against the Colts.
So as the Patriots continued their road trip the San Diego to face the Chargers, the Patriots were faced with a gut check. Can they finish the season as strong as they played the middle? Can they win on the road against a great team if needed?
The Patriots answered with a resounded yes. Here are the plays that made it.
Jamie Collins Breaks Through
Here's Jamie Collins flying up the gut for his second sack of the day- which was also on an A-Gap rush. Collins times the snap perfectly and catches the center off-balanced and forced Philip Rivers to start sliding towards the pocket collapsing Alan Branch.
Collins cleans up with the sack.
Not enough can be said about Collins and his tremendous impact on the game. He stepped up the challenge with Dont'a Hightower out and proved his worth. The Patriots will be entering 2015 with three linebackers worthy of the green dot as defensive play caller- and that's a great situation to be in.
Brandon Bolden Block
This is probably Brandon Bolden's 10th major play on special teams this year and it's why he's still on the roster. After the game Bolden claimed that the special teams unit was able to time their motions with the long snapper, who apparently has an obvious and particular way of setting up the snap.
This let Bolden get a jump on Donald Brown and to break into the back-field and make a huge play for the anemic Patriots offense to try and take advantage. It was a gut-wrenching injury for the Chargers punter, but Bolden made a tremendous play on the ball.
Brandon Browner Lays the Wood
No, don't blame the refs for throwing the flag. They're supposed to err on the side of caution and it's clear that the Chargers tight end took a wallop. Blame the rules that they're abiding by and the fact that there isn't a replay system for reviewing these penalties- a replay system that Belichick pushed for this off-season and will likely bring up again next year.
But let's talk about Browner. This play is what the Patriots were looking for when they signed him. He made a clean play on the receiver and changed the mental make-up of the team for the rest of the game. The entire team seemed to start to play better since they were fired up- and that all comes with Browner's play. He puts the fire in their gut.
Oh, and Devin McCourty returned it to the house. Sorry, Dev. Maybe next time.
Julian Edelman 69!
You kind of want to attribute this play to all the unsuccessful runs by LeGarrette Blount earlier in the game. Most of the linebackers attack the line of scrimmage as the Patriots are in clear rushing formation, which opens up underneath for Edelman to catch a quick slant.
That explains about 20 of the yards. The rest of it is all Edelman making players miss and hitting the gas pedal to reach the end zone. Kudos to Brandon LaFell and Blount for their blocking down the field, but this is all Edelman.
Talk about a punch in the Chargers' gut.