Pats take 20-7 lead into fourth quarter

84348.jpg

Pats take 20-7 lead into fourth quarter

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- After a no-holds-barred first half in which the two offenses combined for 517 yards, things calmed down in the third quarter for the Patriots and Chargers.

The Pats' offense stopped almost completely, stalling at the Chargers' 37-yard line on its first drive and going three-and-out on its second. San Diego's offense was more productive, but Philip Rivers' second interception of the day -- this pick was by Sergio Brown at the New England 7 -- killed a Chargers scoring chance and enabled the Pats to take their 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

They'd built that lead on a pair of defense-to-offense scoring drives in the second quarter.

First:

The New England defense completed its secondsuccessful goal-line stand of the young season, as linebacker JerodMayo stopped Mike Tolbert at the 1-yard on a fourth-and-goal from the1, preventing the Chargers from scoring and allowing New England tomaintain its 10-7 lead.

The Pats then went onoffense, and within two plays -- a 12-yard pass from Tom Brady to WesWelker, and a 30-yard completion from Brady to Chad Ochocinco -- werenear midfield. From there,they marched implacably downfield until Bradyhit Rob Gronkowski with a 10-yard touchdown pass that put the Pats infront, 17-7.

And then:

TheChargers had driven to the New England 29 in the final minute of thehalf, but Vince Wilfork deflected and intercepted a Philip Rivers pass-- his first career interception - and rumbled 28 yards into San Diegoterritory. A block-in-the-back penalty pushed the ball back to SanDiego 47, but Brady hit two quick passes to Deion Branch, of 11 and 7yards, that moved the Pats to the 29 with one second left. StephenGostkowski then drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired, givingNew England a 20-7 lead.

Brady completed 20 of 23passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in thehalf.

New England had broken a 7-7 tie on a 23-yardGostkowski field early in the second quarter to move ahead, 10-7. ThePats had a first-and-goal of their own, at the San Diego 4, but wereunable to punch it in.

The teams had traded longscoring drives in the first quarter.

A 14-yardBrady-to-Aaron Hernandez touchdown pass with 6:16 to play in the periodcapped a 12-play, 92-yard drive that gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead. ButSan Diego tied it on its next possession, with a pair of acrobaticthird-down catches by Malcom Floyd -- one for 23 yards over the middleof the field that put the ball on the New England 40, and the other a36-yarder down the sideline that moved San Diego to the Pats' 10 -- setup a 10-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mathews, finishing off an 80-yardmarch.

ArtMartone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

bill-belichick-patriots-practice-072916.jpg

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."