By Mary Paoletti
SAN DIEGO -- The New England Patriots have shown some on-the-field inconsistencies.
Jerod Mayo isn't one of them.
Coach Bill Belichick discussed his linebacker's skill set during the week leading up to the matchup with San Diego.
"Jerod has terrific instincts,'' he said. "He had those in college and I think that's one of the impressive things about watching him at Tennessee just the way he was able to sort plays out, find the ball, get over trash, get past guys that are around his feet or in the pile in the way and get past that to make the tackle.''
Mayo did his coach's words justice on Sunday, recording 10 tackles in New England's 23-20 win.
He got involved in four different hits on San Diego's second drive to set the tone, setting up shop on both the left and right sides of the field and bringing down whichever wideouts and running backs dared to pass.
Mayo's instincts really came up huge with under five minutes to play in the first quarter. Teammate Brandon Spikes broke up a third-and-15 pass between Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Kris Wilson. Mayo recovered the third-down fumble to set his team up on the San Diego 22.
Five plays later, Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for New England's first touchdown of the game.
Mayo only continued to make his presence felt.
On San Diego's sixth first-and-10 of its sole third-quarter drive, he went one-on-one with tough cover running back Darren Sproles. Mayo, though slower, couldn't be fooled. He swallowed Sproles up.
But it didn't matter if it was Sproles, Ryan Matthews, Patrick Crayton, Mike Tolbert or the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Buster Davis -- Mayo got his man.
Safety Brandon Meriweather acknowledged his fortune of playing behind such a talent.
"Mayo's a great player. He's a very good player,'' Meriweather said. "He runs the defense. He's the one who keeps all of us composed and does all the little things that count when you're in big games. It's great for me to look in front of me and see Mayo. It helps me relax.''
Mayo has 72 takedowns now at Week 7.
The stat makes him the NFL leader in tackles. It also puts him in position to be the first Patriot to have three 100-tackle seasons since Lawyer Milloy's five-straight between 1997-2001. Impressive company.
Unfortunately, Mayo's stellar play might continue to fly under the radar. The drama of losing to one division rival (Jets, Week 2), flattening another (Miami, Week 4), and come-from-behind overtime victories (23-20 over Baltimore last weekend) and San Diego can overshadow the guy who's just doing what he's supposed to. Even if he's doing a tremendous job.
But that's the New England way, right?
"Just trying to go what's asked of me,'' Mayo said. "You know I have to give that Patriots answer. I'm just trying to do what's asked of me. It's something differentevery week andI just want to win games."