Patriots' defense stands tall in 35-21 victory


Patriots' defense stands tall in 35-21 victory

By ArtMartone

FOXBORO -- Yes, they gave up 21 points. Yes, they gave up 470 yards. Yes, they probably made things a little more interesting than they'd have liked.

But don't let it be said that the Patriots' defense didn't have a hand -- a big one -- in Sunday's 35-21 victory over the Chargers at Gillette Stadium.

They had their second goal-line stand in two weeks -- stopping San Diego on a first-and-goal from the 4, with Jerod Mayo stuffing Mike Tolbert on fourth down from the 1 -- to protect a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

Vince Wilfork's first career interception set up a last-play-of-the-first-half Stephen Gostkowski field goal that put the Pats in front, 20-7.

An interception by Sergio Brown, his first since high school, on the New England 7 stopped a Chargers scoring chance in the third quarter.

And after the Pats had turned the ball over after a failed fourth-and-four from the San Diego 49 in the fourth quarter with a slim 20-14 lead -- a decision made in part because punter Zoltan Mesko suffered a knee injury earlier in the period -- Mayo forced a Tolbert fumble that was recovered by Rob Ninkovich. The Pats then went down and scored, making it 28-14 and, even though the Chargers would score again, tipping the game in their favor.

The defense put the exclamation point on the victory when Mark Anderson recovered a Philip Rivers fumble -- the fourth San Diego turnover of the game -- with 1:02 to play.

The turnovers led directly to 10 points, and the goal-line stand led to seven more for a total of 17 . . . in a 14-point victory.

"If the defense makes a big stop like that (goal-line stand), you got to do something with it," said quarterback Tom Brady. "If the defense gets you the ball (via turnovers), you got to do something with it."

The teams had traded scores in the first quarter. A 14-yard Brady-to-Aaron Hernandez touchdown pass capped a 12-play, 92-yard drive that gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead. Then 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.

The Pats went ahead, 20-7, in the second quarter when, after a Gostkowski chip-shot field goal made it 10-7, they scored on a pair of defense-to-offense scoring drives.

After Mayo stopped Tolbert and the Pats took over on their own 1, two plays -- a 12-yard pass from Brady to WesWelker, and a 30-yard completion from Brady to Chad Ochocinco -- put them near midfield. From there, they marched implacably downfield until Bradyhit Rob Gronkowski with a 10-yard touchdown pass that put the Pats infront, 17-7.

TheChargers drove to the New England 29 in the final minute of thehalf, but Wilfork deflected and intercepted a Rivers pass and rumbled 28 yards into San Diegoterritory.

"There isn't a fat guy who doesn't like to run the ball," joked offensive lineman Matt Light.

A block-in-the-back penalty returned the ball 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. Gostkowski then drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired, givingNew England a 20-7 lead.

The Chargers narrowed it to 20-14 on a three-yard pass from Rivers to Vincent Jackson early in the fourth quarter, which finished off a 10-play, 64-yard drive. Then they got the ball back at the 49 after the missed fourth-and-four Brady-to-Branch pass attempt, and quickly moved to the 34 on a pair of Rivers passes to Ryan Mathews.

But Tolbert was stripped of the ball by Mayo and Ninkovich recovered on the 39. It took Brady four plays -- a one-yard loss by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, followed by completions of 33 yards to Branch, 12 yards to Welker and 17 yards (and a touchdown) to Gronkowski -- to convert the fumble into a score. A two-point conversion run by Danny Woodhead made the score 28-14.

The Chargers got back to 28-21 on a 26-yard Rivers scoring pass to Jackson, but Green-Ellis made it a 14-point game again with 1:54 to play, capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring run.

Brady had another 400-yard passing day (423, to be exact), completing 31 of 40 attempts. Branch caught 8 passes for 129 yards, and Welker and Hernandez each had seven receptions. Overall, the Pats had 504 yards total offense.

"I'm excited," said Branch. "I'm excited to see what this offense will look like once we put everything together."

If it looks as good as the defense looked when it counted on Sunday, they'll be in good shape.

ArtMartone can be reached at

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."