Pats take 20-7 lead into fourth quarter

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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.

Curran's Sunday 4-pack: So, what HAS Tom Brady been up to?

Curran's Sunday 4-pack: So, what HAS Tom Brady been up to?

Six days – four quarters of football – remain in Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
 
The fact is the Patriots are 3-0 and have gotten a long – and enjoyable – look at their quarterback depth behind Brady. Brady, meanwhile, has gotten a chance to shave one-quarter off the season-long wear-and-tear he takes.
 
But highlighting silver linings and pointing out there’s not much sand left in the suspension hourglass is no real consolation. Said one team source Thursday night, “It’s never going to go away.”

MORE PATRIOTS

 
What’s Brady been up to? Mixing family time and working out. He’s routinely spent four hours a day training, I’m told, presumably with his body coach Alex Guerrero at TB12 Sports Performance at Patriot Place. Also, aside from his Sunday session with Wes Welker, Brady’s been throwing to young college players at undisclosed locations, eschewing the opportunity to bring in some of the “name” former players who’ve reached out and offered their services.
 
Spotted in Italy with wife Gisele Bundchen last week, Brady’s also been back home in San Mateo visiting with his family.
 
Speaking to two people close to him, I was told he succeeded in making peace with the time off and avoiding the creep of too much bitterness. I was also told he’s unbelievably motivated to return at a high level and wants his transition back to be seamless in terms of performance and conditioning. That last part is, of course, to be expected. But it will be interesting to see how Brady does perform out of the gates after a month’s forced exile.
 
NINKOVICH RETURNS, TOO

The lesser of the two suspended prodigal sons set to return next week – Rob Ninkovich – is no doubt going to benefit physically from the quarter-season vacation as well. And the defensive ends who’ve performed well in his absence – Jabaal Sheard and especially Chris Long – will do well to have Ninkovich back in the mix. Mention should also be made of Trey Flowers who has shown up in opponent’s backfields on a weekly basis. It depends on what your personal cup of tea might be, but through three games, Long seems to me a much better defensive fit for this team than Chandler Jones. Jones was the more explosive pass-rusher but Long’s ability in the running game, and his play-in, play-out impact in applying pressure on the tackle in front of him makes it seem so far as if he’s an upgrade.
 
NEW DEALS AHEAD?
 
Still no word on which Patriot may be in line for a new deal since the team restructured Devin McCourty and freed up some cap space.

Donta Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins have been seen as the most likely targets for extensions and a redo of Hightower at this point would whittle down his $7M cap number and possibly allow another extension to be executed for either Collins or Butler, as our Phil Perry pointed out.  Jabaal Sheard, meanwhile, is the Patriot who flies under the radar when extension talk starts. He may be every bit as important to the success of the Patriots defense as the other three.
 
REX WRECKS
 
The Bills are 0-2, the natives are beyond restless in Buffalo and the Cardinals are in Western New York on Sunday. The Bills are expected to play without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and are a team staring into the esophagus of 0-3 with a visit to the Patriots coming next week. Have a gander at the Bills Mailbag in the Buffalo News.  Seems like years since Rex was all giddy about the paint job on his new truck. It was less than 19 months ago.