Patriots vs. Chargers 2014 final score: 3 things we learned from New England’s 23-14 win
The Chargers needed a big win to stay alive in the AFC playoff picture. But Tom Brady and the Patriots held on and got a 23-14 win in San Diego.
The AFC playoff implications were high in San Diego on Sunday night. The San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots both entered the game in the thick of the race with the game a possible swing game moving forward. For New England, it proved to be a rebound game with the Patriots getting back on the winning track with a 23-14 victory on the road.
San Diego entered the game on a three-game winning streak and got off to a solid start, but the Charger offense just couldn’t get much going. The Chargers drop to 8-5 and possibly out of the AFC West race.
Here is a closer look at what happened.
1. The Patriots’ defense showed up big.
The Patriots’ defense has been one of the AFC’s best all season, with big games against the Bengals, Colts and Broncos. And they played to form on Sunday night, limiting Philip Rivers and his receivers all night — the Chargers tallied just 13 first downs.
Rivers was under pressure throughout the night, forced to scramble out of the pocket and missing receivers (who were largely blanketed by Patriots cornerbacks). The Patriots’ defense took advantage of the Chargers’ uncertainty at center, giving Rivers virtually no time to go through his progressions. Receiver Malcom Floyd had a huge day:
But Donald Brown, Ladarius Green and running back Ryan MMathewswere all limited.
The turning point of the game may have been a blocked punt that knocked punter Mike Scifres out of the game and gave the Patriots perfect field position. The Chargers led early, but didn’t generate any points on offense after the second quarter.
2. Tom Brady needs better protection. He got it in the second half.
Despite the challenges on offense, the Chargers’ defense played one of its best games of the season against one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. Brady’s protection in the first half was lacking at best – the Patriots’ quarterback was hurried and forced to throw balls away multiple times. That could explain his first-half-ending interception to Manti Te’o. In addition, the Patriots’ best option at running back, LeGarrette Blount, had less than 80 yards rushing on the day.
In the second half, the Patriots’ offense made much-needed adjustments and got more production out of receiver Julian Edelman (including a wild weaving 69-yard touchdown). Edelman finished with 141 yards and he and tight end Rob Gronkowski made the difference against the Chargers’ secondary. Despite a stupendous day against the running game, the Chargers’ defense couldn’t stop the Patriots two best receivers and the offense couldn’t stay on the field.
3. The Patriots have lots of ways to win.
After losing a tough game to one of the NFC’s best last week in Green Bay, the Patriots traveled cross-country to face an AFC foe who needed a big win to keep pace with the division-leading Denver Broncos in the AFC West. The first half was probably not to the Patriots liking, but Brady and the offense just kept going after the Chargers’ secondary.
The Patriots will next host a Miami Dolphins squad that absolutely must win to stay viable in the wild-card picture in the AFC East. It’ll be another big test for a Patriots team that’s faced many all season. But after tonight, they look like the AFC frontrunner and remain in the drivers’ seat for the top seed in the AFC.