By Dave Thomas

Two heavyweight contenders squared off Sunday evening in San Diego, a potential trip to the AFC playoffs next month on the line.

For the New England Patriots, they left town with what they wanted, a 23-14 victory.

Meanwhile, the Chargers continue to show that they are not quite there with the upper echelon of the AFC, particularly the Patriots and the Denver Broncos.

The loss dropped San Diego to 8-5 on the season, while the Patriots continue to hold down the top spot in the AFC at 10-3.

On a day when the Chargers could have put some distance between themselves and the Kansas City Chiefs (lost in Arizona 17-14), the Chargers failed to capitalize on the situation. As it stands now, San Diego only holds a one-game lead over the Chiefs, the team they meet in the final game of the regular season at Arrowhead Stadium.

Brady Gets It Done Once Again

A guaranteed future Hall-of-Famer, New England quarterback Tom Brady did enough on this night to stymie the Chargers, leaving them essentially having to run the table to secure a wild card spot when all is said and done.

Brady finished the night 28-of-44 for 317 yards and a pair of TD’s (one interception). The biggest problem for the Bolts was not being able to get consistent pressure on the star QB. Brady was only sacked once on the night, while counterpart Philip Rivers was sacked four times, not to mention harassed for much of the evening.

After grabbing a 14-3 lead, the Chargers watched New England score 20 unanswered points. In what is all but a nail in any team’s coffin on a weekly basis, the Chargers were shutout in the second half.

The road from here gets no easier as the Chargers play host to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos next Sunday afternoon, then finish with road dates in San Francisco and Kansas City.

To say the Chargers missed out on an opportunity on this Sunday evening in front of nearly 69,000 fans in San Diego (including many New England backers) would be a big understatement.

Prior to the game in comments during the week, the Chargers and many who follow the NFL noted how this game was a great opportunity for San Diego to move into position with the upper echelon of the AFC.

On this night, however, it was not mission accomplished.

TEAM GRADES:

OFFENSE –  (C-) – While it would be easy to say it was all New England’s defense that held the Chargers to one offensive TD and no points in the second half, it was also a sizable mix of the Chargers being too inept on the offensive side of the ball. Like a beaten record, the Chargers mustered barely anything of a recognizable running game. San Diego, which lost the battle in first downs (24-12), was held to a paltry 53 yards net rushing, with Ryan Mathews getting 44 of those. The offensive line was manhandled at times on this night, leaving Rivers (who has never beaten Brady in head-to-head meetings) on his back or knees and scrambling much of the rest of the time. If San Diego doesn’t control the line battle this coming Sunday against Denver, expect the Broncos to sweep the season series).

DEFENSE – (C) – Even though Tom Brady did not go off on this evening, he did enough to put the Patriots in position to win. San Diego failed to get enough pressure on Brady, allowing him to hit guys like Julian Edelman (eight catches, 141 yards, 1 TD) and Rob Gronkowski (eight catches, 87 yards, 1 TD). The Chargers also failed to wrap up on a number of plays, thereby giving New England backs and receivers added yardage. Kavell Conner and Jahleel Addae led the way with six solo tackles each, while Eric Weddle, Brandon Flowers, Marcus Gilchrist and Melvin Ingram recorded five each. 

For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.

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