Chargers end Pats' Streak

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Aug 17, 2005
There are three things in Patriots football that happen about as often as San Diegans complain about their weather: untimely penalties, Adam Vinatieri misses, and losses by the home team at Gillette Stadium.

There are three things in Chargers football that take place about as frequently as New England’s fall leaves take away the breath of tourists: clutch running by LaDainian Tomlinson, precision passing by Drew Brees, and Antonio Gates abusing single coverage.

The Bolts took advantage of all of the above Sunday as the Chargers ended the Pats’ 21-game home winning streak with a 41-17 win over Tom Brady’s bunch.

“You’ve always got a chance when you run the football and play defense like we did,” Chargers Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “Everyone contributed today and we pulled out a win in an incredibly difficult place to do so.

As the opening quarter progressed, it appeared that the Bolts would have to dig themselves out of a hole. The Chargers went three-and-out on their opening drive, and Brady promptly marched his men 54 yards into the red zone.

But the drive stalled when Shawne Merriman batted down a pass, and out trotted one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. Vinatieri’s 37-yard try sailed wide right, allowing the Chargers to set up a 42-yard Nate Kaeding field goal to give them an early 3-0 advantage.

Brady answered by completing passes of 21 yards to David Givens, 11 yards to former Bolt Tim Dwight, and 23 yards to Corey Dillon that set up a one-yard Dillon touchdown run to give New England their first lead of the game at 7-3.

The seesaw first-half battle continued when Brees found Gates on consecutive gains of 15 and 13 yards to set up an 11-yard touchdown catch by Keenan McCardell to make it 10-7. Brady countered with a 30-yard scoring pass to Dwight, 14-10 Pats.

With Tomlinson being his dominating self on the ensuing drive, the Bolts’ All-Pro back ground out 29 yards on four carries, the last taking him eight-yards over the goal line giving the Chargers a 17-14 advantage. It extended his NFL record of rushing touchdowns in consecutive games to 16.

On New England’s final drive of the opening half, Brady took his offense to the San Diego six before misfiring on three-straight throws. A 24-yard Vinatieri field goal tied the contest at the break, but the Patriots could not find the scoring column again.

Jacques Cesaire dropped Dillon for a seven-yard loss on New England’s opening drive of the third quarter, and three plays later the Patriots were forced to punt. After Tomlinson’s second touchdown of the afternoon gave the Bolts a 24-17 upper hand, Wade Phillips’ defense forced a three-and-out.

Brees promptly completed a 75-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell, making it a two-possession contest at the end of three quarters.

With a full 15 minutes remaining, there was still a subtle mind on the Chargers sideline. Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer had seen Brady work bigger miracles before.

But Schottenheimer’s defense kept the heat on New England, allowing only 61 yard in the second half. With Tomlinson and Michael Turner churning out yards, the Bolts were able to win the time of possession battle 36:38 to 23:22.

“Offensively, we didn’t do enough to help our defense,” Brady said. “We didn’t convert enough third downs, and they ate up the clock.”

The Chargers converted seven-straight third downs in the fourth quarter as Tomlinson finished with 134 yards on 25 carries and Turner with 44 yards on 11 carries.

Brees turned in another stellar performance, completing 19-of-24 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Gates caught six of those balls for 108 yards.

With the Chargers leading 34-17 in the fourth quarter, Brady was intercepted by Bhawoh Jue with 4:38 remaining. It was seemingly the nail in the coffin.

“We talked all week about how big turnovers would be,” Schottenheimer said. “We got a couple of big ones today.”

Donnie Edwards intercepted New England backup Matt Cassell on the final drive of the game. Edwards pitched the ball to Clinton Hart, who waltzed into the end zone to round out the scoring.

“We knew we were a good team going in,” Schottenheimer said. “We’ll enjoy it until midnight and move on to Pittsburgh.”