Chargers at Patriots: Keys to Victory

Three things both teams must do to win Sunday at Gillette Stadium

The Patriots are a dynasty with a Hall of Fame quarterback, five Super Bowl titles, and a successful owner who is respected by his peers after a lifetime of savvy business deals made with ambition and class.

The Chargers are ... well let's just stop there.

The Patriots do things the right way. The Chargers do things the Spanos way. Plainly put, they are polar opposites and on Sunday they meet at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, in a National Football League matchup. Fernando Ramirez has the Chargers keys to victory while Derek Togerson takes care of the most important things for the Patriots to address.

Chargers Key #1: Be Smart and Capitalize on Mistakes

The Patriots are the kind of team that attacks your weakness and what is the weakness of the Chargers defense? Stopping the run. The Chargers a few weeks ago were giving up around 160 rushing yards per game, but during the win streak it has gone down to 140, which ranks 31st in the NFL. The Patriots have three running backs that they rotate very well in Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis, and James White. The three of them have combined for 666 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. They will also need to be aware of White at all times because he is also a receiving threat. The defense will also need to capitalize on the Patriots mistakes. Last week safety Jahleel Addae and linebacker Jatavis Brown dropped interceptions; against the Patriots they can’t do that.

Patriots Key #1: Keep Melvin (Gordon) in the Middle

In last week’s win over Denver, running back Melvin Gordon had four shots from the 1-yard line and gained not a single inch. Now the Chargers offensive front is not all that good. But head coach Anthony Lynn says he expects the guy with the ball in his hands to do better, saying after the game that he puts that on the back. Gordon is not great when he has to run through a small hole but if you let him get to the edge or the second level he will decimate a defense. Set the edge and don’t let him loose.

Chargers Key #2: Attack the Defense But Make No Mistakes

The Patriots currently rank 32nd against the pass, 22nd against the run, and 27th in points per game allowed. The Chargers will need to mix and match the run and the passing game. To confuse the Patriots defense, which is hard to do, they should run their offense from under center. This will also be the first game the Patriots will play without their pro-bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower after tearing his bicep. Hightower would have covered tight end Hunter Henry during the game and now it will be a mystery who will cover him. The Chargers should use Henry the way they have during the three-game win streak. The team cannot afford to make any mistakes. In the three-game win streak the Chargers have only committed two turnovers and that will need to continue this weekend if they want to get to .500.

Patriots Key #2: Treat Rivers Like Ryan

Forget about the overall numbers. This Patriots defense, even though it just lost linebacker Don’t’a Hightower, has figured out how to fix what was ailing it early in the season. A week ago They held the Falcons and Matt Ryan to seven points and those came in garbage time. They held the Dirty Birds in check by not allowing the big play and getting off the field on 3rd down. Atlanta’s longest play from scrimmage was a 22-yard pass and they were 2-for-9 on 3rd downs. The Chargers have big-play ability and when Philip Rivers is on he is sustaining drives with big plays on 3rd down. Shut down the chunk plays and force punts and this will be another Pats win.

Chargers Key #3: Unleash the 3-Headed Monster

The Chargers have one of the most lethal pass rushing attack in the NFL with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Chris McCain. The Chargers ranked fourth in the NFL in sacks with 23 and those three players have 21 of those sacks. Brady has been hit 38 times and sacked 18 times, so the offensive line of the Patriots has given up more hits and sacks than they have in previous years. If the Chargers can keep Brady under duress all game if they have a chance to win the game.

Patriots Key #3: Keep the Uggs Clean

I can’t name any of the Patriots running backs and I cover sports for a living. This offense goes as Tom Brady goes. Over the years Brady has taken his share of sacks but this season he’s on a pace to be dropped more than 40 times, which would be one of the highest totals of his career. Last season Brady was only sacked 15 times and the Pats won the Super Bowl. Again. It’s not enough to put pressure on him. If you get close but don’t finish he’ll kill you. The Patriots need to give the Golden Boy enough time to work his magic. If they keep him upright just long enough he’ll pick the Bolts apart like the crab legs at Legal Sea Foods.

Fernando’s Prediction: 28-24 Chargers. Quarterback Philip Rivers has never beaten Brady and this might be one of the last meetings between them. Rivers will get the better of Brady.

Derek’s Prediction: 33-17 Patriots. It was a nice little run for the Bolts but the three teams they beat were the awful Giants, the reeling Raiders and the worst offense in the NFL outside of Cleveland-having Broncos. It strikes midnight for Cinderella at Gillette Stadium.

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