Tom Brady remembers last season when he guided the New England Patriots to a skillful three-point win in San Diego against the Chargers. He also remembers netting just 128-yards passing against the league's best pass defense.
Now he welcomes the Chargers to New England, and once again, the Bolts are the top pass defense (albeit after just one game) in the NFL; holding Donovan McNabb and the Minnesota Vikings to a 1920's like 28-yards passing last week.
Call McNabb awful and the Vikings' coaching staff inept, but the Chargers improved an already incredible secondary from last season and it showed in the results. The Chargers pass rush may also be improved and they sacked Brady four times for a loss of 31-yards in the last game.
One thing the Chargers couldn't do last season is force any takeaways, which allowed the Patriots to "take away" the victory. San Diego's bumbling offense turned it over four times and scored all of three points in the first half.
Here is the problem I think the Chargers will have in this game. Both of these teams look exactly the way they looked last year at this point in the season. The Patriots are a well oiled machine and the Chargers are coming out in the first half not scoring any points and turning the ball over, while compounding the problem by giving up points on special teams.
In order for the Chargers to win this game, they'll need the coaching staff to do something it almost never does early in the season. They'll need to come up with an offensive game plan that actually works in the first half.
The Patriots' defense is still porous and the Chargers still have the talent to exploit it. The Chargers two minute offense is a force, but why don't the Chargers start the game in that mode? After all, that is one of the ways they turned the franchise around.
San Diego head coach Norv Turner seems to be afraid to come out of the gates on the attack, unlike the Patriots. Turner feels that if you start out in the no-huddle offense and fail, you're giving the other team all the momentum.
Excuse me, but run, run, failed third down conversion to start every game is a better option? Oh, really?
The Patriots pass defense is atrocious. In a hostile environment where you're probably going to lose anyway, there is no need to come out playing scared. The Chargers should unload on the Patriots with all of their best pass plays from the start of the game to the finish with all kinds of urgency.
I don't mean drop back and pass deep on every play. That certainly won't work. I mean hit the running back out of the backfield, run a fake reverse and then pass to Antonio Gates, bring back the patented Philip Rivers fake hand-off spin pass.
Put the Patriots on their heels.
Get creative and then worry about establishing the running game. Instead, what we're likely to see out of Norv is a run up the the middle (stopped), a run to the right (stopped), a pass to the slot receiver (missed the first down by a yard), and a punt.
That type of typical Norv Turner first half game plan is going to result in a close game at the end and which ever team doesn't make a crucial mistake wins. Be honest. Which team do you think will make the mistake in the end?
There is no reason this game should be close. It really should be 42-21, Chargers. But that's not going to happen.
The Chargers possess both a superior offense and defense, while the Patriots defense is just awful and their offense doesn't match up well with the Chargers defense. However, unless Turner shows some creativity in the first half and the Chargers take a lead into halftime, this game will be close and the Patriots are a good bet to win it at home.
Based on history, if I had to pick a winner here, I'm going with the Patriots winning 24-21 in a game the Chargers dominate statistically. The Chargers need to stop messing around at the beginning of games and put somebody in a big hole going into halftime.