SAN DIEGO-The San Diego Chargers lost a blocked field goal return for a touchdown because of an off-side penalty. The Chargers then proceeded to lose the early 14-3 lead they built up against the visiting New England Patriots, have their stalwart punter Mike Scifres knocked out of the game and perhaps for their season, with a separated shoulder, and saw reserve tight end Ladarius Green get taken out by a hard hit.
Oh, by the way, the Chargers also saw that one-time, 11-point lead evaporate into a 23-14 loss at home in front of a sold crowd at Qualcomm Stadium. There would be no heroic comeback against the Patriots Sunday as the Chargers put together previously in upsetting the Baltimore Ravens on the road last week. There no miracle drive this time around. The Chargers just couldn’t get it going offensively against the Patriots, scoring just one touchdown for the entire game.
This was a bitter pill for the Chargers swallow on many fronts. They may have lost Scifres for the season after he was taken off the field by cart after being injured in the second quarter. The defeat to the Patriots was also a blow to the team’s postseason hopes with three games remaining to be played against Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City Chiefs.
The popcorn machine was on and popping Sunday night. Tom Brady. Philip Rivers. The San Diego Chargers going up against the New England Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium was must-see television. A future Hall of Famer in Brady pitted against a soon-to-be one of the all-time great passers of the game in Rivers.
What the nationally-televised got instead of a wild, offensive shootout between Brady and Rivers was a defensive tug-o-war that stayed pretty even until Brady connected with Julian Edelman for a 69-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots room to breath.
The scoring pass, with 8:41 left in the final period, sealed the deal for the Patriots, which could only muster three field goals in five scoring drives. And once again, the Chargers, which only netted 13 first downs the entire night, failed to move the football with any kind of push, accumulating just 53 yards on the ground. In a nutshell, the Patriots swallowed up the Chargers’ rushing attack, dominated the time of possession (34: 23 to 25:27) and came up with more big plays when it mattered.
But the biggest difference in the game and perhaps for the season for the Chargers did not come from the two strong right-handed passers. It came in the second quarter when Scifres landed hard when his punt was blocked by the Patriots’ Brandon Bolden, setting up the Patriots only touchdown of the first half.
The loss of Scifres is a lot bigger than one game for the Chargers as San Diego make a push for a postseason berth. Averaging 45.7 yards a punt, Scifres is a game-changer with his kicks often changing field position much of the time in San Diego’s favor. The Chargers mus now regroup and try to get wins in the next three games to punch their ticket to the playoff dance.
This game had all the synergy of a big-time playoff game. From the moments the two teams took the field the vibe had primetime written all over it as the stadium crowd rocked with boisterous energy as fans from both teams
The first quarter belonged to Rivers and the Chargers as San Diegom opened up a 14-3 advantage, thanks in part to also to defensive back Darrell Stuckey returning a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown. That turned out to be the last positive highlight for the Chargers on the evening. An injury to a punter does not usually make or break a team’s season. Losing Scifres might be might be an exception for the Chargers.
Adding to the Chargers’ injury report was losing Green to a concussion after being blasted by Brandon Browner as he came across the middle of the field. Browner was flagged by referees with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green. The Chargers, unfortunately, were hit a lot harder by the Patriots in this AFC showdown.