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Patriots Can't Defend This

October 03, 2005|From Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Injuries finally caught up with the New England Patriots. San Diego's explosive offense added to the misery.

Even Marty Schottenheimer knew something wasn't right with the defending Super Bowl champions.

After his Chargers beat New England, 41-17, Sunday, the San Diego coach suggested the win may have had as much to do with who wasn't playing for New England as the superior performances of Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates.

"What they've done is remarkable," he said of the Patriots, whose 21-game home win streak ended. "But at what point in time do you keep responding when you have to keep putting in new players? They've done it wonderfully over the last four years, but there comes a time where it has to catch up with you, even with a team as great as this one."

This was New England's first loss in Foxborough since Dec. 22, 2002, when the Patriots were beaten by the New York Jets. That was the only season in the last four that they failed to win the Super Bowl.

The last time the Patriots started a season 2-2 was 2003, though they went on to win the title that year anyway.

San Diego, which has now scored 86 points in two wins after starting with two losses, was nearly unstoppable against a defense with a lot of holes. Brees threw for two touchdowns, Tomlinson ran for two and Gates had six catches for 108 yards.

Though the score at halftime was 17-17, Brees took advantage of a secondary that already was without two of its top three cornerbacks and now is missing safety Rodney Harrison, lost for the year with a knee injury.

"I played with Rodney, I know what a leader he is," Brees said. "It's not only the physical things he does. It's the leadership, the mental toughness, what he imparts to his teammates. I know they've been able to put in a lot of subs over the years and not miss anything, but a player like Rodney is something special."

A 28-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Reche Caldwell gave San Diego (2-2) a 31-17 lead. Brees also had an 11-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell in the second quarter.

Gates, a former basketball player, leaped over Guss Scott to take in a 38-yard pass from Brees at the New England one on the first series of the second half. That set up a one-yard touchdown run by Tomlinson, who finished with 134 yards in 25 carries

Tomlinson extended his NFL record to 16 consecutive games with a rushing touchdown, and San Diego rushed for 183 yards against a defense that also is without last year's starting inside linebackers, Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson.

The Patriots, coming off an emotional win in Pittsburgh a week ago, didn't want to blame the loss on the new players. After all, they've won three Super Bowls in four seasons continuing on when key players were injured or departed for other reasons.

"I don't know what Rodney could have done out there today to change it," said Eugene Wilson, the other starting safety.

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