Offense couldn't point the way

Goal-line failure frustrates unit

By Rich Garven
Worcester Telegram & Gazette / October 13, 2008
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SAN DIEGO - The Patriots' offense was, well, offensive.

One week after scoring a season-high 30 points, the Patriots reverted to their ineffective ways while falling to the San Diego Chargers, 30-10, last night at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Patriots got a 47-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski in the second quarter and a 1-yard touchdown run from Sammy Morris late in the fourth. Other than that, it was a whole lot of nothing as the Patriots were held to 19 points or fewer for the fourth time in five games.

"We just got outplayed," said Matt Cassel, who spent much of the game scrambling (seven rushes) or getting sacked (four times). "We're not happy about it, but we're going to continue to work hard."

While the Patriots trailed at intermission, 17-3, they had the ball to open the second half. It didn't take long to see they had made some adjustments to an offense that generated 87 yards and five first downs in the first 30 minutes.

Starting at their 22-yard line, Morris caught a dump-off for 3 yards. Then the veteran back caught a pass for 11 yards.

Cassel scrambled for 9 yards and Randy Moss - in his one big play of the evening - pulled in a pass for 15 yards as the Patriots advanced to the San Diego 40. The spread-the-ball approach continued with Wes Welker making an 8-yard reception.

Then, on second and 2 from the 32, Moss streaked to the left side of the end zone. Cassel's pass, however, was too far in front of the receiver, leading to a frustrating incompletion.

Cassel kept the drive alive with a scramble for 3 yards and then Morris picked up 28 with a terrific catch and run. He eluded linebacker Matt Wilhelm along the left sideline and bowled over cornerback Antonio Cromartie before being dragged down at the 1 as Wilhelm hustled back into the play.

Suddenly it was first and goal at the 1. The first eight plays generated 77 yards. The next four would lose 1.

"Goal line is goal line," Cassel said. "It's the grit and grind of the game. They were able to make some plays."

Cassel threw the ball out of the end zone on first down.

On second down, massive nose tackle Jamal Williams knocked Patriots center Dan Koppen backward and Koppen fell into Morris, who was then wrapped up by Luis Castillo and Ryon Bingham for no gain.

"Jamal made a great play and kind of clogged it up," said Morris, who finished with 10 carries for 26 yards, part of a ground game that missed the injured duo of Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan. "It's always tough when there's less room to work with."

Cassel's throw on third down bounced in the end zone in front of linebacker-turned-tight end Mike Vrabel. There was no thought to kicking a field goal on fourth down.

What started so promising ended in chaos as Cassel was sacked by Bingham at the 2.

"It was a progression read," Cassel said of the play, which began with him dropping back. "I went through it, didn't see anyone open, and tried to make a play with my legs. That was a big series in the game."

Possibly the biggest - the Patriots never threatened again until it was well out of hand.

"That's about as fun as it gets," Castillo said. "For defensive linemen in this league, when you get to go down there and go four plays, I think that's as fun as it gets. Coach [Norv Turner] talked about it after the game. When you can go out there and have that crucial a stand, it brings an attitude and it brings an energy that stays with you the rest of the time."

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