Offense is a bit slow to react

Unit struggles, then gets going

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 25, 2010

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SAN DIEGO — Everything that makes the Chargers’ pass defense No. 1 in the NFL showed itself against the Patriots yesterday.

There weren’t many positive moments for the Patriots’ offense, which was held to 179 total yards.

The Chargers blitzed. They pressured. And they forced the Patriots to scramble for any way to be productive.

The Patriots were stuffed on fourth and 1 late in the fourth quarter, stumped in the red zone (2 of 5), and frustrated on third down (3 of 12).

“We had a hard time moving it at all,’’ said quarterback Tom Brady. “We couldn’t get into a rhythm out there, and the second half was better; I don’t think it was great by any stretch. It feels good to win, see the defense play the way they did and get those turnovers. We certainly can play a lot better offensively, but it’s good to win a game when you don’t play great.’’

Brady completed 19 of 32 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. He also was sacked four times (for minus-31 yards) in the 23-20 victory.

A glimpse into just how much the Patriots struggled offensively could be seen with two minutes remaining. They faced fourth and 1 from their 49-yard line, clinging to a 3-point lead. Coach Bill Belichick decided to go for it. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who finished with just 24 yards on 11 carries, was stopped for a 1-yard loss.

“We tried it, didn’t execute it very well. We didn’t execute a lot of things very well,’’ Brady said. “It never should have come down to a fourth and 1. It was second and [2], and we lost a yard there, then third and [3], we didn’t gain any yards there. We have to do a better job when it counts.’’

With the offense unable to find much consistency, kicker Stephen Gostkowski made the difference, converting a field goal from 40 yards and two from 35.

“You’ve always got to be ready for games like that because as good as our offense is they’re going to have days when they don’t get every ball in the end zone, and that’s what my job is — salvage some points instead of getting none,’’ Gostkowski said. “I don’t root for the offense not to score touchdowns, I want them to score every time, but my mentality is I’ve got to be ready to kick no matter what, and that’s what I did.’’

Gostkowski’s accuracy was crucial for an offense that was 2 of 5 scoring touchdowns after reaching to red zone. In the first half, the Patriots didn’t convert a third down in six attempts. Brady was 6 of 16 for 35 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

The Patriots went no-huddle at times in the second half to increase the tempo, a tactic that worked against the Ravens last week.

The opening possession of the third quarter was one of their best, as they drove 79 yards on 17 plays over 8 minutes, 35 seconds. The drive ended with Green-Ellis’s 1-yard touchdown run for a 20-3 lead.

“It changed the game,’’ said Patriots receiver Deion Branch. “We have so many different things that we can do during the course of the game, and that’s one of them. That’s one of our advantages. It’s something that we work real hard on in practice. The only thing is that it burns the guys. So we’ve got to make sure we take advantage and score points when we do it or guys will be burned out.

“It was a slow first half. We left a lot of points on the field, honestly, we left a lot of plays out there on the field that we wish we could get back.’’

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