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Preview: Chargers at Patriots

Posted Sep 17, 2011

Two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses were duds last season as San Diego committed four turnovers and New England gained less than 200 yards. The odds of a repeat by either are long.

SAN DIEGO – A week after 14 quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards, an NFL record, two of the most prolific offenses in the NFL the last five seasons will try to keep each other off the field Sunday.

San Diego (1-0) and New England (1-0) kick off at 1:15 p.m. PDT at Gillette Stadium vying for an early jump in the AFC standings.

The two teams have met five times in the last five years, including Oct. 24 in San Diego and twice in the playoffs.

It was the defenses that controlled the game last year. The Chargers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions in a 23-20 loss, rallying from 17 down to miss a 50-yard field goal with seconds left. The Patriots labored to 179 net yards. Neither expects such an easy resolution Sunday.

“I don’t know if you can be any more productive on Monday night,” Head Coach Norv Turner said of the Patriots’ 38 points and a franchise-record 622 yards of total offense against Miami.

“If you get the opportunity to get your hands on the ball, you’d better catch it because (Brady) doesn’t throw many interceptions. The best-case scenario for us is if we can keep their offense off the field by converting third downs and keeping the ball.”

The Chargers and Patriots spent the week lobbing compliments toward the other franchise. Gamesmanship aside, the genuine mutual respect is clear.

“We really didn’t do anything well. We didn’t run the ball well. We didn’t throw it. We had a hard time protecting,” Brady said of last year’s game. “We couldn’t make any real critical situations. We were pretty poor in the red area. I think we were just the beneficiaries of getting some turnovers by our defense and being opportunistic at times.”

New England’s offense has capitalized on the versatility of its two second-year tight ends, who line up in the slot, as fullbacks out of the backfield and in traditional tight end alignments, as well as running back Danny Woodhead. When the Patriots elect to go no-huddle on offense, they can run the full spectrum of plays, forcing the defense to cover everything without changing personnel. But Brady remains the fulcrum.

“I’d say reading the defense (is the best thing Brady does),” Bob Sanders said. “He does great with checks. He wants that safety to tell and show him who’s (blitzing). He’ll run away from it every time and he’ll check to empty and get guys out and start spreading the field. You’ve got to be aware and hold your disguise.”

Said defensive coordinator Greg Manusky of trying to pressure Brady: “Conceptually, you’ve just got to get to him quick. Hopefully (we) get some batted balls and things of that nature.”

Rivers threw for a career-best 4,710 yards last season and 335 against Minnesota in Week 1, figures of which Patriots coach Bill Belichick is well aware.

“They’re a hard team to play because they’re so good but I have all the respect in the world for the job that (Head Coach) Norv (Turner) and (General Manager) A.J. (Smith) have done with this football team. They’re tough every single year,” Belichick said, adding the Patriots were “fortunate” to win last season.

“To lead the league in offense and defense last year, that’s pretty remarkable, really. It’s a big challenge for us this week coming off a short week and going up against one of the best teams in the AFC. It’s a great rivalry.”

MILESTONES: Rivers will become the 93rd quarterback in NFL history to reach 20,000 career passing yards if he completes a four-yard toss Sunday … Antonio Gates (537 career receptions) will pass Kellen Winslow (541) with five catches against New England. Gates would move into third in team history and fifth all-time among NFL tight ends.

BOLTS: Nick Novak, who grew up in San Diego, replaces Nate Kaeding (torn knee ligaments) and will play his first regular-season game in a Chargers uniform … Linebacker Jonas Mouton (shoulder) and defensive end Luis Castillo (tibia) did not practice all week and are out … Receivers Patrick Crayton (ankle) and Vincent Brown (hamstring) practiced in full and are probable … Vaughn Martin is expected to get his first NFL start in place of Castillo at left defensive end … Antwan Barnes has three career sacks against Brady, including two last season … The Chargers will be aware of Chad Ochocinco’s presence despite just one reception from the glib Patriots receiver Week 1.

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