30-10, San Diego...and it really wasn't even that close.
As a Pats fan, I'll take my lumps. I'm not going to bash a team that's given me three Super Bowls, four AFC Championships, two record regular-season consecutive-win streaks, and a perfect regular season for having a tough year.
But at the same time, I'll call a spade a spade.
Cassel's inexperience showed tonight, especially as he failed to find the end zone again when it counted with the goal line stand in the third quarter. It was disconcerting to see the lost look in his eyes after his abortive fourth-down scramble.
But even more disconcerting was seeing Dan Koppen lifted bodily off the line of scrimmage on the previous down, and flung into Sammy Morris by San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams. Koppen was also manhandled by Williams on Cassel's next run, and Morris ran around confusedly instead of blocking effectively for the QB.
Most disconcerting of all? Defensive backs. From Phillip Rivers' first pass finding Malcolm Floyd for 49 yards to the end zone to Ellis Hobbs' devastating pass-interference penalty on the series following the goal line stand, our defensive backfield was carved up by the Chargers today.
The Patriots were outplayed in just about every dimension of the game, and while I still believe Cassel can improve, the O-line* and DBs seem to be a much thornier and more multifaceted issue (though I don't need to see any more to know I could do without Deltha O'Neal). Let's not forget this O-line was blown off the ball and this defensive secondary victimized at the end of last season, too, with Brady at the helm.
Last week, against a relatively weak 9ers squad, the Pats looked well-organized if not flashy. It's best not to get too high or too low on the team in a season like this, especially over a single game. But tonight they looked like they might no longer be able to hang with the high flyers of the league.
*From the "also not helping" department: a serious-looking ankle injury to Nick Kaczur.