Defense stands tall on goal line again

CBS Screenshot

The key to the goal line stand: Good push up front.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the second straight week, the Patriots came up with a key goal-line stand (and responded by marching 99 yards for a touchdown). But unlike in Week 1, where the Dolphins made multiple attempts to throw the ball into the end zone, New England stopped four consecutive rushes (one QB scramble) inside its own 5 Sunday against the San Diego Chargers as part of a 35-21 win at Gillette Stadium.

Two key things happened on the second-quarter play: First, the defensive line got tremendous push. Look at the screenshot above, not one part of the defensive line gets pushed back into the end zone and instead the left side of New England's line doesn't budge, forcing the play further outside.

At this point it's essentially 3-on-3, still good odds for the offense. But Patrick Chung takes on 6-foot-3, 248-pound tight end Randy McMichael, who had motioned to the right side, and Devin McCourty makes maybe the key play by penetrating into the backfield and forcing fullback Jacob Hester to gobble him up. Tolbert is left with no choice but to try to hurdle the pile on his way outside and Jerod Mayo gets him by the legs to make the stop.

"Spilled the ball outside, looked like we got a good push inside and the runner never really got turned up because he ended up going sideways and we were able to make the play," said coach Bill Belichick. "It was a huge play. It was a first-and-goal on the [5]... they were down there on all four plays, so it was huge for us."

Here's more reaction from the play:

DT Vince Wilfork: "It was huge. A goal-line stand -- fourth down and basically everyone is on their toes. There was a situation that we talked about as a defense that may happen, knowing that they are coming in with a different kicker, that there may be problems in that area. So we always thought that could come up at some point in the game, a full-down territory for them. I didn’t know it was going to happen that early, but everyone was alert on that play. Jerod made a hell of a play. That’s why he is one of the top linebackers in the game. He showed it tonight. That play he made tonight was good, good tackle, everybody was playing their assignment, and he was free to run to the ball. Any time you can get a goal-line stand, is big for a defense. You always talk about winning in the red area, and there’s no bigger win down there, I can’t get any bigger than that."

DE Andre Carter: "Goal line is a mindset, in general. We knew that, especially during that particular series, it was a big drive. We played our responsibilities and [Jerod] Mayo was there to make the tackle. That’s the mindset of becoming a big defense.”

CB Devin McCourty: “I was just reading my key when Jeromey Clary blocked down, so I just tried to get in there to see if I could create something, which made Mike Tolbert bounce and Jerod Mayo did a great job."

Not to be overlooked is the fact that New England made three stops prior to the fourth-down stand, including Tolbert getting dropped by Kyle Love for no gain on 2nd-and-goal from the 2.

"It’s a great feeling, but it’s not just about me, it’s about the team," said Love. "Whether I make the play, Vince makes the play, anybody on the 11 makes the play, we’re all excited, we're all happy. When we get a 4-and-out goal line stand, it’s great, and it's even better for our offense to go out thee and see that happen, make them play a little harder. We're all feeding off each other."