Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Chargers and offering some third quarter observations:
1) The Chargers offense had an 83% third down conversion rate in the game, a significant drop-off in performance for the Patriots from that in Miami in the season opener. One of these ten third down conversions came early in the third quarter, on a Chargers' third-and-2. The Patriots were in their 3-3-5 nickel package, with LBs Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher blitzing, creating a five-man rush that did not generate any pressure against the Chargers' six-man, shotgun protection. On the strong side of the field, CBs Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden were in zones against three opposing receivers, including WR Vincent Jackson on an underneath 'dig' pattern. LB Jerod Mayo was in a deep Tampa-2 style middle zone, allowing Jackson plenty of room across the middle to make the catch and the first down conversion.
2) A few plays later, the Chargers had their next third-down conversion, on third-and-1 against a Patriots defense in a 4-3 look. As was the case on some other plays, Vince Wilfork was lined up at defensive end on the play, on the outside shoulder of LT Marcus McNeill on the back side of the play. Meanwhile, Kyle Love drew a double team at nose tackle and was pushed off the line by about a yard at the snap, while Shaun Ellis was in a five-technique (outside shoulder of RT Jeromey Clary), and was sealed away from Jacob Hester's running lane. RG Louis Vasquez turned Mayo inside in the second level, setting up a 12-yard run for Hester.
3) With Love again head-up on C Nick Hardwick on a first-and-10 run later on the drive, and Wilfork again at defensive end against McNeill, the Chargers were able to double-team Love with Hardwick and Vasquez and drive him off the line. A pulling LG Kris Dielman sealed WLB Brandon Spikes to the outside, while Mayo was sealed inside by Vasquez, opening up a 14-yard Ryan Mathews run. The front seven troubles continued further to the play side of the line, with DE Andre Carter focused on jamming TE Antonio Gates and DE Mark Anderson tripping over Gates' legs and falling to the turf. On the next play, however, Carter and Mayo would beat their blocks set by McNeill and Hester, respectively, to stop Mathews for a short gain.
4) One drive after being beat by NT Antonio Garay, who dove into QB Tom Brady's legs on the play, Patriots C Dan Connolly struggled late in the third quarter against Garay. On an outside run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Garay beat Connolly on the first step to the play side, pushing Connolly into the backfield with his left arm while pursuing Green-Ellis. Connolly eventually fell to the ground and Garay wrapped up Green-Ellis for a loss. On the next play, Connolly got help with Garay from both LG Logan Mankins and RG Brian Waters at the snap. The drive would still end as a three-and-out after two incompletions by Brady.
5) The Chargers were able to convert another third down on a third-and-2 late in the third quarter, operating out of the shotgun with a five-man protection. The Patriots rushed four, with DT Albert Haynesworth drawing the only double-team. This left Wilfork, Ellis, and Carter in one-on-one rushes, and none of them were able to create pressure on QB Philip Rivers. Instead, Rivers stood in the pocket, stepped up, and hit Jackson on a crossing route for 11 yards, with McCourty and safety Sergio Brown trailing in coverage.