McCourty will be key in stopping Chargers

ESPN Stats & Information

After watching the play, click 'Analyze' to gain Next Level insight into three different parts of the play.This interactive edition of Chalkboard Stats examines a pivotal moment in last year’s Week 7 matchup between the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers. Statistical tendencies exhibited on this play allow us to preview their upcoming clash in Foxboro, and the strategies that may come into play.

This week, the Chargers and the Patriots meet for another chapter in a budding rivalry. Let’s break down a play during last year’s Chargers-Patriots game to see how Philip Rivers might attack the Patriots this Sunday.

PERSONNEL: The Patriots lost cornerback Leigh Bodden in training camp last year, and their lack of secondary depth was exposed all season. That trend continued in Week 1 by allowing over 400 pass yards to Chad Henne on Monday Night Football.

The Patriots ranked near the bottom of the league in most pass-defense categories when opposing offenses used at least three-wide receiver formations. This included allowing more pass yards and first downs then any other NFL team. In addition to a lack of secondary depth, the Patriots registered sacks on only 5 percent of dropbacks against three-or-more wide receiver sets last season, 22nd in the NFL.

PASS LOCATION: At the snap, Patrick Crayton began his fade route down the right sideline, giving Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers an appealing target. Rivers excelled last season when throwing deep balls down the right sideline. Rivers and Michael Vick were the only two quarterbacks in the NFL to complete over half of their passes of 15-or-more yards down the right sideline. San Diego’s vertical passing game should come into play in Week 2, as standout wide receiver Vincent Jackson was missing from last year’s game due to a contract dispute.

PLAYMAKER: Devin McCourty made an acrobatic play on the ball here to deny Patrick Crayton. Patriots fans became accustomed to seeing plays like this from McCourty, who was one of the best corners in the NFL at defending deep passes in his rookie year. McCourty defended or picked off a league-high 14 throws traveling 15 yards or more downfield last year, including a league-leading seven interceptions. That total was higher than nine NFL teams, including more than the Saints, Bills, and Broncos combined (six).