FOXBOROUGH - After listening to a week of quips and aspersions following their coach’s candid camera escapades, the Patriots played like a team bent on exacting revenge - on the San Diego Chargers, the media, the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell, and anyone who ever had used the word “Patriots” and “videotape” in the same sentence.
The result was a 38-14 demolition of San Diego last night at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bill Belichick proved they don’t need cameras to put on a good show. All they need is Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas, Tom Brady, Rosevelt Colvin, and the proverbial chip on their shoulder.
Videogate gave them that.
“I saw what some of the other players [around the league] said. You had all these doubts and all these hypotheticals,” said an emotional Tedy Bruschi after the game. “I got a hypothetical for you. Let’s get all the players that played with us and bring them back and let’s get all the players that you had on those teams and let’s play again. We would win again. Period.”
If they played like they did last night, Bruschi made an understatement.
New England took all the suspense out of the teams’ rematch from January’s AFC Divisional playoff game, turning the lights out on the Chargers early with a 24-0 first-half barrage.
Belichick, who received a game ball from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, could have just taken it at the half because the game was over. An emotional Belichick praised his players and the fans.
“Our players had a real good week of preparation and at times it was challenging, but they stayed focused,” said Belichick. “They played well and they played hard tonight. I give them all the credit in the world. They made a lot of plays out there tonight.
“I want to thank the fans for their awesome support. From the time we walked out on the field they showed up tonight. They gave us some energy and we appreciate that. We have great fans and we have a great owner who has been awesome all week. At times it was a tough situation. I’m glad it worked out well for everybody.”
Everybody but the Chargers.
San Diego could have used semaphore to signal in its plays and it wouldn’t have mattered. The Patriots outgained the Chargers, 222-93, in the first half and 407-201 overall.
Brady, who finished 25 of 31 for 279 yards and three touchdowns, marched the Patriots down the field on the opening kickoff in seven plays - all passes - the last of which was a 7-yard touchdown toss to tight end Benjamin Watson.
Moss, who had another big game (eight catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns), made it 14-0 with 3:55 left in the first quarter on a 23-yard reception.
Stephen Gostkowski, who had missed a 41-yard field goal, connected a 24-yarder to extend the New England lead to 17-0 with 10:01 left in the half.
Then Thomas, the 6-foot-2-inch, 270-pound linebacker, picked off a Philip Rivers pass intended for receiver Malcolm Floyd and went 65 yards for a 24-0 lead. Thomas outraced Chargers wide receiver Buster Davis. It was the third career interception return for a touchdown by Thomas and the sixth defensive TD of his career.
“He really showed his speed on that,” said Belichick. “He had guys chasing him. If they made up any ground they didn’t make up much.”
The Chargers’ first offensive snap foreshadowed what they were in for. Rivers dropped back and threw a nice tight spiral right into the hands of Colvin, the first of two turnovers Colvin created in the half. Colvin, who had five tackles, two sacks and caused two fumbles, forced another San Diego turnover in the final minute of the first quarter, strip-sacking Rivers.
The Chargers cracked the code on the Patriots’ defense on the opening possession of the second half, as Rivers hit Lorenzo Neal on fourth and goal from the 1 to cut the New England lead to 24-7.
But Moss had an answer on the next possession, blowing past Drayton Florence for his second TD catch of the game, a 24-yarder, producing a 31-7 lead with 2:56 left in the third.
Antonio Gates added a 12-yard TD reception in the fourth and Ellis Hobbs fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but sacks by Mike Vrabel and Colvin quelled the threat. Sammy Morris sealed the victory with a 3-yard TD run with 3:18 left.
By that time, most of the New England players were hugging Belichick on the sideline.
“For the guys to go out and play like we did. I hope he feels good about it,” said Colvin. “I don’t think that it took that situation for him to understand that, but we got his back all the way.”
The New England defense had three sacks and forced three turnovers while shutting down LaDainian Tomlinson, who had 43 yards on 18 carries. And for the second straight game the New England offense punted just one time.
“Yeah, that’s probably what bothered me the most something like this happens and then all of the sudden we’re less of a team,” said Bruschi. “What did you see out there tonight? That’s how we are.”
LT questioned the Patriots’ class after New England’s 24-21 victory in last season’s Divisional playoffs. Last night, he and the rest of the Chargers learned the Patriots are the class of the AFC.