Patriots lose Cannon, still find a way to protect Brady vs. Chargers

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FOXBORO -- For most of last week, it was hard to hear anything about the Chargers without hearing something about their pass rush. 

Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, two of the game's top-10 sack artists, would be in many ways the key to Sunday's outcome. If they could make Tom Brady uncomfortable, they'd be in business. 

As it turned out, the Chargers sacked Brady three times and they hit him five times in all. But only two of those hits came courtesy of Bosa and Ingram -- they had one each -- as the Patriots were able to prevent the pair from ruining the game. 

How'd they do it? 

The short passing game of the Patriots helped. Twenty of Brady's 32 completions on the afternoon went to backs and tight ends. James White caught five passes for 85 yards, while Rex Burkhead caught seven passes for 68 yards. When Brady targeted either, the football was generally out of his hands very quickly, preventing Bosa or Ingram from having the time to pose a threat. 

PATRIOTS 21, CHARGERS 13

"They have a lot of good rushers," Bill Belichick said. "I mean, It’s Ingram and Bosa, but it’s a lot more than that. They did a good job with their perimeter pressures. They brought some extra guys and dropped some out, so it was again, not the easiest thing to deal with. 

"Some of that involved the backs. Sometimes the backs and the tight ends were involved in bumping those guys on the way out. To handle that everybody has to do a good job. The quarterback has to get the ball out on time. The line has to pass protect. The receivers have to have spacing in zone and get open in man-to-man."

When they didn't do those things, it meant trouble. Because even when Bosa and Ingram weren't getting to Brady, there were plays when they beat their blockers quickly and would have had hits or sacks had it not been for some fancy footwork by Brady to avoid punishment. 

"What he does, he’s great at, you have to give him credit," said Chargers defensive lineman Brandan Mebane. "They knew that we could pass rush and get to the quarterback, he tried to avoid us and there were times he did a pretty good job at it."

"We don’t have all day because the rush is getting there pretty quick so if nobody is open you can’t block them forever," Belichick said. "If we get open quickly then we don’t have to block them as long. The times that we had it was good overall team execution. Unfortunately, there were times where we didn’t have it and then we didn’t have good plays to go with it."

But for Brady to remain as clean as he did against a pair of rushers as dynamic as any other duo in the league, the Patriots will take it. Especially considering they were down one of their best offensive linemen for the majority of the game. 

Marcus Cannon left the game with an injured ankle during New England's second drive of the second quarter. He entered the game questionable with an ankle issue and has dealt with ankle problems for much of the season. 

When he left, it was up to LaAdrian Waddle to man the right side of the Patriots offensive line. 

"I just went out there and tried to play ball, man," Waddle said. "That's what I'm here for. Play ball. I got an opportunity today and every opportunity I get I'm going to try to make the most of it."

According to Pro Football Focus, Waddle was responsible for five quarterback hurries but he did not give up a hit or a sack in 51 snaps. Because Bosa and Ingram swap sides occasionally, Waddle got both at different points. 

"You can't really double-team both of those guys every play," Waddle said. "Some plays guys are going to have a little heavier load to lift, and they're going to be matched up one-on-one on them. But guys are expected to come through. We just believe in each other and we all go out with that kind of attitude of whoever we play or whoever we're matched up against. We should be able to play the way we should play and we'll be all right."

In the last three games, Brady has been sacked a total of five times. He was sacked 16 times through the first five games of the season.

It wasn't a clean sheet against the Chargers, but facing one of the toughest tandems they'll see all season, it was a strong showing. 

"They definitely have some good rushers and good players and we just came out with attitude," Waddle said. "We just gotta execute and do our job. When we play with good technique and the way we should play, we can handle those guys."

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