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Patriots can cruise to top seed after beating Chargers

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Julian Edelman scored a career-long 69-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, catapulting the New England Patriots to a 23-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night. Our takeaways:

1. On a night when Tom Brady missed throws and looked rattled by the pass rush, the Patriots scored 20 unanswered points from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the game. The scoreboard would have been more lopsided if not for Brady's red-zone interception going into halftime and a Devin McCourty pick-six that was nullified by a suspect penalty. While Rob Gronkowski is easily Brady's most valuable weapon, Edelman is the best Patriots wide receiver since Randy Moss and Wes Welker were breaking records. Edelman's 141 receiving yards are good for a single-game career high.

2. Even without top pass rusher Chandler Jones and star linebacker Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots manufactured constant pressure on Philip Rivers with an array of blitzes. The Chargers' injury-depleted offensive line has been a problem for the past two months. The result was a feckless offense that managed just seven points.

3. A week after burning the Ravens' secondary for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches, Keenan Allen was rendered a non-factor by Darrelle Revis.

4. Brandon Browner's helmet-to-helmet penalty might lead to a discussion about the viability of reviewing those types of calls. Browner actually hit Ladarius Green shoulder-to-shoulder. The penalty took McCourty's touchdown off the scoreboard, leaving the Patriots with a one-point deficit instead of a six-point lead. It could have swung the game in the Chargers' direction.

5. With the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs on the line, the Broncos were an interested party in this game's outcome. Although they remain behind the Patriots, they now have a commanding two-game lead in the AFC West with three weeks remaining. The Chargers are tentatively holding the AFC's No. 6 seed thanks to their head-to-head win over Baltimore last week. New England is in the catbird seat, with home games against the Dolphins and Bills sandwiching a trip to the woebegone Jets.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 14 and discusses the Seahawks' return to Super Bowl form. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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