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(Reuters) - A Tom Brady-inspired New England Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers 23-14 on Sunday to cement their place at the top of the National Football League standings with their 10th victory of the season.
Quarterback Brady continued his mastery of the Chargers, notching his sixth consecutive victory against his opposite number Philip Rivers as the Patriots bounced back from last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Brady threw for two touchdowns while the New England defense kept the Chargers scoreless after the first four minutes of the second quarter as the Patriots scored the final 20 points.
With the road win, the Patriots improved to 10-3, three games clear of Miami (7-6) and Buffalo (7-6) in the AFC East with only three regular season games left.
In the NFL, Denver (AFC West) and Arizona (NFC West) are also 10-3, while Green Bay can go 10-3 with a win over Atlanta on Monday.
The loss left San Diego (8-5) two games behind the AFC West-leading Broncos, though the Chargers lead the race for a wild-card berth.
The Chargers still led by one-point after three quarters, before New England hit the front with a 38-yard field goal from the boot of Stephen Gostkowski early in the final period.
A 69-yard touchdown by Julian Edelman proved the hammer blow after the wide receiver caught the ball 55 yards from the end zone, evaded two tackles and ran in for the longest reception of career.
"Defensively I can't say enough about that effort," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters, while also praising Edelman's touchdown. "It was a great catch by Julian. It was a huge play."
Brady completed 28-of-44 passes for 317 yards and improved his career record in December to 46-7, the best in NFL history.
"We needed that type of play at that point in the game and defense took over from there," Brady said of Edelman's touchdown.
"We didn't play as well as well as would have liked offensively but that's the NFL. That was the key to the whole game the way the defense played."
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by John O'Brien