Poker-faced Patriots dismantle the Raiders!

TEAM

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NE

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Following an “encouraging” loss in Week 2, the Patriots bounced back against the Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) with a 36-20 victory that featured contributions from all three phases of the team. This win moved the Patriots to 2-1 on the season and second place in the AFC East, behind the Buffalo Bills (3-0).

Here are some takeaways from this Week 3 contest.

1. The Pats’ offense rode their ground game to victory

The Patriots’ offense has constantly demonstrated their ability to morph from week to week, and yesterday was no exception, as they focused on establishing the run to attack a weak Raiders’ defensive line. Even though Cam Newton was shaky early, New England was able to score points by leaning on Rex Burkhead (who had a career day with three total touchdowns) & JJ Taylor. The best sign from yesterday was the fact that Sony Michel appeared to finally turn a corner after a mediocre start to the season, as a lack of snaps appeared to light a spark for him. Michel entered this game without any career rushes for more than 35 yards, but against Las Vegas, he had two of them on a day where he rushed for 117 yards off 9 carries. If Michel can continue to play like this, the Patriots could have a solid 5-man rotation at running back when James White & Damien Harris return.

One of the biggest factors for the revival of the rushing attack was the shuffled offensive line, which featured star guard Joe Thuney at center (due to David Andrews’ injury) and rookie Michael Onwenu at guard. The Patriots were able to dominate the line of scrimmage throughout the game, and only gave up two sacks. Cam Newton had an ugly interception in the first quarter, but he mostly rebounded, with a smart & decisive performance in the second half. Unlike the game in Seattle, Newton didn’t have to put the team on his shoulders, and he thrived as a complementary piece to the dominant rushing attack. However, Newton did flash his rushing ability once again, with a 21-yard run that helped put the game away in the fourth quarter. After an impactful Week 2, the receiving corps was quiet against Las Vegas, but Josh McDaniels probably won’t complain due to the 250 rushing yards they picked up.

It’s always great for the Patriots to easily win a game when their star quarterback isn’t asked to do a lot, but Cam Newton will definitely have to be his usual self if the team wants to win going forward.

cam rex v raiders w320
(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

2. Takeaways win games

The Patriotsdefense wasn’t very sharp during certain stretches of yesterday’s game, but their saving grace was their ability to force turnovers. For instance, on Las Vegas’ first big drive of the game, the defense was able to force a fumble from star running back Josh Jacobs. Later on, Chase Winovich got to Raiders QB Derek Carr and stripped him, giving the Patriots the ball at midfield. Despite these smart plays, the Patriots’ secondary was uncharacteristically sloppy towards the end of the first half, as they allowed Las Vegas to drive 75 yards in 38 seconds to cut their lead to 13-10. Despite being two of the best Patriots’ defenders, Jonathan Jones & Stephon Gilmore struggled heavily on that drive, as they gave up a deep pass and penalty, respectively.

In the second half, the Patriots stiffened up, as they gave up 10 points in garbage time, and prevented the Raiders from maintaining the momentum they gained at the end of the second quarter. The only “low” point of the second half was when the Raiderstop weapon Darren Waller caught his lone reception of the game in the fourth quarter after being blanked for more than three quarters. The defense sealed the game with five minutes to go, when Deatrice Wise Jr. recovered a fumble by Carr in the end zone to give New England a 36-13 lead. The referees initially ruled the play as a safety, but after a review, it was clear that Carr lost the football before his knee hit the ground.

All in all, the defense had a good performance, but mental errors once again marred their overall efficiency. Most importantly, Bill Belichick had to use all three of his second half timeouts by the beginning of the fourth quarter, just to make sure that his defense was correctly aligned. I’m willing to bet that the film sessions for the defense won’t be fun when Belichick begins to point out all of their mistakes from yesterday’s game.

(Adam Richin/Boston Sports Journal)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 17/28 for 162 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 9 carries for 117 yards
  • Receiving: Rex Burkhead7 receptions for 49 yards, & 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 8 total tackles

Raiders

  • Passing: Derek Carr – 24/32 for 261 yards & 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Josh Jacobs – 16 carries for 71 yards
  • Receiving: Hunter Renfrow – 6 receptions for 84 yards & 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Nicholas Morrow – 9 total tackles

What’s next?: The Pats head to Kansas City to take on Patrick Mahomes & the Chiefs (2-0) in a matchup of the last 2 Super Bowl winners.

¿Estás listo para algo de fútbol?: Previewing the Patriots’ Week 11 game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City

The Patriots head down south to Mexico City later today to face the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca. In the preseason, this matchup was billed as a must-watch game between 2 of the AFC’s best teams, but now it pits the 7-2 Patriots against the underperforming 4-5 Raiders. 

Here are a few things to consider leading up to today’s game

1. Tom Brady and the New England offense against Oakland’s defense

TB12 and the Brady Bunch were hitting on all cylinders during last week’s blowout win at Denver, where all facets of the offense performed well. This week they face off against a porous Oakland defense, which has serious concerns in the secondary (they rank 22nd in passing yards and last in opposing QBR). Oakland is slightly better against the run, so it will be interesting to see what combination Josh McDaniels decides to use against them. The Patriots are missing 2 starters on their offensive line (Marcus Cannon and David Andrews), but may face a favorable matchup against Oakland’s anemic pass rush.

tb12 vs oakland
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

2. The Patriots’ defense against Oakland’s offense

The Patriots’s defense has performed well over the last five games, holding their opponents to under 17 points per game. They will be facing a heavily inconsistent Oakland offense that doesn’t resemble the dynamic lineup from last year. The Patriots cannot afford to let their guard down, as Oakland is loaded on offense with several talented players such as Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, and Marshawn Lynch. Two intriguing matchups to watch during the game will be the Patriots’ front seven against Oakland’s rushing attack, and the Patriots’ secondary against Oakland’s receivers.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots
(Photo from USA Today Sports)

3. Will Mexico City’s altitude affect the game?

Mexico City has an altitude of 7,382 feet, so it is fair to question if this will have any impact on today’s game. The Patriots fresh off a game in the Mile High city of Denver opted to practice this week at Colorado’s Air Force Academy, in order to become acclimated to playing at high altitudes. Oakland took a different route, and decided to practice at home, as they thought that it would help them prepare better. Will the decision to practice at high altitudes give the Patriots an advantage?

pats afa
(Photo from the Boston Globe)

Taking these factors into consideration, I still expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Mexico City. TB12 and the offense should make life miserable for Oakland’s secondary, and the Pats’ defense will likely continue to play efficiently. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Raiders 17