State of the Patriots: Once-weak defense makes a comeback in home opener win
By John Pinto
The Oakland Raiders haven’t won a game in New England since 1994, and the trend continued Sunday afternoon. The Patriots performance this week was in no way perfect but as usual, they found a way to pull away with a 16-9 win.
The Pats improve their record to 2-1, while the Oakland Raiders drop to 0-3. Tom Brady had a quarterback rating of 91.5, going 24 for 37 for 234 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Jerod Mayo led all defenders with 11 tackles. The running game of both the Patriots and Raiders were contained all game long. Collectively, the Patriots rushed 32 times for 76 yards, averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
The Raiders rushed 22 times for 67 yards, averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Maurice Jones-Drew was inactive for this game because of a hand injury so that may have contributed to the Raider’s ineptitude running the ball.
The reason for both teams struggle to run the ball effectively was because both defenses were playing great. It was a low-scoring, defensive struggle throughout the game.
In the first quarter, Oakland’s defense was dominating Brady & Co., forcing New England to punt early in their drives. This kept Derek Carr and the Raiders offense on the field and Brady on the bench.
Out of the 15 minute quarter, the Patriots had possession of the ball for only 4 minutes and 58 seconds. It was evident that the Patriots had very little rhythm on offense in the 1st half and they didn’t score until Rob Gronkowski caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady with 4:14 left in the second quarter, his 2nd touchdown of the season.
Before the play started, Brady put running back Shane Vereen in motion, and when a defender followed him from one side of the field to the other, Brady knew that the Raiders were in man coverage. Knowing Gronkowski would be covered by one defender, Brady hit him on an out route for the only touchdown in the game.
The interesting part of this game came in the 4th quarter with 1:08 left. The Raiders had the ball at the NE 30 yard line and it was 3rd & 7 when Derek Carr went deep to wide receiver Andre Holmes. The pass fell incomplete but New England cornerback Logan Ryan was called for pass interference, resulting in a 24 yard penalty and giving the ball to the Raiders at the NE 6 yard line.
From there, running back Darren McFadden ran to the left, bouncing off defenders for a 6- yard touchdown, but the touchdown was nullified due to an offensive holding penalty.
This game was the epitome of a defensive struggle and it was only fitting that a defensive play would decide the outcome.
On the very next play, with 59 seconds remaining in regulation and the Raiders on the NE 12 threatening to score to tie the game, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork came up with a huge interception to seal the victory.
The Patriots’ next game is in Kansas City against the Chiefs on Monday, September 29th at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
The biggest challenge to overcome when facing the Chiefs is containing Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles. Charles did not play in the Chiefs’ previous game against the Dolphins because of an ankle injury, and he is questionable for Monday night’s matchup.
John Pinto is a Comment Contributor. Editor-in-Chief Kayla Lemay edited this story. Follow her on Twitter @klemay123 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.