By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots using a balanced attack eventually pulled away in the second half in their visit to the Black Hole on Sunday out in Oakland. Tom Brady and his teammates continued to churn out points in their 31-19 victory against the Raiders at O.co Coliseum.
It was a very close game in the first half as the Patriots went into the break up 17-10. However, a very costly interception by Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell late in the first half was a huge turning point in this game, as it allowed the Patriots to build on their lead by adding a late field goal.
The second half saw the Patriots offense control the tempo with excellent balance between the running and the passing game. The Raiders on the other hand, could not take advantage of a defense that is giving up a tremendous amount of yardage each and every week.
In the end, the Patriots played mistake free football, and they capitalized on the mistakes made by the home team. The Raiders have a serviceable quarterback in Campbell, but the Patriots exposed him as a quarterback than can probably only take you so far.
So what did we learn from watching the game on Sunday?
The first thing we learned is that if you expect to beat the Patriots you need to take away Wes Welker. The Patriots receiver had 9 receptions for 158 yards, and 1 touchdown. He also caught a few key passes on third down to extend drives. Welker is playing at an elite level right now, and if you are a defense playing the Patriots, he should be your top priority to stop.
Stevan Ridley was a big key to the Patriots running game on sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
The second thing we learned is that the Patriots offense can get it done on the ground and be balanced, and they showed that on Sunday. The running game led by Stevan Ridley and Benjarvus Green-Ellis had 183 yards rushing the football, while Brady only threw for 226 yards. Knowing the Patriots can run the ball like this should pay huge dividends late in the season, and into the play-offs.
The third thing we learned is that the pass defense at this point continues to be a major issue. Campbell had wide open receivers all day, and he threw for 344 yards, and 1 touchdown. Fortunately for the Patriots he also had 2 interceptions. The Patriots are still lacking any consistent pass rush. I am still waiting for an aggressive style of defense, but through 4 games, we still have not seen it.
Ultimately, this was a game won by the Patriots offense, and was aided by some bad mistakes from the Raiders. In the end, however, you should be happy walking out of the Black Hole with a victory.
On offense, Darren McFadden is really the star of this unit for the Raiders. However, I thought the Patriots did a nice job containing him. He did pull off a great 41 yard run, and had a reception for 26 yards. But, in many of his 14 carries, he was stopped dead in his tracks.
The major problem the Raiders have on offense is Campbell. He had 2 costly interceptions that most quarterbacks just don’t make. The pick by Patrick Chung in the end-zone was embarrassing. For the Raiders, Campbell is the issue keeping them from being a real elite team.
On defense, I was shocked at how well the Patriots were able to run the ball on them. The Patriots averaged 6.16 yards per carry, which is excellent. In the passing game, the Raiders did a better job against the Patriots than I expected. They did take Rob Gronkowski out of the game, but they could not contain Welker. This unit is average and it showed in this game.
For the Patriots on offense, it was nice to see the patience they showed at times methodically moving down the field. Brady looked as sharp as ever, but this performance reminded me a little of the 2003 team that really mixed it up well with the running game. Ridley showed Patriots fans the potential he possesses as more of a big play back than Green-Ellis. Ridley ran for 97 yards on 10 carries, but he broke one for 33 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, the positive to take out of this performance was run defense. As stated earlier, it was obvious that the Patriots defensive game-plan was to contain McFadden. The Patriots defense I thought overall did a nice job against the run. Brandon Spikes stood out with his best game of the season, as he had 3 tackles and 3 assists. Moving forward, his play could be a huge key to the defense.
The negative continues to be in the passing game for the defense. When you make Campbell look more than serviceable quarterback, you know you have an issue. The Patriots pass rush is really nowhere near where it needs to be. The defensive backfield continues to struggle, and this part of the game is a serious concern. This pass defense has to get better for the Patriots to really go far this season.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Raiders.”
1. The Patriots need to contain the Raiders running game led by Darren McFadden. The Patriots overall I thought did a great job on McFadden. Often you saw multiple players all over the Raiders running back when he had the ball. He only ran for 75 yards, and I think that is an accomplishment.
2. It is time to play an attacking style of defense and get after Jason Campbell. I honestly did not see any major change in the Patriots defense than we had seen in the previous games this season. I am very disappointed by this.
I saw very little blitzing, and it seemed for the most part the Patriots defense was concentrated on stopping McFadden, which obviously made sense. However, I don’t know why you cannot get after the quarterback with sending more players on blitzes, while at the same time stopping McFadden. Instead, on passing downs it looked like the Patriots were continuing to drop players into coverage.
Will we ever see a “one gap” attacking defense this season? I thought this was the game to bring it out.
3. The offensive line needs to stop Richard Seymour. Seymour I thought was way too excited for this game, and ended up really helping the Patriots with 30 yards of penalties on the first drive.
However, I thought overall the offensive line did a nice job containing him and his teammates the majority of the game. Brady did get hit, but had more than enough time to find his receivers.
4. The Patriots should use their “hurry up offense” the majority of this game. The Patriots I do not think used very much “hurry up” offense at all. However, they were very effective in a more slowed down approach in this game.
5. Deion Branch or Chad Ochocinco need to step up and be another option for Brady. These two receivers did not have a huge amount of receptions between them, but the three they did have were important.
Ochocinco had 2 key receptions that helped move the Patriots down the field, and Branch caught a touchdown pass. The bottom line is that it is not about the quantity, but the quality – so these two receivers succeeded in this key.
So what did we learn from this game? I think we got an indication that the Patriots offense can win games in different ways with a balanced attack. On defense, there are still huge questions in the passing game, but I think the run defense is going to be strong this season, and that could pay huge dividends in the play-offs.
Ultimately though it is about wins and losses. The Patriots went into a difficult place to win, and came away with the victory. That for me is the bottom line.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the Patriots 31-19 victory against the Raiders.