October 02, 2011
Patriots Win With Discipline, Not Defense
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
OAKLAND -- This stuff works with teams like the Oakland Raiders, but not with likely January opponents.
The Raiders managed to rack up 504 total yards of offense against the worst defense in the NFL. But penalties and turnovers doomed them in the end, as Tom Brady simply had to show up, be Tom Brady, and his team walks off the Oakland Coliseum floor with a 31-19 win in a game that really wasn't that close. It seemed that Brady and the offense really didn't have to work that hard, and the Raiders chipped in with making the offense's job so much easier.
Incredibly, the linchpin for the Patriot win was old friend Richard Seymour, who set the tone for the entire afternoon on the Patriots' opening drive. Seymour, playing against his old team for the first time, lost his cool and committed two very costly penalties that he seemingly would never have committed if he were still a Patriot. Facing third and nine at their own 21, Brady uncharacteristically allowed the play clock to go down to zero. But Seymour apparently did not hear the whistle, and blasted in and slammed Brady to the turf. The personal foul negated the delay of game penalty.
Then four plays later, Seymour tried to tackle BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a two-yard run near midfield and grabbed him by the face mask. Three plays later, Brady found Wes Welker in the left flat, and he took it in for a 15-yard touchdown. Seymour would later spend some time on the bench, perhaps to cool off and get back to playing within himself.
From this time on, the Patriots settled into a game which guaranteed them a win. Brady made zero mistakes, Welker had another banner afternoon, the Patriot running backs had a terrific day, and Jason Campbell went through the Patriot defense like a knife through butter until his mistakes caught up with him. The Raiders, who looked nothing like the team that upset the Jets at home last week, could not get out of their own way and turned a game they could have easily won into a certain loss.
The Raiders finished the game with nine penalties for 85 yards.
Campbell, who isn't much of an upgrade over huge draft bust JaMarcus Russell, threw two interceptions which were simply bad throws. In the second quarter, facing second and goal at the Patriot seven, Campbell let one fly into the end zone, and the only football player in the vicinity of the pass was Patrick Chung, back after a one-game absence and wearing a cast on his wrist. Then in the fourth quarter, with first and ten at the Patriot 30, Campbell dropped back and dumped one over the middle right into the hands of Vince Wilfork, who lumbered 19 yards to the Patriot 49. Wilfork now has two picks in the last three games, the only two picks of his career.
Campbell threw for 344 yards, which is another indictment of the porous pass defense. Darrius Heyward-Bey had four catches for 118 yards, but 58 of them came on a garbage-time play late in the game with the Patriots simply playing out the string and not providing much coverage. Tight end Kevin Boss was much more of a threat, with four tough catches for 78 yards. The Patriots had no answer for Boss, but Campbell could not utilize him as much as, say, Brady utilized Welker.
Another thing that hurt the Raiders was that two drives stalled inside the Patriot 10, which resulted in two chip shot field goals by Sebastian Janikowski. A block in the back by Jared Veldheer killed the first offensive possession of the Raiders, and Janikowski connected from 28 yards. Later in the third quarter, an odd play in the end zone saw Jacoby Ford get his feet tangled with Kyle Arrington. A flag was thrown for interference on Arrington, then the flag was picked up and Janikowski was later brought in to kick a 26-yarder. The picking up of the flag was a curious call, but Campbell was unable to overcome the sudden adversity.
If anything, the last drive for Oakland skewed their offensive numbers because the Patriots more or less laid down leading 31-13 with 1:16 left. Oakland stopped Stevan Ridley at the one yard line on fourth down, then drove 99 yards on only four plays in 48 seconds. Campbell hit the aforementioned lob toss to Heyward-Bey for 58, then Boss took another lob toss for 36 yards that Gary Guyton simply did not want to defend. Two plays later, Denarius Moore ran a crossing route and hauled in a six-yard pass to make it 31-19. To his credit, Devin McCourty defended the ensuing two-point attempt to Chaz Schilens very well, but the Patriots gave up those 99 yards way too easy. In the old days, the defense would play sixty minutes and never allow an opponent that many easy yards in garbage time.
Fortunately, the Raiders of today are not your father's or your grandfather's Raiders. John Madden would have hung up at least 50 on this bunch. You'd be hearing about Cliff Branch, not Deion Branch (or Tyvon Branch). Ken Stabler would be throwing for 500 yards, not Brady. Dave Casper would have about sixteen catches, none of them needing to be as challenging as his famous "ghost to the post" catch against the Colts in 1977.
Brady gave Campbell a clinic on how to manage a game and to surgically dissect what was a pretty good defense, when Seymour wasn't playing like a crazed maniac out there. Brady finished with only 16 completions out of 30 for only 226 yards, and most of those yards (156) was to Welker. Chad Ochocinco made two nice catches for 30 yards total. Brady was hurried for much of the game and sacked once (for a zero yard loss). But he threw no interceptions and managed a really good game.
What really helped Brady on Sunday was the rushing game. Rookie Stevan Ridley had a coming-out party, with 97 yards on ten carries and a terrific 33-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the first half. BenJarvus Green-Ellis chipped in with 75 yards on the ground, giving the Patriots 183 total yards rushing and a 6.1 average per carry. Even Danny Woodhead chipped in, with his two carries averaging six and a half yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots did a pretty good job of containing Darren McFadden, the league's leading rusher. In an obvious effort to dare the Raiders to beat the Patriots through the air, the Patriots held McFadden to only 75 yards rushing on 14 carries. But McFadden did have 48 yards receiving on four catches, so he wound up with 123 all-purpose yards.
Injuries were a concern for the Patriots. Kyle Love was hurt in the first quarter, but limped off under his own power and would later return. But Jerod Mayo was not so lucky, as he went down in the second quarter and had to be assisted off the field and would not return. Reports say that he blew out his MCL but is not expected to miss the rest of the season. Guyton came in and played fair to midland until the last drive of the game.
So the Patriots improve to 3-1, which pulls them even with the mighty Bills, who lost at Cincinnati on a walkoff field goal. Bill Belichick has to know that games like this won't happen in January. But wins are still wins no matter how they happen, and the Patriots will take them.
Meanwhile, Seymour remains a great memory of the glory days of last decade, and it's too bad that he still isn't wearing the red, white and blue instead of the silver and black.
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