Raiders Will Be Tested By Underdog Patriots

Ian Logue
January 15, 2002 at 4:28 pm ET

FOXBORO, MA — The Silver & Black will be the first team to find out that the road to New Orleans is going to have to go through Foxboro.

The Raiders will spend this week getting ready to come to Foxboro to spend their Saturday night enjoying the chilly New England weather. As it stands right now the forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid 30’s during the day and snow, and in all likely-hood by nightfall it should be much colder than that.

The weather certainly crossed head coach Jon Gruden’s mind when asked about it on Sunday.

“Well, it depends on how cold,” said Gruden when asked whether or not the weather would be a factor. “There were some days in Green Bay where I didn’t think anybody could play, it was so cold. I thought that the referees might call it off and move it into a dome somewhere.”

“It’s the same for both teams, I think you have to get your skill people acclimated to handling the football, throwing it, catching it [etc.]. Sometimes its a little harder to tackle in that ice-cold weather when you’re not used to it. We won’t alter our game plan much, we’re going to have to throw it, run it, tackle and play good solid overall football to win.

However it’s going to be interesting to see which Oakland team shows up on Saturday night. The Raiders played like two different teams in their two meetings against the New York Jets the last couple of weeks, and now it’s going to be interesting to see which one shows up in Foxboro.

Oakland was horrible on third down in their first meeting against the Jets. In their 24-22 loss to New York two weeks ago the Jets converted 6-of-13 (46%) of their third down attempts while Oakland was a mere 5-of-16 (31%).

But in their second meeting they looked like a different team. They held New York to 3-of-11 (27%) on third down last weekend and converted 6-of-11 (55%) of their own en-route to a 38-24 win.

That’s an area that New England is going to have to put their focus on this week. The Raiders offense can become dangerous if given time to operate, and it’s going to be up to the Patriots offense to do what they’ve done fairly often this season and that’s to strike first and get a lead and make Oakland play from behind on the road.

They’ll also need to continue creating turnovers. The Patriots returned two interceptions for touchdowns in their final regular season meeting against Carolina, and also forced a Miami fumble near the goal line two weeks prior to end a potential scoring opportunity.

Their defense has come through each week and has played a large factor in their 11-5 performance this season. New England finished the regular season ranked 6th in the league in points allowed per game allowing an average of 15.6. They did it while allowing 349.1-yards per contest (23rd) but simply kept their opponent out of the endzone. The Raiders meanwhile allowed 19.4 points per game (18th).

Gruden has already taken note of Bill Belichick’s defense.

“They’ve got good players,” said Gruden. “I’m impressed with the nature of their defensive unit, number one. They highlight a couple of really good players there. Number one, [Lawyer] Milloy they’ll blitz [with], they’ll show blitz with [him], they’ll create some eight-man fronts with [him]. He’s an outstanding player.”

“Bill Belichick has a great scheme there on defense. They’ve got all the fronts, all the coverages, all the rotations that you could ever prepare for.”

Hopefully all these factors keep the Raiders busy this week, and if all goes well for New England everything continues falling into place. They’ve been a team of destiny for most of the season, and they’ll find out on Saturday exactly what their next step will be.

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