Last week’s decision to remain in Colorado paid dividends as the Patriots certainly appeared to be the more conditioned and well-prepared of the two teams, with Bill Belichick’s club leaving no doubt during a 33-8 beating of the Raiders on Sunday.
This one was never close, with Tom Brady and New England’s offense getting out in front early and taking control against a Raiders team that didn’t look like the same club many felt could be the next contenders in the AFC. Instead, it was Belichick’s group that took care of business and took yet another step toward another playoff run, while leaving the Raiders with plenty of questions as the two teams depart Mexico City.
Here are some takeaways from the game, which given the Patriots were without Chris Hogan, David Andrews and Marcus Cannon against a pretty good Oakland defense, was certainly impressive.
1) Brandin Cooks continues to settle in– For a team that’s already leading the league on the offensive side of the football, it’s hard to believe that they’re not really even playing up to their potential given the personnel they have on offense. One player who comes to mind under that context is Cooks, who continues to be one of their weapons on offense who seemingly gets better every week. On Sunday, Brady found him on two of their longest pass plays of the season, hitting him for 52 and 64 yards, the latter of which went for a touchdown. He finished with six catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
It sounds funny to say, but Cooks hasn’t been a go-to player for Brady in clutch situations and really up until now, he hasn’t been someone Brady’s connected with when he’s really needed to. He came into Sunday’s game against the Raiders having caught just 4 passes on 14 targets from Brady on third down, as well as just two receptions on four targets down in the red zone. On Sunday, Brady targeted him twice in scoring territory, with Cooks catching one pass for a 1-yard loss while finishing 0-for-2 on third down. Those continue to be areas to keep an eye on but should they eventually get on the same page, it’s hard not to like New England’s chances in the postseason given what we’ve already seen from him.
2) Tom Brady continues to amaze – It doesn’t matter what country he plays in, Brady will dominate and that’s exactly what he did on Sunday after becoming the first quarterback to finish with a 300-yard passing performance in three different countries. He opened the game by matching his 2003 performance against the Colts by hitting his first 12 passes, and he had the Patriots up 17-0 at the half after missing just four passes while throwing two touchdowns.
He was razor sharp all afternoon, throwing touchdowns to Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and a 64-yard bomb to Cooks in front of a crowd that spent most of the game chanting his name after each big throw he hit. The two long throws he threw to Cooks were right on the money, with Cooks catching the ball in stride and not having to turn back and adjust as he had on previous similar attempts. The Raiders tried to put the pressure on him but each time they came after him, he read the defense and got the ball out of his hands before they ever had a shot at him.
However, there was a scary moment late in the game where he was tackled low by Khalil Mack, which saw his leg get twisted awkwardly as he was taken down. The play drew a roughing the passer penalty but the important thing was Brady got back up and continued on, which given how it looked on the replay was pretty remarkable. Four plays later, Gostkowski hit a 29-yard field goal and Belichick wisely turned the reins over to Brian Hoyer, who finished the game with Brady as a spectator.
Lewis was terrific again on Sunday.
3) The streak continues for Dion Lewis – Lewis had a strong outing on Sunday running the football, finishing with 60 yards on 10 carries while showing his usual quickness and escapability against a Raiders defense that was clearly frustrated by his elusiveness. What’s really impressive about Lewis is how well he’s been getting through the line and into the second-level, which is one of the areas where he’s been dangerous and that proved to be the case again on Sunday.
However, Lewis continued an impressive streak which saw him catch all four passes thrown his way, improving him to 14-of-14 on passes targeted to him this season, continuing his run as the only receiver with 10 or more targets with a 100% completion rate. Oddly enough, the other player is slowly making his way into that category at that this point is Martellus Bennett, who came into Sunday’s game having caught 3-of-3 last week, while catching another 3-of-3 again against the Raiders.
Lewis seems to be peaking at the right time and that’s good news for New England, who is about to embark on a six-game stretch that includes five games against their Division rivals and one against a team that could stand in their way of getting home field in January in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having someone like Lewis playing at this level will certainly help their cause, and it’s good to see him playing back to form at this point in the season.
Trey Flowers and the Patriots defense dominated on Sunday.
4) Patriots Got Another Key Turnover Sunday – With Dont’a Hightower lost for the season, New England has been without one of its key playmakers on the defensive side of the football. But they’ve started getting timely turnovers and on Sunday, Marquis Flowers made a big one against the Raiders after forcing a fumble in the closing minutes of the first half.
The turnover happened after he punched the football out Seth Roberts’ hands as the Raiders were threatening, having driven down to the Patriots’ 15-yard line. At the time, New England held just a 14-0 advantage and had Oakland scored, they would have pulled to within 7-points right before the half and it could have changed the momentum of the game. Instead, it gave Brady a shot with 0:33 to play and he managed to drive them from their own 7-yard line out to the Raiders’ 45-yard line, where Stephen Gostkowski drilled a team-record 62-yard field goal to close out the half.
That sequence seemingly took the wind out of Oakland’s sails, with Raiders QB Derek Carr looking frustrated and nowhere near the normally calm player fans have generally seen from him. But it’s a play that really made a difference and these types of plays are slowly becoming a Hallmark again of this football team, and it certainly turned the tide of the game for New England Sunday.
5) Another good game for Jones – One of the more fun aspects of each season is seeing unexpected players doing unexpected things and Jonathan Jones continues to be one of those players. He had another unheralded moment again on Sunday, playing pretty good defense early in the game that lead to a deflection, allowing Duron Harmon to make an interception on the Raiders’ second offensive possession.
While New England didn’t turn it into points, it did take the ball out of the Raiders’ hands and allowed the Patriots to control the filed position battle after Ryan Allen pinned them back to their own 13-yard line.
Jones finished the afternoon third in the team in tackles with five, and overall he did a pretty good job in coverage, which played a part in holding the Raiders to just eight points. While it wasn’t a flashy performance, his contributions have quietly been one of the big reasons behind New England’s improvement on the defensive side of the football.
For now, the Patriots will return home to prepare to take on Miami, as the Dolphins will visit Gillette Stadium next Sunday afternoon at 1pm.
Posted Under: 2017 Patriots Season