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Monday Observations: Running Backs Key Patriots Big Win Over Mistake-Prone Raiders 36-20

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
1 year ago at 7:00 am ET
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season

Monday Observations: Running Backs Key Patriots Big Win Over Mistake-Prone Raiders 36-20Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Observations From Sunday Afternoon’s Win

What a difference a week makes. One week after being held to just 20 yards on the ground against Seattle, the Patriots running backs were the difference as they ran all over the Raiders in the final three quarters en route to a 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. 

Rex Burkhead had a huge game as scored three touchdowns, two rushing, and one receiving while gaining 49 yards on 6 rushes (8.2-yard average) while catching seven passes for 49 yards. Sony Michel gained 117 yards on nine carries (13.0-yard average). Rookie J.J. Taylor had 43 yards on 11 carries (3.9-yard average). 

Overall the Patriots rushed for 250 yards on 38 carries (6.2-yard average). It was the second time this season that they rushed for over 200 yards as a team and were getting good performances across the board, despite missing Damien Harris, who is on IR, and James White who missed his second game in a row due to the death of his father.

Speaking of White, many of the Patriots did exactly that after the game, signaling that they all were thinking of one of the most popular players on the roster. Burkhead got misty-eyed and had to stop for a moment to control his emotions when speaking about the team misses White. 

On a day where Cam Newton was on middling both passing and running, the Patriots offense got itself going and due to some outstanding run blocking by the offensive line and the receivers downfield. 

Newton completed 17-28 passes for just 162 yards with one TD and one INT. He also rushed nine times for 27 yards but had one big scramble for 21. Newton’s accuracy was off as well as some decision-making. He missed an open N’Keal Harry in the endzone, throwing well behind him. Twice he threw to Julian Edelman, who had just two catches for 23 yards into double coverage. And he was picked off when the scrambled and tried to force a throw in a tight window. But as he put it, the Patriots found different ways to beat you. 

“That’s exactly what we want to do,” Newton said. “We want to put defenses in fits knowing that we have so many different ways to beat you.”

Michel, who had one of the most statistically efficient games of his career put it succinctly. 

“Our goal was to finish today. Finish every play, every run. Anytime the ball is in our hands, our goal was to finish plays as much as we can.”

And while the game and Michel didn’t start off that way…that is how it ended. The first quarter was dominated by the Raiders upfront. Michel seemed primed for another lackluster effort. The coaches substituted Michel for the rookie Taylor who got the offense jump-started with a couple of runs and it seemed to snowball. 

After coming back in early in the 3rd quarter, Michel had a jump in his step and busted off an impressive 38-yard run. He followed that up with the longest run of his career, 48 yards more in the fourth quarter. He ran with authority, broke tackles, showed good vision, and made some jump cuts, making defenders miss. 

With David Andrews being placed on IR, Joe Thuney moved from left guard to center and rookie Michael Onwenu filled in for him and played well. As Bill Belichick said in his post-game presser when you run for 250 yards, it is more than one guy.

And Josh McDaniels, who was criticized last week, called a great game, mixing up the runs by getting everyone involved in a true RB by committee effort and mixing in well-timed screen passes.

On the defensive side, the Patriots had a mixed day, making several mistakes, but also making some terrific plays and holding a Raiders offense that had scored 34 points in each of their first two games to just 13 points until garbage time.

With an outstanding plan, they completely took away TE Darren Waller, holding him without a catch for 56 minutes. And by then, the game was already over. Waller caught two passes for just nine yards as the coaches had a myriad of defensive players who switched off covering him. And it worked. 

Chase Winovich is becoming a key productive player in the defense. He’s making plays all over the field and had a sack, two QB hits, a pair of tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Former Raider Shalique Calhoun also had a strong day forcing two fumbles with a half-sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of QB hits.

The defense was getting gashed by Josh Jacobs early in this one but the Raiders didn’t show the patience in sticking with the run, something Josh McDaniels did. The defense was also confused as to personnel several times during the game. They were uncharacteristically forced to burn four timeouts including all three in the second half. 

Stephon Gilmore got flagged with a 27-yard pass interference penalty, Jonathan Jones was beaten for a long (albeit perfectly thrown) pass play seconds before the half to Hunter Renfrow. Carr threw for 261 yards but did pad his stats somewhat in garbage time. The Raiders ran for 126 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per rush. But yet the defense forced three turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown for the second week in a row. A mixed day but one that will give Bill Belichick plenty of fodder for the film room this week. 

Winning in a near blowout despite their mistakes is a positive sign moving forward especially against an undefeated team on the rise. 

Looking ahead, they won’t have the luxury of being able to make that many mistakes against the Super Bowl champion Chiefs next week. But if we’ve learned anything from Belichick through the years, its that he’ll have a good gameplan to combat the high flying offense there. 


Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Darren Waller Derek Carr Hunter Renfrow James White JJ Taylor Josh Jacobs Julian Edelman N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Oakland Raiders Patriots Rex Burkhead Sony Michel Stephon Gilmore

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