LAS VEGAS – Once again, the Patriots did not have enough material to win a game, and this game was very winnable.
The inept Patriots of the last two weeks morphed back into the Week 1-2 Patriots, who can take an opponent to the brink before finally capitulating. This game didn’t have the horrific finish of last year’s game here at Allegiant Stadium, but the ending was still ghoulish for the Patriots with Halloween still two weeks away. Mac Jones was sacked in the end zone for a safety with just under two minutes left in the game, giving the Raiders a 21-17 win over the Patriots on Sunday afternoon on the Vegas strip.
Jones had a mostly good game, with a few blemishes. His second quarter interception to Tre’von Moehrig was a hideous throw, rolling to his right and overthrowing Hunter Henry who was wide open. The touchdown drive in the fourth quarter was nice, but was far too deliberate and burned way too much clock. Getting sacked for a safety when you need to drive for a game-winning field goal should never happen.
In the overall scheme, the biggest problem the Patriots face week after week is the inefficiency and lack of talent on the offensive line. Jones was constantly under pressure all game long, and the Patriots didn’t really figure out a way to work around that until the second half when, once again, they were having to come from behind. Jones has absolutely no time to even try and run the offense. The Patriots did finally score and did manage 17 points, but this Raider team is not an elite team by any stretch of the imagination.
Another factor that should have gone the Patriots’ way is their familiarity with the opponent. Josh McDaniels is the head coach. Jimmy Garoppolo was the starting quarterback. Brian Hoyer was the backup quarterback. Jakobi Meyers is their number two wideout after Davante Adams. But the Patriots were not able to take advantage of this knowledge of the other team, partially because McDaniels has a lot of knowledge of the Patriots in his own right. McDaniels is now 3-0 versus his old team in his head coaching career (he had one win when he was Denver’s head coach).
Garoppolo is a quarterback that Bill Belichick knows well. But the Patriots never exposed anything other than that he is an injury risk. He finished 14 of 22 passing for 162 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 82 passer rating. The one interception was thanks to a jarring hit by Jabrill Peppers on Adams in the first quarter which Jahlani Tavai caught in the air off the deflection.
Garoppolo sustained a serious back injury in the first half, and was taken to a nearby hospital during halftime. Hoyer led the Raiders during the second half and finished 6 of 10 passing for 102 yards and a 94.6 passer rating. Hoyer has had three stints as a backup quarterback for the Patriots, yet the Patriots did nothing to take advantage of the fact that Hoyer is a nice system quarterback but one of limited ability.
The Patriots, however, did finally break through and score on three drives. A 36-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne set up a 43-yard field goal by Chad Ryland, the first Patriot score since early in the Dallas game. On the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots drove all the way to the Las Vegas 2-yard line. Jones came out of the game and Malik Cunningham, just signed off the practice squad and the rock star of the first preseason game, lined up at quarterback. Then Cunningham split out to the left side, and Ezekiel Elliott took the direct snap in a Wildcat formation. He then blasted up the middle for the touchdown, the first Patriot touchdown since the Jets game. On the penultimate drive of the game, the Patriots scored on a 2-yard run by Rhamondre Stevenson on a drive that took 17 plays and ate up 9:30. The Patriots did have enough time in the end for a game-winning field goal, but this drive was far too methodical where more urgency was needed.
On the final possession, the Patriots got the ball at the 9-yard line with 2:23 left. The Patriots had no timeouts but still had the two-minute warning and needed only a field goal. Jones was in a position to finally pull out a come from behind win. But what happened encapsulated how this season has gone for the Patriots.
The first play was the only positive play for the Patriots as Stevenson ran for six yards. On second down, a first down run by Stevenson was negated by a holding call on Atonio Mafi (which Tony Romo on the CBS telecast derided the call as questionable). On second down and 11 at the 8-yard line, Jones dropped back and lofted a deep pass down the left sideline. DeVante Parker was there and the perfect throw dropped right into his hands, but Parker proceeded to drop the pass. It would have left the Patriots within about 10 yards of reasonable field goal range for Ryland.
Now it’s third down. Jones was about to be sacked in the end zone except the Patriots were called for delay of game. So now it is third down and 15 from the 4-yard line. Jones dropped back into the end zone, went through his progressions, then saw Maxx Crosby closing in on him. Jones moved to his left but was quickly swallowed up by Bilal Nichols for a game-clinching safety for the Raiders. The Patriots went basically backwards when they needed about 55-60 yards for a decent field goal shot.
Jones finished 24 of 33 passing for 203 yards, one interception, a 75.3 passer rating, and was sacked three times. The Patriot running game averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and Bourne had a terrific game with 10 catches for 89 yards. Defensively, JaWhaun Bentley had a terrific game with two quarterback hits. Peppers had the stunning hit on Adams and led the team with seven tackles. Christian Barmore and Anfernee Jennings each had one tackle for loss.
The Bills come to Foxborough next week. The Patriots were shut out by New Orleans at their last home game. So what will happen now with a Super Bowl favorite coming to town? Good game planning may not be enough here. The lack of material will once again prove fatal for the Patriots, unless there is some old time Patriot magic out there that nobody will expect.
The Raiders are the ones who coined the term “Just win, baby!” For the Patriots, you can say that all you want, but for now, it’s mostly wasting your breath.
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary