OAKLAND, Calif. - Tom Brady grew up in San Mateo, Calif., as a fan of the 49ers and Joe Montana.
So perhaps it was only fitting that yesterday, returning to the Bay Area as a player for the first time since 2002 (he was injured for the Patriots’ trips to Oakland and San Francisco in 2008), Brady eclipsed his childhood idol just a few miles from where Montana had some of his greatest moments.
With Brady’s first-quarter 15-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, he tied Montana with 273 career touchdown passes; in the fourth quarter, on a 4-yard bullet to Deion Branch, he eclipsed Montana and moved into ninth place all-time, one behind Vinny Testaverde.
Predictably, Brady wasn’t prepared to compare himself with Montana, a four-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer.
“I’ll never be in Joe’s category,’’ Brady said. “We throw the ball a lot more now than they threw it back then. It’s much more of a passing league now than it’s ever been.’’
Montana played in 192 games to get his 273 touchdowns; yesterday was the 149th regular-season game of Brady’s career.
Brady wasn’t as statistically stellar yesterday as he had been this season - through the first three games he set an NFL record with 1,327 passing yards, while completing 70 percent of his passes.
But against Oakland, which brought a great deal of pressure, he completed 16 of 30 for 226 yards. He was sacked once but hit at least four other times. His 1,553 yards through four games is second all-time, 4 yards behind Kurt Warner in 2000.
“That was a very good front,’’ right guard Brian Waters said. “I don’t want to rank them, but they’re near the top. Guys [on the Patriots’ offensive line] were fighting their butts off. But that front will help [the Raiders] win football games.’’
Trip to remember
Making his first trip to the Black Hole, cornerback Kyle Arrington was asked if it was what he expected it would be like.
“Oh yeah. Maybe not everything. Some of the things they were saying were pretty harsh - they could have left my mama out of it,’’ he said. “They’re definitely a rowdy bunch. They’re into the game.’’
There was also something rare that happened in the game that involved Arrington: the officials picked up a flag.
On a second-down pass play to Jacoby Ford with Arrington in coverage Ford fell down, with a late flag being thrown for defensive pass interference that would have given the Raiders a fresh set of downs inside the 10. Instead, the flag was picked up and Oakland ended up settling for a field goal.
“I explained to them; I told them we tripped over each other,’’ Arrington said. “I tried to explain my point. They made the right call and overturned it.’’
Picking his spots
There are two Patriots with more than one interception this season and one of them is a defensive lineman.
Vince Wilfork picked off his second pass of the season and his career in the fourth quarter yesterday, snatching a Jason Campbell pass intended for Darren McFadden.
Wilfork returned it 19 yards before he was tackled at the Patriots 49. Arrington leads the Patriots with three interceptions.
Wilfork said he didn’t know what happened on the play, but he said overall the defense was challenged by Bill Belichick to make plays.
“Bill challenged us. We challenged each other,’’ Wilfork said. “This was one of the best weeks of practice we had. Not a lot of mental errors in practice. We had a good week of preparation.’’
Guyton steps in
When linebacker Jerod Mayo went out in the second quarter with a knee injury, it was up to Gary Guyton to step in and handle relaying the calls to the defense.
Guyton was familiar with the process, having handled similar duties in 2009 when Mayo was out with a knee injury for a few weeks.
Guyton said he didn’t see how Mayo got injured, but when he had to come in “I just went out there and did my job.’’
Chung pitches in
Safety Patrick Chung said last week he could play with his thumb in a cast, and he was right.
Chung started yesterday a week after missing the Buffalo game with a thumb injury. Chung provided the Patriots with some experience at safety and while the Raiders were driving, secured an easy interception in the end zone in the second quarter. It was his first of the season.
Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell panicked as he scanned the end zone from the 9-yard line. He lofted a pass directly at Chung, who was able to secure the interception with 2:24 to go in the first half.
The Patriots, did, however, allowed Campbell to complete 25 of 39 passes for 344 yards. The Raiders became the fourth consecutive team to pass for more than 300 yards.
“It was missed tackles and big plays and we have to limit those,’’ Chung said. “It happens every once in a while, so we have to limit their big plays and play better defense.’’
Holding the line
The Raiders came into the game leading the NFL in rushing (178.8 yards per game) but star running back Darren McFadden was held to 75 yards on 14 carries. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 160 yards on 27 carries.
“I think we handled the run game,’’ Wilfork said. “Take away the two big running plays [a 40-yarder by McFadden and a 30-yard reverse by Ford], we handled it. A lot of people challenged us, that we couldn’t stop the run game at all.’’
The Patriots inactives for yesterday were cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hip), cornerback Leigh Bodden (groin), offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (back), tight end Aaron Hernandez (knee), defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth (back), and defensive lineman Mike Wright (concussion). Rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett was the seventh inactive player and was a healthy scratch.
One was plenty for Branch
Deion Branch caught just one pass but it was a timely touchdown in the fourth quarter that pushed the Patriots lead to 31-13. Branch, who didn’t have a catch against the Bills , was targeted four times yesterday . . . Chad Ochocinco had two catches for 26 yards . . . Reserve cornerback Antwaun Molden saw a number of snaps with injuries to Bodden and Dowling thinning the secondary. “I felt good . . . I’m starting to get acclimated to the system,’’ he said. He finished with two tackles . . . The Patriots have scored 30 or more points for the 12th consecutive game, the second longest streak in NFL history. The St. Louis Rams did it 14 straight games in 1999-2000.