FOXBOROUGH — The end of Sunday’s game was just so Raiders, so emblematic of the bumbling, inept team that they have become over the last decade-plus, you could sense it coming.
After getting what looked like their first touchdown of the day, one that would have tied the score or perhaps given them the win had they converted a 2-point play, the Raiders had it wiped off the board by a holding call.
Moved back 10 yards from the spot of the foul, Oakland starting quarterback Derek Carr tried to force the ball to Denarius Moore in the middle of the field, short of the goal line.
But the ball bounced off Moore a couple of Patriots before it wound up in the giant hands of Vince Wilfork for the game-sealing interception.
“I saw the quarterback release the ball and I just turned,” Wilfork said. “I had some defenders there with me and the ball wobbled and luckily I just came up with the play. That was a great defensive play; I just happened to catch it.”
Tom Brady and the offense came on in victory formation and ran the remaining seconds off the clock, and the Patriots walked off the Gillette Stadium field with a 16-9 victory in their home opener.
“When I heard the play call, I knew it was a touchdown. I wasn’t going to be denied and told myself to get into the end zone, whatever it takes,” Darren McFadden said, adding that the talk in the Raiders’ locker room was that the holding call on left guard Gabe Jackson wasn’t really a hold.
But the flag was thrown, essentially eliminating the gains Oakland had made thanks to a questionable defensive pass interference call on Logan Ryan a play earlier.
“Any loss is hard to swallow, but this one right here is very hard to swallow,” McFadden said. “You go out there and you think you’ve tied the game, and it’s a hard feeling to swallow.”
Despite the victory, it was clear the Patriots’ offensive players in particular were not happy with how they played.
Though Brady completed 24 of 37 passes for 234 yards and the unit didn’t turn the ball over, there was hope the offense would right the ship against the lowly Raiders, who’d given up 400 rushing yards in just two games and allowed quarterbacks Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, neither one of the league’s elite, to complete nearly 79 percent of their combined pass attempts.
But any hope the Patriots would be able to do that was lost just before halftime.
With a third and goal from the Oakland 2 with eight seconds left in the second quarter, Dan Connolly’s snap to Brady was bad, a low ball that Brady had trouble getting up off the turf. It was all the quarterback could do to throw the ball away.
The Patriots had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. That’s pretty much how the afternoon went for the Patriots, who had three of their four drives stall inside the red zone.
Pressed about his group’s troubles inside the 20, Brady preached patience, then changed course a bit.
“It’s only three games in, so we have a long season ahead of us. There’s a lot of football to play,” Brady said. “We haven’t done a lot of good things offensively, period.
“You want to settle on the red area . . . I’d settle on everything – certainly the pass game, run game, penalties. But you know what? We’re 2-1. I think we can make the improvements and understand that we’re trying to build something. But we have to improve everything.”
Once again the offensive line was shaky, and not just on the interior, where changes have been made — left tackle Nate Solder is seemingly regressing in front of our eyes, and had trouble with rookie Khalil Mack and veteran Justin Tuck. Jordan Devey, who started at right guard, was pulled in the second half, with Connolly moving from center to right guard. Rookie Bryan Stork was inserted at center.
“It’s a matter of improving, because it’s not one guy, it’s not one play,” said Solder, who called Mack, the No. 5 pick in the 2014 draft, “an incredible talent.” “It’s a number of plays that we’re breaking down and a number of different schemes and a number of different guys, and so it comes back down to our technique and things we know we need to improve on.”
Raiders rookie Carr completed 21 of 34 passes for 174 yards, and was unafraid to throw at Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis; Carr completed 5 of 6 passes throwing Revis’s way.
“I don’t know what their game plan is; I’ve got to go out there and execute. It’s competition,” Revis said. “It was an ugly win for us, but sometimes it comes down to that and we showed great character down the stretch.”
The Patriots have an extra day to prepare for their next game, a Monday night contest in Kansas City.
As player after player noted, they have work to do.
“We did enough this game, but that’s not always going to get the job done,” said Rob Gronkowski, who was on the receiving end of the game’s only touchdown, a 6-yard catch in the second quarter. “We’ve just got to keep working together as a unit and keep working hard.”