FOXBOROUGH — Instant analysis from the Patriots' 36-20 win over the Raiders:
▪ The Patriots were a little sluggish and a little sloppy Sunday, and Cam Newton did not have one of his finer performances. Yet it has to be considered a positive that Newton didn’t play like Superman, and Julian Edelman was reduced to a bit player, and the Patriots still dominated a good Raiders team that entered the game 2-0.
Newton was the Patriots’ leading rusher in each of their first two games, and lit up the Seahawks for 397 passing yards in Week 2. Yet Newton was more of a complementary piece against the Raiders. The Patriots ran for 250 yards, yet Newton was only fourth in rushing yardage, with nine carries for 27 yards (and 21 came on one carry). Newton also had a pedestrian day passing the ball, completing 17 of 28 for 162 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, with a couple of wild throws and near interceptions mixed in. And Edelman only had two catches for 23 yards on six targets all day, as the Raiders made it a point to take him out of the offense.
But the Patriots got great blocking up front, and great contributions up and down the roster. They proved they are much more than a one-man show.
▪ Just a massively impressive day by all three Patriots’ running backs, who were basically the whole offense Sunday. Of Newton’s 17 completions, 10 went to running backs (including fullback Jakob Johnson).
Sony Michel, battling critics and a sluggish start to the season, had maybe his best game as a Patriot, finishing with nine carries for 117 yards, plus two catches for 23 yards. Michel ripped off a career-long 38-yard run in the third quarter, then a new career-long 48-yard run on his next carry. Michel got great blocking up front, but he also broke through one tackle and broke safety Jonathan Abrams’s ankles with a jump cut. It was Michel’s seventh-career 100-yard game, his first since the 2019 AFC Championship Game, and was the performance that Patriots fans have been waiting to see from him.
But his running mates were fantastic as well. Rex Burkhead rushed six times for 49 yards and two touchdowns, and was the leading receiver with seven catches for 49 yards and a third touchdown. Burkhead showed impressive shiftiness and vision on all three of his touchdowns. And rookie J.J. Taylor rushed 11 times for 43 yards, showing nice burst and vision. He looked great on the toss sweep.
▪ Other than letting the Raiders march 75 yards for a touchdown in less than 30 seconds at the end of the second quarter, the Patriots’ defense was dominant. The Patriots created three turnovers, including one inside the red zone and one in the Raiders’ end zone that resulted in a touchdown for Deatrich Wise. Chase Winovich has developed into perhaps the Patriots’ best front-seven player, and he had a impressive strip-sack that stalled a Raider drive. The Patriots also held the Raiders to 3 of 9 on third down.
The Raiders certainly tripped over their feet a few times, particularly when Daniel Carlson missed a 41-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter that would have made the score 13-13. But the Patriots were opportunistic and had a solid game plan. They allowed Josh Jacobs to scamper for a few yards (71 on 16 carries), but they completely shut down the Raiders’ top player, holding tight end Darren Waller to two catches for 9 yards (both in garbage time). Bill Belichick will not let your top player beat him.
▪ Josh McDaniels found his groove after a slow start. The Patriots went punt-punt-interception on their first three drives and could barely move the chains. But they scored points on their next six drives, with three touchdowns and three field goals. This despite the passing game not working well and Edelman not much of a factor.
The Raiders’ defense had a nice start in the first half and wasn’t much fooled by the Patriots’ misdirection run game.
But the Raiders entered the game ranked 25th in the NFL in allowing 4.9 yards per carry, and could only keep it up for so long. McDaniels stuck with the run, and the Patriots couldn’t be stopped for the final 2½ quarters.
▪ This was a sloppy game by both teams and certainly not one of the Patriots’ sharpest. It took them into the second quarter to get the offense going. Burkhead tripped over his own feet on a screen pass that was nicely set up. The Patriots burned three timeouts on defense in the second half because of alignment issues, and of course, they let the Raiders march down the field for an easy score to end the first half.
Of course, the Raiders obliged right back. Maxx Crosby committed offsides on a punt to give the Patriots a new set of downs. The Raiders also went just 2 of 5 in the red zone with a turnover, and another turnover at midfield. They faced a tough situation as a West Coast team playing a 1 p.m. East Ccoast game on a short week, and were fittingly sloppy and unable to finish drives. The Raiders were the better team for the first two-plus quarters, but left too many points on the field.
▪ This was an uncharacteristically rough game for Stephon Gilmore. On the Raiders’ two-minute drill touchdown drive, he committed a bad defensive pass interference penalty, already his third of the year (he had one all of last season). Gilmore also whiffed badly on an open-field tackle that he usually makes, allowing Bryan Edwards to pick up 10 more yards on a 34-yard gain.
More Patriots coverage
- What’s it like watching a Patriots game in an empty Gillette stadium? It’s beyond bizarre
- What did N’Keal Harry say to Cam Newton to cause a meme-worthy reaction? Cam’s not telling
- Patriots up front about reasons for success against Raiders - the offensive line came to play
- Against the Raiders, a motivated Sony Michel had the breakout game the Patriots have been waiting for
- The Raiders' Darren Waller was second in the NFL in catches. On Sunday, the Patriots rendered him useless
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.