FOXBOROUGH — Just pound it, baby.
The Patriots rushed for 250 yards behind a rejiggered offensive line en route to a 36-20 manhandling of the Las Vegas Raiders, 36-20, on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Sony Michel led the parade with his most productive day in two years, rushing for 117 yards on just nine carries. Michel showed vision, patience, and the ability to make the first man miss, as he broke off runs of 38 and 48 yards.
Rex Burkhead (six rushes, 49 yards) and J.J. Taylor (11 totes, 43 yards) also provided some punch but it was the big uglies up front who made it all happen.
With David Andrews reduced to spectator status because a broken thumb, Joe Thuney slid to center while rookie Mike Onwenu hopped into Thuney’s left guard spot.
With Thuney calling the shots, the quartet played like it had been together for years, consistently providing space by blowing the Las Vegas defenders off the line.
Burkhead called Thuney "one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around'' and that was evident from start, but particularly in the second half when offense scored on all of its possessions except the final kneel-down drive.
"We had no issues,'' Cam Newton said of working with Thuney. "Smokin' Joe is a person who is very reliable on this offensive line. The moment wasn’t too big for him to step in and fill the shoes of Dirty Dave.''
The backs said they were playing for fellow back James White, who lost his father and had his mother seriously hurt in an automobile accident last week.
"We came together and just played hard,'' said Michel. "That’s what James White does.''
Burkhead, who ate up a lot of White’s snaps and posted his first three-touchdown game and 98 yards from scrimmage, choked back tears in his eyes as he spoke about White after the game.
"We think about him every day,'' he said. "He’s a brother to me.''
Similarly, Newton reached out to his fellow captain.
"We just want to reward him and put him in good spirits,'' said Newton, who ran nine times for 27 yards. "We’ve been praying for him, and we need Sweet Feet back.''
At least for one day, the rest of the feet carried the load.
"When you rush for 250 yards, it’s not all one guy,'' said Bill Belichick. "You have a lot of people doing things well, and they did.''
Here are some other observations as the Patriots improved to 2-1 while handing the Raiders (2-1) their first loss of the season.
Chip of the old blocks. The receivers did excellent work on down-field blocks, sealing off corners and safeties and allowing for extra running room for the ball carriers.
"N’Keal [Harry] Julian [Edelman], [Damiere] Byrd, just finishing blocks, just really finishing blocks, helped open things up for us at the second level,'' said Burkhead.
Short memory. Newton threw an interception late in the first quarter that led to the Raiders taking a 3-0 lead.
"That inexcusable interception was completely my fault,'' said Newton. "Trying to extend the play.''
He bounced back quickly, however, leading the offense to scores on the next three drives to take a 13-3 lead.
In fact, after that turnover, the offense gave Jake Bailey the rest of the day off from his punting duties.
Counterpunch. The Patriots gave up a four-play, 75-yard touchdown in just 28 seconds at the end of the first half, allowing the Raiders to pull within, 13-10, at the break.
It could have been a momentum changer, but the defense didn’t mope, keeping Las Vegas out of the end zone on the initial drive of the second half — a march capped by Daniel Carlson’s missed 41-yard field goal.
New England turned around and scored seven plays later. Instead of a 13-13 game, the hosts moved ahead, 20-10, and the Raiders never threatened again.
"Yeah, that was big,'' said Belichick. "To give up a touchdown with 30 seconds to go is not good coaching on my part, start with that, and we just didn’t play the situation very well. But the players really responded … Went out and played their best 30 minutes of football in the second half, which is what we needed from all three units.''
Mistake-free. Outside of the Newton interception and two penalties, the Patriots played pretty close to mistake-free football, especially over the final 30 minutes.
The Raiders, meanwhile, committed six penalties and lost three fumbles.
"There are some issues that add up to a loss,'' said coach Jon Gruden. "I do like the effort and I’m looking forward to getting out of here and going back to Vegas.''
Hat trick. Deatrich Wise had a career day all in one play. The defensive end had a strip sack (he shared it with Shilique Calhoun), a fumble recovery, and a touchdown that effectively dimmed any chance of a Vegas comeback.
Originally ruled a safety, Wise got his 6 points on review.
New England landed five hits on Derek Carr, none more damaging than Wise’s crunch.
Third degree. Other than the hurry-up drives at the end of the half and game, the defense stood tall, particularly on third down, where the Raiders made good on just 3 of 9.
"We gave up, obviously, the two two-minute drives, but otherwise, defensively, there wasn’t a lot of points scored,'' said Belichick.
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
- The Raiders' Darren Waller was second in the NFL in catches. On Sunday, the Patriots rendered him useless
- In the Cam vs. Tom debate, let’s just say I’m happy to be watching Newton this season