Pats Notebook: Less is more in Patriots' win over Raiders
The Patriots did the unexpected on Sunday: they did not get into a shootout. The Patriots potent offense came out and gave the Raiders defense a nice dose of balanced offense, a refreshing change from the last three weeks.
The passing game was workmen-like. Brady didn't put up gaudy numbers (16 of 30, 226 yards, two TDs) but it was enough to win. Wes Welker continues to be a beast (nine catches, 158 yards) and is on pace for a 160 catch season.
Welker already has 616 yards and five TDs, only needing 232 yards and two more TDs to tie his season total from last year. The Patriots better lock up Welker with a long-term contract (he's in the last year of his contract) during the bye week in two weeks.
The running game was beastly for the Patriots, putting up 183 yards on 30 attempts for a 6.1 average overall. Leading the charge was Stevan Ridley, the 3rd round pick from LSU, with an impressive 97 yards on 10 carries for one TD. Danny Woodhead had two carries for 13 yards, but sustained an ankle injury late in the second quarter during the two-minute drill.
Depending on the severity of the injury, Ridley will see his playing time continue to increase, and perhaps we will finally see some carries out of second round pick Shane Vereen. If the injury is season ending or leaves Woodhead out several weeks, look for Kevin Faulk to return to the team following his time on the PUP (making him eligible to return after week 6)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished off the attack for 16 carries for 75 yards, keeping pace with Darren McFadden (75 yards on 14 carries). McFadden was largely considered the x-factor of the game, and while he did some damage (41 yards rushing and four catches for 48 yards), the defense did a good job of limiting him.
Richard Seymour, playing New England for the first time since his shocking departure in 2009, helped his former team much more than the Raiders, committing two bone-headed penalties (roughing the passer on Tom Brady and a face-mask on Green-Ellis). In fact, the Raiders had so many flags (nine penalties for 85 yards) it was mind-boggling to think this was a 2-1 team before Sunday.
Seymour's former teammate and line buddy Vince Wilfork, had another spectacular interception. He now leads the Patriots in interception return yards and continues to be a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing defense.
Patrick Chung, returning after sitting last week with a thumb injury (he had reconstructive thumb surgery), had Jason Campbell throw him the ball, resulting in an INT in the red zone. Instead of going up 17-14, the Raiders saw the Patriots drive down the field and score a field goal. Then, with the Pats kicking off to begin the game, the Raiders had to watch Brady and company get the ball to begin the second half and drive down again, this time scoring a TD. By the time the Raiders received the ball again, the score was 24-10. Without a doubt, it was the turning point of the game.
The defense, overall, had another day to forget. A lot of big plays were given up to both Jason Campbell and McFadden. Holding them to 19 points was nice, but giving up 504 yards of total offense is putting this defense on pace to be one of the worst the league has ever seen.
Not helping the cause was Jerod Mayo's knee injury during the second quarter. Mayo crumpled to the field and had to be helped off the field. The middle linebacker is expected to miss up to six weeks with a sprained MCL.
Obviously, that's a huge blow for a team that has a shaky defense at best. Losing arguably its best defensive player may mean more shootouts could be seen in the coming weeks. Mayo has been a captain for three years and has turned into one of the best inside linebackers in the game. Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher are the two guys most likely to take his place.
In the end, the Patriots won, 31-19, picking up a solid win and improving to 3-1. The Patriots now are tied atop the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills. The Pats were the only team from the AFC East to win this weekend. They head back home next week to take on the New York Jets for the first time this season in what should be a thrilling game.
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