Patriots get back on track
Well that was better, wasn’t it? It’s nice to watch a game where the result is in hand mid-way through the fourth instead of having to deal with stubs for fingers after every Sunday. The Patriots’ 31-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders this week is fitting. The game was close, but never that close.
Some believe that the Pats can’t win when Tom Brady isn’t Superman. Ahem, 16 for 30 for 226 yards and two touchdowns is not Superman. It is simply mistake-free football.
Who would have thought the Patriots could win a football game with running and (if you’re not seated, find a chair) defense?
Now I’m not going to spout off about how great the defense was, because it wasn’t. 504 yards can rarely even be considered good, but 19 points is a heck of a lot better than the 34 that the defense allowed last week.
I’m also not going to try to argue that the stats are misleading because of garbage time. Yes, the Raiders gained yards and six points in wasted time, but holding a lead proved to be an issue last week, so I’m not really thinking of anything as garbage time.
What I will say for the defense is this: they made two keys picks by Chung (boy is it nice to have him back) and Vince Wilfork (who might just be the best cover DT in the league) and two big stops in the red zone, holding Oakland to field goals. The pass rush also looked much better today, the only problem being their absurd inability to tackle the quarterback.
On another note, Wilfork is dangerous with the ball in his hands; he stiff-armed, made a cut and went low into contact. After BenJarvus Green-Ellis failed to get into the endzone in the fourth on first, second and third downs, the Pats should have lined up Big Vince at tailback and handed him the ball. Raise your hand if you’d want to tackle that man running at you with a full head of steam? That’s what I thought.
Injuries reared their ugly heads again this week. First, Jerod Mayo was helped off the field with what looked like a season-threatening knee injury, followed by Danny Woodhead hopping off on one foot. With the emergence of rookie Stevan Ridley, Woodhead is perhaps replaceable, but Mayo is the third-most irreplaceable Patriot behind Brady and Wilfork. His injury could be a long-term killer for a defense that is just maybe making strides.
On the offensive side, it was refreshing to see the Pats run the ball almost as much as they pass it now. Green-Ellis does nothing but run downhill and refuse to go down—if Laurence Maroney had run with half the conviction of BJGE, he’d have been a Pro Bowler. Seriously, Laurence, watch BJGE. That is how you hit a hole.
Also, Ridley is the real deal—10 carries for 97 yards and a TD. On the touchdown, he hit the hole on the right side hard, made the unblocked guy miss before stiff-arming him into oblivion and then just ran past the Raiders’ defense like they were walking through quicksand. This kid is physical and explosive—a lethal combo.
On the passing front, there wasn’t much news aside from the fact that there isn’t much news. Brady threw for 226 and two TDs, one to Wes “MVP” Welker (who caught nine balls for, yawn, 158 yards) and one to Deion “hey man, I’m still here” Branch. Gronk was held to one catch and blanketed the whole game, earning a new level of respect.
The Pats’ second-leading receiver today? Chad Ochocinco. Ocho caught two balls for 26 yards and looked good in the very limited action he saw; it seems like he’s finally coming along.
The Patriots are at home this coming week against their arch rivals, the New York Jets, who eliminated New England from the playoffs last year in humiliating fashion. The Patriots will try to gain a bit of revenge against their nemeses and drop the Mark Sanchez-led Jets (who have lost their last two games), below .500.