Patriots vs Raiders: Keys to Victory

NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed

With a day to digest the Patriots latest triumph, I’ve grown to be far more optimistic than I was immediately following it. Of course, watching the Jets last night might have helped up that optimism leading into next week but still, what we saw yesterday was a classic, almost vintage, Brady-Belichick Patriots victory.

The Patriots stopped what they needed to, did a decent job of clock control, and played a bend but don’t break defense.

Leading into the game I thought it was important to: stop (or at least limit) McFadden, get physical with the Oakland receivers, show some semblance of a four man rush, burn the Oakland DBs early, get up early and pound the rock and play smart and stay healthy. The Patriots did well on about 4.5 of those things.

Now here are my six keys to victory:

Following last week’s mistake-a-rama, the Patriots took a huge step forward this week in playing smart football. They won the turnover battle 2-0 and allowed the Raiders to out-penalize them. The Raiders committed nine penalties for 85 yards to the Patriots five penalties for 45 yards.

The Patriots had three offensive penalties and two defensive penalties. Both drives that the Patriots committed defensive penalties resulted in interceptions and two of the three drives that the Patriots committed offensive penalties resulted in touchdowns.

McFadden totaled 123 yards, but with his skill set, it could have been a lot worse. More than half of those yards came off two big plays for McFadden: one run early in the second quarter and one pass early in the 4th quarter. The lack of a pass rush the Patriots attempted allowed their linebackers to key in on McFadden and not allow many big yards. The Patriots still have trouble allowing backs to run wild along the edges, and that seems to be a combination of linebackers not filling holes and the Patriots defensive ends not having the athleticism to compensate.

Unfortunately the Patriots still aren’t getting much of a rush from their four man line. Shaun Ellis, Mark Anderson and Gerard Warren all recorded QB hits, but the Patriots registered zero sacks. I’d like to see Mark Anderson’s role increase as he seems like the only Patriots player with any ability to get after the QB. After seeing a couple of blown plays by Shaun Ellis, it was nice to see Jermaine Cunningham get a shot, even though I didn’t see much from him either.

I guess now is as good of a time as any to talk about Jerod Mayo’s injury. It’s going to further hurt the team, obviously. That’s not to say that it’s going to lead the Patriots on an 0-3 or 0-4 stretch. Brandon Spikes can take over as more of a full time player and hopefully Dane Fletcher can emerge rather than Gary Guyton. It’s safe to say that Guyton struggles in all aspects of the game and his only advantage might be his knowledge of the defense.

Sure, on paper it looks bad, another 300 yard performance against the Patriots secondary. Now let’s dissect that and see that 99 of Jason Campbell’s 344 yards came on the Raiders final drive and another 55 came off swing passes or dump offs to running backs covered by linebackers. According to my brief (and inexperienced) charting, Devin McCourty was thrown at seven times for four completions and 20 yards, Molden 4/7 for 64 yards, Arrington 1/3 for 58 yards and Brown 2/2 for 86 yards.

The zone pass defense the Patriots employed was a major improvement over the man we had seen thus far. McCourty had struggled in one on one coverage, but did a great job limiting the Raiders speedy receivers. McCourty wasn’t thrown to a single time in the first half. Having two safeties over the top also helped keep the Raiders WRs in check. Darrius Heyward-Bey accounted for the only big plays to an Oakland WR for 28 yards at the end of the 2nd quarter and 58 yards on the final drive. Sergio Brown was in to help on both plays and didn’t do Antwaun Molden and Kyle Arrington any favors.

It’s obvious keying in on Kevin Boss wasn’t a priority for the Patriots. He had a few big plays on Ninkovich, Fletcher, Chung and Guyton.


Despite a strong defensive line for Oakland (even with Matt Shaughnessy out), the Patriots did another nice job of keeping Brady upright. Oakland registered four QB hits and one sack from safety Mike Mitchell on a failed Brady scramble. The slightly fluky sack was the first the Pats offensive line allowed since the second quarter of the Chargers game. The Patriots have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL right now and will only get stronger once Sebastian Vollmer returns.

Watch a Jets or Steelers game for about five minutes and you’ll see why it’s so important to keep Brady protected and therefore error free. If the Pats can’t get sacks, it’ll certainly help to not allow them either.

The Pats are also doing a nice job run blocking. The team is 5th in the NFL with 4.8 yards per carry. Obviously the Patriots have some talented running backs, but the o-line is doing a great job opening holes and getting a push at the line.

Let’s give credit to the running backs and play calling as well. During the second half the Pats had a four minute drive and five minute drive and two two minute drives. Those probably would have been shorter if the running game wasn’t so effective. Most of us questioned taking two running backs in the first three rounds of the 2011 draft and let’s not pretend that Stevan Ridley wasn’t the back that concerned us. That’s looking to be a great pick for the Patriots and Vereen might be as well if Danny Woodhead is out for a considerable time frame.

Green-Ellis and Vereen are both pretty powerful backs, but Ridley has shown more of a burst and some better moves behind the line of scrimmage. This will rarely be an offense where we’ll see 30 carries from our running backs, but it’s nice to see that when we need them, they’ll come through.

Thank god Aaron Hernandez is coming back soon, because this has been the Wes Welker Show the last two weeks. Oakland did a great job keying in on Rob Gronkowski and effectively shutting him down only allowing 1 reception for 15 yards. Deion Branch has had trouble getting open recently only catching one pass for four yards in the past two games.

Wes Welker had no trouble getting open. His speed and quickness is back and it’s a chore for any CB to cover him at this point. A combination of game plan and losing Hernandez and Woodhead to injuries meant only five no huddle snaps for the Patriots. Hopefully the Woodhead injury isn’t serious, because I was really looking forward to seeing that aspect of the offense come back with Hernandez. I suspect that if Hernandez is back next week and Woodhead is not, Edelman might be used as the 5th target in the no huddle.

The offensive snap count was very interesting this week (thanks Mike Reiss!) tackle Thomas Welch was used in 24 of 66 snaps as a 3rd TE/T. Matthew Slater lead all 3rd WRs with 21 snaps over Ochocinco (18) and Julian Edelman (17).

Dane Fletcher continues to be used as a FB with 4 snaps. I think we all wanted to see Taylor Price in his first active game of the season, but obviously Belichick doesn’t think he’s ready either from a health, skills or familiarity stand point.

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26 Responses to “Patriots vs Raiders: Keys to Victory”

  1. TD says:

    With this defense having a hard time getting off the field on any down, #12 needs to direct the offense to score early and often with little margin for turnovers.

    I would suspect that if we are ahead late in the game and we need to kill clock, we will see the Law Firm instead of Ridley because of zero fumbles by BJGE. Don’t believe Ridley has BB’s confidence in that area yet.

    • Lundahl says:

      Are you saying the Seehawks’ defense is better than ours ? Because I hear allot of people saying (excluding the ridiculous medias) our defense is the worst in the league. And when I tell them that we have Mayo, Wilfork, McCourty, Warren, Carter, Chung ect on our D, they usually go: oh yeah, but huh huh huh

      I just want to say to you, without judging you personally, that the currency of a football defense is ‘turnovers”. You don’t look at give up yardage, you look at turnovers. What’s better than a turnover for a defense ? All of a sudden, the medias decided that the Patriots’ defense turnover ratio record doesn’t mean anything, as turnovers don’t mean anything to. You know how many teams would love to have so many turnovers ?

      • DWE says:

        We have a decent turnover rate yes, and alot of teams are certainly now giving up alot of yardage since it’s gone to such a passing leage(look at all the QB’s all throwing over 300+yard), but repsectfully I’d like to see a little more “cohesivness and stability ” within our defense instead of alot of fill-in roster type guys.
        Ty Warren cut/out. G.Warren cut but now back, Cunninham…Now with what I’d call temp. veterans brought in real late-he’s sort of off the list. Haynsworth spotty/questionable still. V-Wilfork althought “GREAT”, he’s been around a while and we could certainly use his young replacement now to begin and groom.
        There was/has been alot of “HOPE” for all these young guy’s like a cunningham actually stepping up becoming a”STAPLE STARTER”and the “D” gellin’ much better

      • John says:

        how many turnovers did we get against the jets in the playoffs

        • Lundahl says:

          How many turnovers did we have against the Giants in Super Bowl 42 ? My point is: all defensees are looking for turnovers, big plays. But the media tells us turnovers suck just like religion says God created the world.

    • Lundahl says:

      You’re right.

  2. John says:

    Lundahl do YOU even watch the games because when you watch the game you sure dont see alot a pressure but when you look at the stats its not bad, but the stats dont include that we usually had massive leads at half time and had 5 of those sacks against the dolphins in week 17 when they completely quit

    • Lundahl says:

      We’re not in the 1950s, 60S, 70s, or even the mid 90s were only six teams could play football on both sides. There are just no more of these 30 nothing leads at half time. Hell, what do you want on this defense ? Jared Allen ? BB wanted a rotation. Although I think he made a mistake not signing Ray Edwards. I understand your point. But in this case the Saints defense sucks too, right ?

  3. D. T. says:

    I was noticing that Laron Landry on the Redskins and Michael Griffin are both set to be UFAs this offseason. They both are relatively young but have a few seasons under their belt. Do you think they could complement Chung well? I personally think Landry would be a big upgrade over barrett, brown (who are both solid backups). He’s considered the second best player on the redskins (London Fletcher being the best and the third and fourth being Orakpo and Kerrigan)

  4. John says:

    and the patriots d has gone 79 snaps without a sack. Its time to make changes on the d-line

    • Doug Kyed says:

      week 1 the patriots had 11 QB hits and 4 sacks. since? 10 qbs hits and 2 sacks. week 1 we saw mark anderson play 34 snaps. since? 19, 13 and 21.

      i think it’s pretty clear belichick thinks the patriots didn’t need to concentrate on rushing the passer to beat the chargers, bills or raiders. i do think we’ll see a change against he jets though.

      i think the key all year to getting to the qb will be anderson or blitzing a LB up the middle. carter, ellis, wilfork and ninkovich won’t be able to do it on their own.

      • Ryan says:

        I may disagree with you slightly here. IF Sanchez sucks like he did last week, setting the edge and waiting for him to screw up could be the best way to beat the Jets.

    • TD says:

      The past week vs Oak was about setting the edges against McFadden & co. and rushing the QB was low priority. McCourty and Arrignton made tackles on RB’s close to the LOS instead of tackles on WR’s way downfield.

      I would gather vs Jets it will be more coverage schemes on their WR’s and TE.

    • Lundahl says:

      Do you actually watch the games ? They will get those sacks when Wright is back and we can have a 4-3 rotation. Listen, last year BB didn’t call a single blitz, yet the Pats had 36 sacks. So, just think if the Pats actually called basic blitz schemes.

      • Billy C. says:

        I like the Mike W. optimism. When he’s in he’s probably our best pass rusher. I just hope the concussion isn’t long term/career threatening. Also last year’s team may have had 36 sacks, however, opposing teams threw for more than 4,000 yards against the Patriots secondary. That number represented more yards than what Brady threw for the Patriots. In reality opposing teams torched us by air repeatedly and the combined lack of pass coverage and inconsistent pass rush made it quite easy for opponents to drop back and feel comfortable with their passing game.

        • Lundahl says:

          The team also exploded the turnover ratio. Hum, the currency of a defense in this league is turnovers. So, I hope you’re not saying turnovers don’t mean anything. Because if you want to hear turnover sucks, then you go watch Jamie Dukes and NFL Network. But lets just stay rational and logic here. You think the Chargers’ D was worth their number 1 defense from last year when Brady literally embarrassed them ? You think the Chargers’ secondary looked sharped against our offensive weapons ? Was Eric Weddle a problem for us ? Was Quentin Jammer a problem for us ? No D can stop us. But our D can stop other teams’ O on BIG PLAYS. Watch the Chargers game, plays when they mattered, our D stepped up. It’s just never enough somehow. I can only hope Mike W comes back, I love the guy.

        • Doug Kyed says:

          While it’s great to see how many turnovers this team has so far, it’s not something you can hang your hat on. It might seem like I’m cherry picking here, but take the Chung interception for instance. Campbell threw that ball right at him when we had allowed Oakland to get inside our 5. You can’t count on plays like that.

          And what is your definition of “big plays?” Does that only include big scoring plays? The Patriots have allowed 31 plays for 20 yards or over this year. That puts them on a pace for 124 “big plays” this season. The Steelers allowed 36 big plays all season last year and the worst in the league was the Broncos with 84. The Patriots have actually been horrendous at allowing big plays so far this year.

        • Lundahl says:

          Ironically Doug, I’m gonna have to disagree with your point. No offense to all your terrific contribution for our team. But Doug, you just wrote “our D allows big plays”. Tell me Doug, isn’t what the other team needs in order to beat us ? In order to put pressure on Brady ? In the end, BB has the better defensive game plan (in general). Who shut down Gates better than our guys ? Did the Jets keep Mcfadden to a reasonable game ? No ! Like I say all the time, there aren’t fifty five Jared Allens in this league. Just not. You talk about Campbell making a bad throw – that’s the whole point, the guy CAN’T throw ! He’s a disgusting bust. You’d be better off with an undrafted free agent QB. Medias say: this D sucks. Ok, then we are as bad as the Seehawks; We should give up a TD every time our D is on the field. But i’s not the case, and it wasn’t this last sunday if you don’t count Oakland’s garbage TD.

        • Doug Kyed says:

          I’m going to be honest here, I have no idea what any of what you said had to do with anything that I said. I’m going to try to organize our thoughts.

          You said: “our D can stop other teams’ O on BIG PLAYS”

          I said: blah blah blah stats to disprove this plus said that turnovers can be random and not something to base a sustainable defense on.

          You: criticized me for using “our” one reply after you did the same thing and then completely moved on from anything that I said and possibly implied that the Seahawks defense allows a touchdown every time the opposing offense is on the team?

          If your point was: “the Patriots’ defense is not horrible” then I agree with you and that’s fine. But saying “the Patriots’ defense does not allow big plays” is wrong and saying “our defense has a ton of turnovers” is absolutely true, but may or may not be sustainable.

        • Lundahl says:

          @ Doug. Looks like we didn’t understood each other’s at all. But I was more writing a general point, that included public opinion. I only pointed out the fact that you said our D allows allot of yardage and big plays (long throws, or runs ). Ok, there’s no question about it.
          “turnovers can be random and not something to base a sustainable defense on.” I agree, but when you explode the turnover ratio like the Pats did last year. It’s no fluke. Offense= touchdwns. Defense= turnovers. Turnovers are better an more effective in the end, than a regular stop. In my opinion.

          “You: criticized me for using “our” one reply after you did the same thing and then completely moved on from anything that I said and possibly implied that the Seahawks defense allows a touchdown every time the opposing offense is on the team?” That was a miscommunication. Sorry about that.

          “If your point was: “the Patriots’ defense is not horrible” then I agree with you and that’s fine. ” It is. You just can’t buy the medias. If you do, then you’re saying the Seehawks’ defense are better than the Patriots. That’s what I hear every day on TV “oh the Pats D is the most disgusting in the league”. More than the Bungles ? More than the Rams ? I mean, somehow our players are great, but not our defense.

      • TD says:

        Why do some bloggers feel they have to shout down people that are just posting their opinions. If you don’t like the opinion, come up with a counter point. Asking if one watches the game, are for real, don’t know anything, etc begs for fellow bloggers to ignore your post, just sayin.

        On the other hand, the coaches can say the DLine is getting pressure and doing what they ask, but how effective are they really?

        • Lundahl says:

          How effective was Wilfork intercepting the ball against Rivers and Campbell ?

        • Ryan says:

          I think sacks are just one statistic to measure pressure. I think thats what Pepper Johnson was saying. We got a few ints, a few throw away, couple hurries, and I think that is pressure. Not every team every week will get pressure. Especially if your being held like you were on Sunday. If you get held every game, and have no sacks but a winning record. By measure of that single statistic you would have worthless D.

      • TD says:

        I would agree w/Doug on the turnovers. Historically, defenses that get a lot of turnovers one year, go way down from that number the next year. NO had a lot of turnovers on their way to the SB, but had about half that number the next year.

        The big thing about last year was the TO differential. We had a lot of turnovers on D, but Brady and co. had what, 5 the whole year. This year he has more TO’s than all of last year.

        I’m with BB in that the D needs to be good in the red zone and that means getting off the field on third down mostly. Be in the top 5-10 in points allowed along with that offense and you have winning. That playoff loss to the Jets was an anomaly.

  5. John says:

    i dont think mccourty had a pass completed against him while he was in zone

  6. Billy C. says:

    It was good to see Chung back and contribute nicely with the banged up hand (he solidifies the secondary as best as he can). On the other hand, I think it’s reasonable to question what the Patriots were thinking by releasing all of our veteran safeties. Sergio Brown lacks the instincts and experience to contribute. In fact he’s absolutely killing the cover guys with his weak/strong side help. I know it’s early and although I rarely knock BB’s roster moves I sure hope the lack of experienced depth at the safety spot doesn’t come back to hurt us in big spots down the road.

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