We posted our five keys for the Patriots to beat the Raiders before the game. How well did they pull them off in the 31-19 victory? Let’s take a look.
Key #1: Make the Raiders beat you with the pass
What we said: “Oakland is multi-faceted in the running game with the explosive Darren McFadden, tough inside running from Michael Bush, and the fast change-of-pace back Taiwan Jones. That’s where they want to live. Make them eat someplace else with QB Jason Campbell, who is good but not capable of carrying a team for four quarters. Of course, with CBs Ras-I Dowling and Leigh Bodden down, this won’t be easy. Expect the Patriots to mix in a lot more zone to help newcomers Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams, and to keep the Raiders’ speed from burning them one-on-one.”
Result: CHECK PLUS
McFadden did have 75 yards on 14 carries, but 41 came on one play. He carried 13 times for 34 yards (2.6 average) the rest of the time. That’s an excellent job by the Patriots against the league’s top rusher, and helped make the Raiders more one dimensional (as did the lead by the offense). The Patriots did play a lot more zone, and it was effective for the most part. They definitely didn’t give up the big play to speedster WR Denarius Moore (three receptions for 19 yards). And Jason Campbell made a huge Jason Campbell mistake with the interception to Patrick Chung. He’s not capable of carrying a team for four quarters.
Key #2: Set the edge
What we said: “McFadden is the guy you have to worry about and while he will hit a hole in the middle, he prefers to bounce it outside. The Patriots’ can’t lose contain and SLB Rob Ninkovich must set the edge on the strong side against the tackles, and underrated TE Kevin Boss. The Patriots can’t let McFadden get to the edge. We could again see the return of the 3-4 defense, like we did against the Chargers. Everyone will have to be on point in their run fits no matter what scheme the Patriots use. Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo have to read better and quicker against the run than they did against the Bills, or it’s going to be another long day on the defense.”
Result: CHECK PLUS
McFadden’s big run came on a busted gap, but other than that the run fits inside appeared excellent. The Patriots were even better on the perimeter setting the edge and getting tackling help from the secondary. Brandon Spikes played much better as the game went on. He just needs to play. He could be excellent if he can keep from getting suspended and injured. He needs to be on the field.
Key #3: Secondary must tackle
What we said: “The safeties were terrible at tackling against the Bills – or even being in the correct position to attempt a tackle (Josh Barrett) – and that can’t go on anymore. The Raiders have way too much speed. Because the Raiders like to run outside, the cornerbacks must be sound in their tackling and get off blocks. The Raiders receivers blocked the Jets very well, especially the physical Antonio Cromartie. Patriots cornerbacks are going to need to do better.”
Result: CHECK PLUS (pending film review)
There were a few missed tackles early on, but the Patriots got better as game progressed. Cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington led the team with eight tackles each. We’d say that’s the secondary tackling.
Key #4: Press the edge in the running game
What we said: “If there was ever a game for Stevan Ridley and, perhaps Shane Vereen, to show their explosion, this would be it. The Raiders are weak at linebacker and the ends don’t set the edge very well. Expect the Patriots to try to establish some running with some outside power plays, and use that to set up some playaction deep later in the game.”
Result: CHECK PLUS
The Patriots lived on the outside with their stretch outside zone runs (stretch the defense horizontally and then cut back through a hole), and Ridley was a huge if underused weapon with 97 yards on 10 carries. You could say he showed some explosion. The Patriots also ran a lot more play-action, which Tom Brady is terrific at, but we haven’t assessed how effective it was.
Key #5: Watch the short passes
What we said: “Opponents know Tom Brady makes his living on short passes, so they are trying to get in the passing lane more with their arms. It was part of the Bills’ gameplan, and the Raiders are much taller on their defensive line. Brady’s going to need to be careful of the tipped passes, and it wouldn’t surprise if we see many more bubble screens with the WRs. Julian Edelman wouldn’t be a bad option there. But still, the Raiders are awfully tempting to beat deep against a subpar and beatup secondary. This would be a game for Matthew Slater and Chad Ochocinco to make their presence felt. Of course, Brady is going to need protection to get the ball downfield. Always a must.”
Result: CHECK (pending review).
We remember one pass getting batted into the air, but we’re going to have to review the film to see how much the Raiders got into the passing lane.
Pre-game: Patriots 35, Raiders 27.
What we said: “…We do think the Raiders will make enough mistakes to give the Patriots a big opening. What New England can’t do is fall into a lull offensively for a series or two, which they have done in each of the first three games. Being back home, we don’t see Brady letting that happen.”
Final score: Patriots 31, Raiders 19.
The Raiders did make enough mistakes to give the Patriots all the ammo they needed. The lull, this time, didn’t come until the fourth quarter with the Patriots leading 31-13, when they were looking to run clock.