1. The Patriots beat the Raiders, 33-8, Sunday in a game that was somehow less suspenseful than the final 25-point deficit indicates. They led, 7-0, after the first quarter, 17-0 at halftime, and 30-0 after three. They held an opponent to 17 or fewer points for the fifth straight game. It was their sixth straight victory. Brandin Cooks had six catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. Tom Brady threw just seven incompletions while completing 30 passes for 339 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was your run-of-the-mill dismantling of an overmatched and undisciplined opponent.
2. It was, in other words, a quintessential November Patriots victory, the kind that has come to look familiar during the most rewarding years of the unfathomably successful Brady/Bill Belichick era. This is how they win games — this is what they look like, and what they do to remind opponents how hopeless their upset daydreams really are — in the middle of fulfilling seasons.
3. They are 8-2 now, with the quarterback-less Dolphins and the quarterback-less Bills due in the next two weeks, before they play the Dolphins again. That 2-2 start doesn’t feel like a long time ago. It feels like it was from a different season. The Patriots didn’t need to thump the Raiders to make their case that they are on track for a business trip to Minnesota in February. They did it anyway, because that’s who they are at their best.
4. The Patriots were all business from the first drive. You have to love them coming out with the no-huddle on their first possession. Know what that was? That was letting the Raiders know right away that they are the superior-conditioned team, they’re going to prove it right away, and that at 7,200 feet above sea level they’d better get used to sucking wind all day.
5. That entire first drive was an advanced-placement level course in quarterbacking, even by Brady’s usual standards of expertise. He was 9 for 9 for 61 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to Dion Lewis for the exclamation point. The drive covered 16 plays and 87 yards. The Raiders looked gassed before the Patriots even reached midfield.
6. The drive was nearly abbreviated when Rex Burkhead fumbled at the end of a 4-yard run at the Oakland 24, but Dwayne Allen won the brawl for the ball beneath the scrum. I know he had a touchdown last week, but I’d call this his biggest play as a Patriot, for whatever that’s worth.
7. Lewis juked and dodged at least three Raiders defenders before bursting into the end zone. Question for you: Is there another back from the Patriots’ past of whom he reminds you when he has the ball in open field?
8. If you want to say 1978 Horace Ivory, I’ll hear you, because Horace Ivory is always worth a mention. But to me he’s somewhere between David Meggett and Curtis Martin (circa 1996 for both) when he has the football and a tantalizing amount of space to do his thing.
9. Man, are the Raider receivers ever brutal at catching the football — and they’re not especially good at protecting it on the occasions they do catch it. The Raiders’ best chance to make the game interesting in the first half was thwarted by their own hand (or lack of hands) when Seth Roberts fumbled at the Patriots’ 3 after an 8-yard gain and Patrick Chung recovered. These Raider receivers play like a Reche Caldwell tribute band.
10. It got to the point where it was surprising when a Raiders receiver caught the ball in a competitive situation. When Michael Crabtree converted a slant pattern for a first down on fourth and 6 at the start of the fourth quarter, it was a mild surprise that he caught the ball without taking a power dribble first.
11. If Jack Del Rio wants his receivers to start hanging on to the ball, he’ll institute a team rule that the next receiver to drop a pass has to get Raiders owner Mark Davis’s haircut.
12. Brady’s first incompletion came on his 13th attempt, a go route that he overthrew to a fairly well-covered Cooks on third down. That came 16 minutes and 18 seconds into the game.
13. I’m not sure what is more remarkable — the achievement itself, or that Brady going more than a full quarter without an incompletion is something that barely registers as an achievement given the standard he sets.
14. Naturally, the next pass he threw, on the Patriots’ next possession, found Cooks for 52 yards. Cooks blew through a double team and Brady dropped the pass perfectly into his hands. CBS’s Tony Romo kept telling us that Brady focused on improving his deep ball in the offseason. He improved on it from one play to the next on Sunday.
15. Brady’s second touchdown pass, which put the Patriots up, 14-0, in the second quarter, went to Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone. Brady rolled right to avoid the Raiders’ overpursuing rush and threw an almost casual strike to the open receiver.
16. Rookie safety Shalom Luani was allegedly in coverage on Amendola’s touchdown. I can’t say I’d heard of him before that very play, but he quickly showed an impressive talent for gesticulating at teammates to let the viewers at home know it wasn’t entirely his fault that he got put in the toaster by Amendola. Bad look, kid.
17. Luani was a seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft, one of three defensive backs chosen by the Raiders. Their second-round pick, UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, had a rough day as well. He was in coverage — for a split-second, anyway — on Cooks’s 64-yard touchdown catch to put the Patriots up, 24-0, in the third quarter.
18. It’s almost unfathomable that the Raiders are still without an interception, 10 games into the season. They could put 64-year-old Mike Haynes and 62-year-old Lester Hayes out there right now and I bet one of them would pick off a pass before season’s end.
19. It blows my mind, by the way, that Haynes is 64. Memories of him as a dazzling young Patriot are still vivid in my mind. And the guy looks like he’s about 40.
20. My early appraisal of Romo was that he’s the best football analyst to come along since the days when Jon Gruden showed some personality. Standing by that, too, though Romo does get a bit overexcited at unexpected times. I get the sense he’s somewhat conscious of finding his own John Madden-like niche.
21. An example: When Raiders receiver Johnny Holton allowed the ball to ricochet off his shoulder pads and into Duron Harmon’s hands for an interception late in the fourth quarter, Romo exclaimed, “They gotta catch the ball! Another drop! THAT’S THEIR SEASON!’’ He said it with such exclamation that I initially thought he meant the Raiders’ season was over because of that play, rather than meaning that drops have killed them all year. I suppose he was right either way.
22. I thought Romo was exaggerating when he began suggesting early during the Patriots’ final possession of the first half that Stephen Gostkowski might get a crack at a 70-yard field goal. Statistics may prove me wrong on this, but I’ve always thought of Belichick as being conservative in end-of-half, relatively low-percentage field goal situations.
23. But Romo was right — Gostkowski ended the half by drilling a franchise-record 62-yarder that might have been good from 68, or Gronk’s favorite number, or even 70. And I think he was right because he calculated this exactly the same way Belichick did.
24. A 62-yarder is fairly high-risk under the usual circumstances, especially if you’re worried about the possibility of a block and a return. But Belichick obviously took the altitude into consideration and was well aware that the degree of difficulty was considerably less than it would normally be. Kudos to Romo for being on top of that right away.
25. The Patriots didn’t commit a penalty until 4 minutes and 45 seconds remained in the third quarter, when Kyle Van Noy exhaled near Raiders punter Marquette King and he reacted as if he’d been vacuumed into the eye of a tornado, spinning to the turf.
26. Marcus Smart has never flopped that blatantly, but even King’s thespian turn worked out for the Patriots. The running into the kicker penalty turned a fourth and 6 into a fourth and 1. The Raiders went for it, handed the ball to a running back we’ll identify as Not Marshawn Lynch For Some Reason, and naturally, NMLFSR did not get it.
27. Lynch (11 carries, 67 yards) was one of the bright spots for the Raiders, maybe THE bright spot. After a year away, he still runs like he’s the Tasmanian Devil in cleats. The league is more fun with him in it. Especially when Patriots opponents forget to give him the ball.
28. CBS’s Jim Nantz was so effusive about the environment at Estadio Azteca and the hospitality in Mexico that you’d think the Masters was played there.
29. Romo made Patriots fans lose their breath like they were the ones at a high altitude when he exclaimed “Uh-oh!’’ just as the camera panned away from Brady getting hit while releasing a pass in the fourth quarter. Gonna have to dock him half a grade on his broadcast performance for interfering with a pleasant Sunday by reminding us of Bernard Pollard’s existence.
30. Khalil Mack was penalized for roughing the passer on the play, and he did get Brady low, but I’m not sure what he was supposed to do in that situation. He was on the ground in front of Brady, wrapped up his legs, and spun him down. He didn’t try to drive his helmet through his kneecap like Pollard did. It was a worrisome play, but a clean one.
31. The Raiders scored their lone touchdown on a 9-yard pass from Carr to Amari Cooper with 11:55 left to play. I am mentioning this solely for you completionists out there.
32. This is the first time I can recall seeing not one but two Patriots break up passes with their helmets while their backs were turned to the quarterback. Stephon Gilmore did it in the first half, then Elandon Roberts busted up a pass with his encased noggin in the second half.
33. I think I like the odds of a Patriot catching a ball with his head better than a I do a Raider catching the ball with his hands.