Week after week, the New England Patriots struggled to play a complete football game on three phases of the game, especially in the team’s embarrassing loss against the Buffalo Bills last week.
Sunday against the Oakland Raiders was a different story.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots traveled to Oakland with a 2-1 record and a very inconsistent defense.
Entering Sunday’s matchup, the Patriots’ obvious top priority was to contain the NFL’s leading rusher in Darren McFadden—they did a phenomenal job in doing so.
New England’s run defense held McFadden to only 74 yards on the ground and 48 receiving yards while preventing him from scoring a single touchdown.
Belichick did what he has done so well over the past decade: take the opposing team’s best player out of the game. McFadden was a non-factor.
With McFadden struggling, the Patriots forced Jason Campbell to beat them, and after all, Campbell ending up beating himself. The 29-year-old out of Auburn did throw for 344 yards and one touchdown but was intercepted two times, one of those by New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
As Campbell threw two costly turnovers, the Patriots were able to capitalize on Oakland’s costly mistakes.
Tom Brady may have been unstoppable over the course of the NFL’s first three weeks, but he did not put up the same huge numbers that we’re all used to seeing. Brady completed 16 of his 30 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brady wasn’t amazing, but he was efficient.
With Brady not carrying the team’s offense, New England’s running backs stepped up in a big way.
Running back Danny Woodhead limped off the field in the second quarter with a left ankle injury and did not return, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley took their games to a whole new level, especially Ridley.
The rookie out of LSU ran for a career-high 97 yards on only 10 carries while scoring once.
As the Patriots played a complete football game and finished the fourth quarter strong, the team did suffer a major loss Sunday afternoon. New England’s middle linebacker and defensive signal caller, Jerod Mayo, was carted off of the field with a reported MCL sprain and could be out a long time.
New England will now enter Week 5 with a solid 3-1 record going up against the New York Jets in both teams’ biggest game of the season to date.
The Patriots had a lot of concern regarding their defense entering Sunday’s game, but most of those concerns were addressed with an impressive showing against Oakland.