The jugular. He's going for it. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
A link to 5 Things to Watch.
1. Slow Darren McFadden - The Patriots managed to slow down Run DMC for the majority of the game. He tore off on one big run due to a blown assignment by Gerard Warren and caught a big pass in the fourth quarter, but for the majority of the game the defensive line managed to keep him under control. He ran for the big 41 yarder, an 11 yarder, a 6 yarder, and two 5 yarders. Every other run was for three or fewer yards. The defense managed to hold one of the best backs in the league to two impact plays, and three additional solid runs. In the passing game, DMC had two quality receptions, although one was at the end of the game. That's a successful day, in my opinion. Patriots win.
2. Protect the Center - The Patriots were solid up in the center and even managed to force a few defensive penalties. Defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly were quiet for most of the night (other than Seymour's poor penalties) and that has to do with the success of the interior line. Brian Waters is playing exceptional football and Dan Connolly is playing solid ball. Even running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was helping with the blocking in place of the injured Danny Woodhead and BJGE blocked well. The Patriots ran the ball well and gave Brady a pocket to stand in. While the Raiders managed to generate some pressure from the edges, the interior kept Brady standing. A win for the Patriots.
3. Generate Pressure - The Patriots, once again, struggled to generate consistent pressure. Gerard Warren did a good job stepping up as the pass rushing defensive tackle and was disruptive in the pocket on a few plays. Andre Carter is playing quality football by not sacrificing an outlet lane, while still pushing the pocket. Mark Anderson made a nice play to get to Jason Campbell. Even with those players, the Patriots were unable to consistently disrupt Campbell, or even force him to throw the ball. It's clear that the Patriots are putting focus on stopping the run first and generating pressure second, but they must find a way to pressure the quarterback and not put the entire passing defense on the shoulders of the secondary. A win for the Raiders.
4. Spread the Ball - Does Wes Welker catching the ball all over the field count as "spreading the ball?" Didn't think so. The Raiders made a point of defending Rob Gronkowski, who was ever so close on three passes, but couldn't bring the ball down. Chad Ochocinco looked like a solid #3 receiver, but Deion Branch was, once again, no where to be found. The loss of Aaron Hernandez has definitely stunted the passing game and has forced the team to play a one dimensional passing game to Welker. In the time that Hernandez has been missing, Ochocinco has definitely seen a larger role and he seems to be picking up more of the playbook. That said, the return of Hernandez is extremely important for this offense to function against the better defenses in the league. A win for the Raiders.
5. Protect the Ball - Consider this battle won. While Tom Brady was a little off on Sunday, he definitely protected the football. He toned down his gunslinging and focused on taking advantage of the plays given to him by the Raiders defense. Brady and the running backs protected the ball, while Vince Wilfork and Pat Chung showed what happens to teams and quarterbacks that make poor decisions at crucial times. A win for the Patriots.
The Patriots win this review 3-2, which is as close as I'm sure a few of the readers felt the game played out. The Patriots played well rounded football, even though I'd add that the passing offense wasn't up to par. This offense can be even more dangerous if and when they put everything together.