The New England Patriots defeated the visiting Las Vegas Raiders, 36-20, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
By ground and by timely turnovers.
Here’s a glance back as New England moves to 2-1 on the season.
Working on Waller
Raiders tight end Darren Waller accounted for 16 targets last Monday night. Those targets became 12 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. And during his video conference the following morning, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said, “I think it’s been such a long time since we’ve seen a guy like this.”
It grew unclear just how much New England would see of Waller. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound ex-wide receiver had sat out consecutive practices due to a knee issue and was officially listed as questionable on the final injury report. But Waller would be active for Las Vegas by Sunday. He proceeded to catch two passes for nine yards.
The Patriots matched safety-slash-linebacker Adrian Phillips up with Waller on the initial passing down of the game. By the initial third down, cornerback-slash-safety Joejuan Williams got his turn for a bracketed look. Waller did not draw a pass in the first quarter. Nor the second. He’d draw four targets in all. The corner likes of Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones all went on to align across from Waller. New England’s edges chipped. And it was another Las Vegas tight end, Foster Moreau, who got to the end zone before halftime on the heels of defensive pass interference.
Movement in the middle for New England
New England entered the 1 p.m. ET kickoff without starting center David Andrews. The team captain played every offensive snap through the opening two weeks of the season before being placed on injured reserve Saturday as a result of surgery to repair a fractured thumb.
In his absence, the Patriots went with franchise-tagged All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney in the middle of the line.
The moving parts sent rookie Michael Onwenu into Thuney’s regular post. Onwenu, checking in at 6-foot-3, 350 pounds, arrived in the sixth round out of Michigan. He previously handled close to 40 percent of New England’s blocking work this September.
Third game requires less from Newton’s arm than the second
Cam Newton threw for 397 yards in defeat a Sunday ago. That output would stand as the third-highest of his NFL career and the highest since his inaugural campaign with the Carolina Panthers.
The quarterback finished with 162 a week later, and had 90 at the half. Newton went 17-of-28 passing against the Raiders.
Late in the first quarter, he was intercepted by safety Johnathan Abram on a scramble drill intended for running back Rex Burkhead in the right flat. But before intermission, Newton faked a throw to wide receiver Julian Edelman and hit Burkhead for a swinging, soaring score on third-and-3. It capped off a drive that spanned 86 yards. It was Newton’s lone TD pass on a difficult day through the air. He added 27 yards on the ground by game’s end, eclipsing Randall Cunningham on the league’s all-time QB rushing list behind only Michael Vick.
Winovich, Calhoun, Wise all have a hand in stifling Las Vegas possessions
Patriots outside linebacker Chase Winovich arced his way past backup Raiders right tackle Denzelle Good on first-and-10 in the second quarter. The result was a free football in a game tied at 3-3. It reached fruition as Winovich strip-sacked quarterback Derek Carr.
The forced fumble would be the second recovered by the Patriots on Sunday, following former Raiders linebacker Shilique Calhoun’s the prior quarter against running back Josh Jacobs.
And Calhoun would log another with 5:10 remaining. It came in tandem with defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. on a sack of Carr for a safety. And that safety wound up a touchdown for the latter upon review.
New England’s backfield committee breaks ground
Sony Michel averaged 3.7 yards per carry against the Miami Dolphins and 2.7 yards per carry against the Seattle Seahawks. The 2018 first-rounder out of Georgia would see that clip climb to 13 on Sunday.
Michel ran nine times for 117 yards versus the Las Vegas defensive front. He broke one in the third quarter for 38 yards that helped set up one of three TD plunges by the aforementioned Burkhead. Minutes later, Michel found more space behind sealed blocks, galloping for 48 yards to put the Patriots in field-goal position. Also not hard to see in the backfield committee was the part played by 5-foot-6, 185-pound undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor. The Arizona product doubled as the returner, and had a high of 11 carries.
Running back Damien Harris is eligible to be activated off injured reserve for Week 4. But against Las Vegas, New England stood with 250 rushing yards as a team.