The New England Patriots are back in the win column thanks to an impressive win over the visiting Las Vegas Raiders. While both teams had a slow start as the defenses dominated the contest early on, the Patriots started pulling away in the third quarter and never looked back while winning by 16 points.
Patriots (2-1) 36 : 20 Raiders (2-1)
The Patriots, after losing the coin toss, started the game on offense and with a new-look offensive line: Joe Thuney took over David Andrews’ role at center — Andrews was placed on injured reserve with a hand injury this weekend — with rookie Michael Onwenu filling in at left guard. The line, however, was unable to generate a lot of movement on the first two run plays of the game which led to a 3rd-and-6 that the team was unable to convert.
Following New England’s three-and-out and subsequent punt, the Raiders took over at their own 30-yard line. However, they were also unable to generate plenty of momentum: they did gain one first down but ultimately had to kick the football away themselves thanks to plenty of pressure being put on quarterback Derek Carr on third down.
The Patriots’ second offensive series also did not go much better. Two runs by Cam Newton and a pass short of the sticks forced another punt. A Raiders penalty before the kick kept the series alive, however, if only for three more plays: New England’s offense failed to take advantage of its second chance and once again was unable to generate a first down. A 54-yard punt by Jake Bailey, however, had Las Vegas take over at its own 10.
Despite their bad field position, the Raiders were able to move the ball effectively on their second possession: it took them just three plays to reach the New England side of the field for the first time. The visitors continued to drive towards the game’s first score after a Patriots timeout, but the drive came to an end when ex-Raider Shilique Calhoun forced a fumble that was recovered by Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson.
The Patriots took over at their own 13-yard line but on the fourth play of the ensuing possession had to give up the football again when Cam Newton threw an interception on third down — one that was run back to the New England 14. As opposed to New England, Las Vegas was then able to take advantage of its takeaway by going up 3-0 on a 29-yard field goal. [Patriots 0 : 3 Raiders]
The Patriots’ first offensive play after the field goal was also the final play before the end of the first quarter: undrafted rookie running back J.J. Taylor gaining nine yards on just the sixth carry of his career.
The second quarter started like the first one ended, with a J.J. Taylor run. The offense, at that point, finally began hitting a groove: a 15-yard pass to Edelman and back-to-back runs by Taylor and fellow rookie free agent Isaiah Zuber gave New England its first red zone opportunity of the day. While three incomplete passes ended the series, Nick Folk was able to tie the game with a field goal from 33 yards out. [Patriots 3 : 3 Raiders]
The Raiders got some momentum back thanks to a 23-yard run on their very next offensive play, but New England’s opportunistic defense produced another takeaway one play later courtesy of Chase Winovich and Lawrence Guy:
With J.J. Taylor as the lead back, the Patriots moved the football well following Guy’s fumble recovery and reached the red zone for a second time in a row. Once again, however, the series did not go much further as back-to-back incompletions had New England settle for another field goal. Nick Folk again made the kick, though, and his 23-yarder put the team up for the first time on the day. [Patriots 6 : 3 Raiders]
Las Vegas replied with a short drive. The team did gain one first down but eventually had to punt the ball away after Derek Carr failed to gain enough yards on a third down scramble attempt.
With Sony Michel returning as the lead back, New England produced another good offensive series. Starting at its own 14-yard line some good plays by the former first-round draft pick helped the offense move into Raiders territory again rather quickly. While the unit did face a 3rd-and-3 at the Las Vegas 11-yard line, it was able to convert — and more: Cam Newton hit Rex Burkhead on a short pass and the running back took the football into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown to cap a 12-play, 86-yard series. [Patriots 13 : 3 Raiders]
While there were only 34 seconds left in the first half, the Raiders were able to drive the length of the field to score their own first touchdown: aided by a pass interference call against Stephon Gilmore and a 26-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow versus Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty, Las Vegas found itself at the Patriots’ 1-yard line with nine seconds to go. The team scored on its first play from the goal line when Foster Moreau was able to get open in the end zone. [Patriots 13 : 10 Raiders]
All that was left for New England to do was take a knee to end the half.
Las Vegas did receive the opening kickoff of the second half, and the team’s first possession almost ended after three plays. However, a penalty against Joejuan Williams kept the series alive and set up the game’s longest play up until that point — a 34-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Bryan Edwards. The Raiders did not drive much further, though, and eventually had to try a field goal that sailed wide to the left.
New England, meanwhile, replied with a good looking drive of its own. With a 38-yard run by Sony Michel as the biggest chunk play of the series, the offense marched all the way into Las Vegas’ red zone again. And once again, Rex Burkhead made the final play: he was handed the ball on 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line and found his way into the end zone to expand his team’s lead to 10 points. [Patriots 20 : 10 Raiders]
The Raiders, on the other hand, went three-and-out after the Patriots’ touchdown. The team registered two short runs followed by a Jonathan Jones pass breakup on third down.
New England’s defensive stand set up another scoring drive by the defense, even though this one did not end with a touchdown. A 48-yard run by Sony Michel set the tone, but the Patriots eventually were unable to get into the end zone for a third time. Instead, they had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Nick Folk that increased the home team’s lead to 23 points. [Patriots 23 : 10 Raiders]
Las Vegas finally got some momentum back early in the final period. Driving 68 yards inn 11 plays, the team marched deep into Patriots territory. A tremendous pass breakup by Devin McCourty and a throw short of the sticks left head coach Jon Gruden with a difficult decision: go for it on 4th-and-5 or kick a field goal from 25 yards out? He went with the second plan to cut his team’s deficit to 10 points. [Patriots 23 : 13 Raiders]
With momentum possibly changing a bit, New England delivered a statement drive. Using a healthy mix of running and passing, Cam Newton led his offense on a massive 10-play drive that covered 86 yards and took over six minutes off the clock. Most importantly, however, it added another six points to the team’s total when Rex Burkhead found the end zone for a third time on the day — this time from two yards out. Nick Folk, however, missed the ensuing extra point wide to the right. [Patriots 29 : 13 Raiders]
The missed extra point did give the Raiders some hope at coming back. However, all hope was crushed when Shilique Calhoun and Deatrich Wise Jr. teamed up to sack Derek Carr in the end zone for what was initially ruled a safety. The football, however, came free before Carr hit the ground with Wise Jr. recovering the loose football a touchdown. [Patriots 36 : 13 Raiders]
With the game pretty much out of reach for Las Vegas, the Patriots switched to their prevent zone defense. This did allow the visitors to drive down the field and score another touchdown when Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow connected from 13 yards out. [Patriots 36 : 20 Raiders]
However, the game was decided for good when Cody Davis recovered the Raiders’ subsequent onside kick attempt. Cam Newton knelt out the contest and the Patriots officially improved to 2-1 on the season.