It was a tale of two halves in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon. The New England Patriots started slow, as they have all year, but turned it on in the second half to pull away from the visiting Las Vegas Raiders. There’s a lot to talk about from the Patriots’ 36-20 victory, so let’s get started.
Running Game: The first, and most obvious, bright spot was the running game. The Patriots finished with over 253 yards rushing, and simply beat the Raiders into submission over the course of the game. After looking dreadful in the first half, and being replaced by rookie J.J. Taylor, Sony Michel ran extremely hard and looked like his old self in the final 30 minutes of the game. Michel finished with 117 rushing yards on nine carries, thanks in part to two long runs in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead was an absolute STUD, scoring three touchdowns — two of which after halftime — and juking more than a few Raiders out of their shoes.
Offensive Line: The Patriots’ stellar rushing attack was in no small part thanks to the great play of the offensive line. Center David Andrews was put on injured reserve, and the unit started the game by having some real trouble in the first half. Like the rest of the team, however, it cleaned up its act in the second, consistently giving Cam Newton a ton of time to throw the ball, and opening up big creases for the running backs.
I was extremely concerned about the line heading into Sunday without arguably their most important piece: they really struggled without Andrews last season, they were forced to start rookie Michael Onwenu at left guard, and moved Joe Thuney to center, a position he has never played before. New England’s O-line ended up playing great, though, and that is a great sign for them moving forward. Onwenu has looked solid in his first three games, and another rookie, Justin Herron, stepped in for Isaiah Wynn for a few plays and looked good too. If the line continues this strong play, the Patriots are going to be able to play with anyone.
Cam’s struggles: For the first time this season, Cam Newton was not the primary reason the Patriots had success on offense. He threw a really bad interception in the first half, and only completed seven passes to his wide receivers all day. He also finished with only 27 rushing yards, but he was able to do enough to get the Patriots the win.
It was still encouraging to see him continue to lead the Patriots to a victory, even when he was not at his best. This was one of the hall marks of Tom Brady in his career in New England: even when the greatest of all time failed to bring his A-game, he would still find a way to play well enough to win. That’s exactly what Newton did on Sunday, and it should be a good sign for the Patriots moving forward.
Chase Winovich: We knew Winovich was going to be relied on heavily in his second season, but I don’t think that anyone could have predicted how well he would play in Year Two. He has been a force in both the passing and running game these first three games, and Sunday was no different. He forced a fumble in the first half, and then pushed the pocket in the second on the strip sack by Shilique Calhoun and Deatrich Wise Jr. that the latter recovered for a touchdown. Winovich would finish the game only credited with two tackles and a sack, but he had a much larger impact than that.
Shutting down Darren Waller: Waller came into the game as the biggest offensive threat for the Raiders. He dominated on Monday night, and was a huge area of concern heading into Week 3. The Patriots, as they usually do, focused on him and shut him down, though. Overall, he finished with two catches for nine yards, and was a complete non-factor all game. New England achieved this by throwing a ton of different players at him. Joejuan Williams, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, and even Stephon Gilmore, had a chance to take him on.
By essentially eliminating his favorite target, Derek Carr had to rely on his other weapons, and they simply were not enough to get the job done.
Chiefs Week: This week, the Patriots get another team coming off a short week, with the Kansas City Chiefs playing the Baltimore Ravens tonight. They are going to be a tough matchup, especially on the road, but, if the Patriots play the way they did in the second half yesterday, I believe they can play with anyone.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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