The Patriots hung tough against the Raiders, overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit and getting back into the game for a late chance at a comeback win, but ultimately fell short, dropping their third-straight contest by a score of 21-17.
New England found the end zone twice on Sunday, breaking a two-game streak without scoring a touchdown but it wasn't enough, even as Raiders starter Jimmy Garoppolo left the game at halftime, replaced by Brian Hoyer. The team's red zone defense had a strong showing, keeping the game close but Mac Jones and the Patriots were unable to make up the difference, ending their final drive of the game by taking a safety to close things out.
Here are the key takeaways from the loss.
1. Defense Bends but Doesn't Break on First Drive
The Patriots won the opening toss and deferred to the second half, but didn't plan on watching the Raiders string together a 16-play scoring drive. Luckily New England was able to get two different third-down stops in the red zone, holding the Raiders to an opening field goal. It looked like the Pats got a red-zone stop but Sam Roberts was called for leverage by putting a hand on top of a Raiders blocker during the field goal attempt that gave the Raiders a new set of downs inside the red zone.
Luckily, the Patriots responded on the ensuing set of downs and held the Raiders from the end zone, getting good pressure on third down by Ja'Whaun Bentley and Anfernee Jennings.
On the opening drive the Patriots faced four initial third downs that they were unable to stop before their red zone defense stepped up at the end. It was a critical change and a small early win for the Pats, as they bent but didn't break and didn't give up an opening drive touchdown.
Keion White was forced to leave the field for what appeared to be a head injury on this drive and would not return. The injury bug continues to hit the promising young Patriots on the roster.
2. Defense Gets a Takeaway!
After an uninspiring first possession by the Patriots offense that included penalties on the first two plays, the Raiders received the ball back at their own 40-yard line looking to extend their lead. With some help from a Jahlani Tavai unnecessary roughness penalty that tacked on 15 yards, the Raiders quickly made it down inside the Patriots red zone again, with Jakobi Meyers chipping in a 13-yard catch.
Once again the defense stepped up in the red zone, picking up their first takeaway in four games. Davante Adams caught a quick slant off the line of scrimmage but Jabrill Peppers delivered an immediate hard hit that jarred the ball loose into the air. Jahlani Tavai was on the spot to collect the ball for the team's second interception of the season.
It was a critical stop, as the Raiders were looking for a double-digit lead late in the first quarter. Despite allowing some yardage, the Patriots defense made some early plays to keep the game within reach for their stagnant offense that failed to produce a first down in the first quarter.
Unfortunately, the Patriots went three-and-out again and then watched the Raiders respond with an eight-play, 59-yard touchdown drive with former Patriot Jakobi Meyers coming down with the score, already his fourth of the season.
Once again the game followed an all-too-familiar script with mistakes helping to dig an early double-digit hole. The defense struggled to get off the field and the offense was unable to move the ball.
3. Pats Get on the Scoreboard
Down 10-0, the Patriots offense finally got themselves in gear, nearly scoring on a 74-yard catch-and-run by Ezekiel Elliott that was characteristically called back due to a holding penalty on Hunter Henry. Undeterred, Mac Jones hit Kendrick Bourne two plays later for a 36-yard big play that got the Patriots onto the Raiders side of the field.
They'd fall short of scoring a touchdown, with Mac missing DeVante Parker on a third-down slant that would've kept the chains moving. Instead, they settled for a 43-yard Chad Ryland field goal that gave New England their first points since the first quarter of the Cowboys game two weeks ago. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the field goal snapped a string of 26 straight drives without a point, the longest single-season streak by a team since the 2008 Browns (31).
Though only one of the two big plays actually counted, they were small welcome signs of life from the Patriots offense as they looked to stop the bleeding and climb back into the game.
4. Mac Gets Picked
The offense started to show more signs of life after the defense forced a second-quarter punt, stringing together a drive that included third-down conversions from Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Gesicki. But things quickly unraveled as Mac, rolling to his right and throwing back across his body, missed Hunter Henry and hit Raiders safety Trevon Moehrig right in the numbers, Mac's seventh interception of the season, fifth in the last three games and sixth total turnover of the last three games.
The Raiders would take the pick and march down the field for a third extended drive, but the Patriots defense would again stiffen, aided in part by an offensive pass interference call that set the Raiders back 10 yards, holding Las Vegas to a 37-yard field goal.
The Patriots entered halftime down 13-3, extending their streak of quarters without a touchdown to 12, tying a team record that goes back to 1991.
5. Pats Score a Touchdown!
The Patriots received the second-half kickoff and ended their scoreless streak with a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown scoring drive that cut the Raiders' lead to 13-10. It was the Patriots first touchdown score since Pharoah Brown found the end zone in Week 3 against the Jets, and with Jimmy Garoppolo ruled out of the game with a back injury, the game took a turn in their favor, though still down by three points.
Brown and Rhamondre Stevenson chipped in the two biggest plays of the drive, both going 15 yards, however, Stevenson left the game shortly after his big carry, listed with both head and ankle injuries. Despite the touchdown, the injury epidemic continued to hit the Patriots in all the wrong spots. Stevenson's absence left the team with razor-thin depth at running back, with just Elliott healthy and active, but he would return later in the game and play a part as New England clawed their way back into striking distance.
6. Hoyer Starts Driving
Jimmy Garoppolo was ruled out of the game at halftime, allowing former Patriot Brian Hoyer to enter the game for the Raiders. For a moment, it seemed like this would be just the kind of opportunity the Patriots could take advantage of, but Hoyer provided no quarter for the Patriots, first leading a 10-play, 73-yard drive with two third-down conversions along the way. The Pats defense got some help from a red zone holding call that backed Vegas up 10 yards again and forced them to settle for a field goal, but still extended the lead to 16-10.
After a quick Patriots three-and-out, Hoyer again got the Raiders on the move with a nine-play drive that would result in another field goal, which made it 19-10 early in the fourth quarter. That made three-straight field goal drives for Las Vegas, as New England couldn't get their stops until the red zone. Some years that's enough to keep teams in the game, but not this year with this offense, which ground out a 17-play, 78-yard touchdown scoring drive that took up 9:30 of time and made it a two-point game at 19-17.
With 3:33 left Hoyer and the Raiders offense got the chance to close the game out, coming up on a third down that appeared initially to be incomplete before a flag came flying in on J.C. Jackson for pass interference. That penalty gave Vegas a new set of downs but the Patriots settled down and forced a final punt on the ensuing set of down, needing a field goal to win the game.
7. Last Chance
Mac Jones has had just one fourth-quarter comeback win in his career and on Sunday he got a chance for a second one, down by two points with 2:23 left and no timeouts, set up deep in his own territory.
Mac took a deep shot to DeVante Parker that fell right into Parker's arms but the receiver was unable to secure the catch. A few plays later Jones was sacked in the end zone for a safety as the Raiders tacked on a much-needed two additional points, making it 21-17.
8. Patriots are now 1-5
The Patriots have now dropped three games in a row but showed some fight in this one that made it interesting all the way into the fourth quarter. Maybe that's a sign of progress but there are too many holdovers from recent poor performances that continue to haunt this team. Turnovers, untimely penalties and the lack of complementary football have all played significant roles in their defeats and this game was no exception.
Even against a backup quarterback that they're well familiar with in the second half, New England's defense couldn't get enough stops to keep the window of opportunity open for the offense. Down by just a single score in the second half with the opportunity there for a win, the now 1-5 Pats could not get over the hump. The Patriots red zone defense showed up in this game, but not much else did for New England and two touchdown drives were not enough to break the losing streak.
Next up, the Patriots return home to Gillette Stadium to take on the Buffalo Bills who are set to take on the Giants on Sunday Night Football. The Bills have won four straight games and six of their last seven against the Patriots, including 2021's 47-17 wild card playoff rout.