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Matchup Winners: Protection issues once again for the Patriots

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS RAN


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This was supposed to be easy and it turned out to be a disaster. The Raiders entered the game with the worst rush defense in football, allowing an even 200 yards per game over the first two weeks. The Patriots wanted to establish the run early and force Oakland, playing without its two top linebackers Nick Roach and Sio Moore, to commit extra personnel to stop it. Instead, New England managed a pathetic 2.4 yards per carry on 32 attempts. Even eliminating three Tom Brady kneel downs the numbers weren't pretty – 29 attempts for 83 yards (2.9-yard average) and no touchdowns. Stevan Ridley was bottled up all afternoon and finished with 54 yards on 19 carries (2.8-yard average) while Shane Vereen, often running out of spread formations in passing situations, still only managed 20 yards on seven carries (2.9-yard average). Over the last three-plus quarters the Patriots had just seven efficient runs (4 yards or more, first down, TD) on 21 attempts.  EDGE: RAIDERS

WHEN THE RAIDERS RAN


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This was probably the only area in which the Patriots performed exceptionally well. Oakland mustered next to nothing on the ground despite making a concerted effort to do so. The Raiders used a number of heavy backfield looks early with Darren McFadden even operating out of the Wildcat a couple of times. None of it worked as the Patriots front controlled the line of scrimmage, limiting McFadden to 59 yards on 18 carries (3.3-yard average) and the Raiders to 67 yards on 22 attempts for an even 3-yard average. The front seven also did a good job of containing quarterback Derek Carr, who has shown the ability to run early in his career. Carr did not attempt a single scramble. Jerod Mayo (11 tackles) and Dont'a Hightower (8 tackles) helped the front close down the gaps and eliminate the Oakland ground game throughout, including a pair of huge short-yardage stops in the fourth quarter on second- and third-and-one with the Patriots clinging to a 13-9 lead.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASSED


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Without the benefit of the running game the offense had a difficult time moving the ball through the air, and that was mostly due protection issues once again. Tom Brady was pounded every bit as brutally as he was in the opener in Miami. He was only sacked twice but hit hard throughout the day and doubled over in pain after one particularly rough hit administered by old nemesis Justin Tuck. Nate Solder struggled holding the edge and was beaten by Tuck and rookie Khalil Mack, who recorded one of the two sacks with a huge blind-side hit. Brady completed 24 of 37 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown, and he narrowly avoided throwing his first interception of the season a couple of times as Raiders defenders had their hands on at least three passes. Julian Edelman was again the only consistently available target and finished with 10 catches but those resulted in only 84 yards as the Raiders did a nice job of crowding him. Rob Gronkowski had three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, and he nearly had another but couldn't handle Brady's deflected pass in the end zone. Brandon LaFell (4 catches, 46 yards), Kenbrell Thompkins (1 catch, 16 yards) and Danny Amendola (0 catches) were once again non-factors.  EDGE: RAIDERS

WHEN THE RAIDERS PASSED


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This was most difficult matchup to grade. On one hand the Raiders were using a rookie quarterback playing his third game and lost their top receiver Rod Streater to a broken foot in the first half. Still, Carr managed to complete 21 of 34 passes for 174 yards and drove his team to a tying touchdown, only to have it overturned on a holding call. It was at that point that Vince Wilfork caught the deflection of the pass that first hit Denarius Moore in the chest, leading to the game-saving interception. Darrelle Revis was openly targeted during the game and didn't perform well. Streater caught all three balls thrown his way for 32 yards before leaving, and James Jones (3 catches, 43 yards) was also open with Revis defending a couple of times. Revis also committed an egregious pass interference penalty that was nullified by when the Raiders were flagged as well. But when it came time to make a stop the defense did not allow Carr to get the ball into the end zone, and when the game was on the line Wilfork secured the pick to win the game. So, despite some bumps along the way, the effort was just good enough.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

SPECIAL TEAMS


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There weren't a whole lot of big plays in the kicking game but the Patriots made a few that proved to be valuable. Matthew Slater was involved in a couple. First he shot down the field covering a high 53-yard Ryan Allen punt and buried T.J. Currie for a 1-yard loss. In the second half, following a Raiders field goal that pulled Oakland within a point at 10-9, he fielded a short Sebastian Janikowski kickoff and returned it 26 yards to the Patriots 41. The short field led to a field goal early in the fourth quarter. Each punter recorded a stinker to spoil otherwise solid days – Marquette Lewis' 22-yarder allowed the Patriots to take over at midfield and Allen's 45-yard line drive was returned by Currie to the Raiders 48. The coverage was solid throughout and both kickers went 3-for-3 on field goals, with Janikowski connecting from 47 and 49 yards.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

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