If you knew that Kevin Faulk would return a kickoff and Tedy Bruschi would return an interception, you'd think the Patriots would have a pretty good shot at beating the Raiders in Oakland. Think again.
Despite 115 yards in penalties by the Raiders, Oakland's ball control offense kept the Patriots off the field enough to give then a 27-20 win. On top of that, Oakland's defense did not allow a single offensive touchdown by the Patriots, the first time that has happened to New England this season.
Tom Brady was 18 for 30 for only 172 yards and Antowain Smith managed only 49 yards while Rich Gannon threw for 297 yards on 26 of 38 passing.
New England notched three points on their first possession. Tedy Bruschi returned the Sebastien Janikowski chip shot kick 11 yards to open the game and the Patriots had good field position at the their own 42. If there were any jitters to be had by Brady, he didn't show it on this drive, moving his offense methodically down the field with the short passing game. Brady was a perfect 7 for 7 to five different receivers.
Down in Raiders territory the drive stalled, however. David Givens had his hands on an 11-yard pass on the Raiders 18 but let the ball squirt out. Matt Light alertly pounced on the loose ball back on the Raider 25. From there, the Raiders played the quick pass tight and Brady only managed 8 more yards on a third down pass to Brown. Vinatieri came on to boot the 36-yard field goal for the early lead.
After both teams traded possessions, Oakland tied the game on a Janikowski 39-yard field goal. The key play on the drive was a third and 5 play. Gannon attempted a pass that Bruschi got a hand on creating a jump ball. It bounced off the shoulder pads of Ty Law and into the hands of tight end Doug Jolley. It ended up being a 13-yard pick-up instead of an interception or at the very least, incompletion. A 17-yard shovel pass to Tyrone Wheatley later in the drive set up the field goal.
The first quarter ended with just the two field goals and the score tied. For the Patriots it was marked by two missed opportunities when both Deion Branch and David Patten broke away from coverage on two separate occasions but were overthrown by Brady. Each play would have been sure touchdowns if caught in stride.
Oakland took the lead with its first series of the second quarter. Gannon hit Jolley for 30 yards on a third and 1 from the New England 41. A couple passes to Garner later, the Raiders were down on the Patriots 2-yard line. The second pass was marked for 14 yards but the spot was challenged by Oakland. The ball was nudged up a half yard as a result of the review and then the spot was measured for a first down. The result was fourth and inches on just beyond the 1-yard line and Oakland went for the score.
The move paid off for the Raiders as Zach Crockett went in untouched for the game's first touchdown and a 10-3 Raider lead with the extra point.
After New England's scoring drive to open the game, the offense was only able to manage seven plays on the subsequent two possessions. The Raider defense was playing the short pass tight and the run tough. It didn't look like things were getting any better for New England when on second and 7, Greg Robinson-Randall was called for a false start and then Brady was sacked for a loss of 9. But on the fourth-and-20 punt attempt, Ken Walter got steamrolled after the kick and the roughing penalty meant new life for the Patriots.
New England took advantage enough to convert a 31-yard field goal to pull within four at 10-6, but once again, Brady missed a sure touchdown. This time, he overthrew Patten in the corner of the end zone and then threw behind Patten on the next play, again in the end zone.
The feeling already was that these scoring chances would wind up too valuable to be squandered and when Brady was stripped deep in his own territory with around 1:30 left in the half and the Raiders recovered, there was no doubt.
That play set up Oakland on the Patriots 8-yard line. A Terrell Buckley holding call gave Oakland a first down around 2-yards away from the end zone. Gannon kept the ball on the next play and managed to find his way inside the left pylon.
The first half ended with the Raiders up, 17-6.
Oakland made it look easy to open up the second half stringing together a drive that lasted nearly 10 minutes and ended with another Crockett run up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown. After throwing 25 times in the first half, the Raiders mixed in nine rushes along with Gannon's quick, short passes. By the time Bruschi overran Jolley alone in the flat and the tight end picked up 15 yards as a result down to the New England 4, the Patriots defense looked winded. That's not good if a team is to come back from a 24-6 deficit.
But Bruschi made up for things when he took a Gannon pass off Lawyer Milloy's foot and returned the interception all the way near the end of the third quarter. Oakland challenged the play hoping the ball hit the ground before Milloy's foot. The replay proved inconclusive and the 46-yard touchdown stood as called on the field. Oakland's 18-point lead was cut to 11 at 24-13.
The offense got another chance to tighten the score when the Raiders were forced to punt on the New England 39. Troy Brown fielded the punt on his own 8-yard line. Despite nearly fumbling twice, once when Brady was attempting to throw (ruled incomplete) and another time when Smith lost the handle (he was ruled down), Brady managed to bring his team to the Raiders 44. But on third and 1, Smith was stuffed up the middle and then Brady threw incomplete on fourth down.
That allowed the Raiders to get within field goal position with the running of Garner. On third and 6, however, Otis Smith blew up a play that had Garner going around left end for a loss of 1. Janikowski attempted a 49-yard field goal but Richard Seymour got up high and blocked the kick.
With 4:39 left in the game, New England took over at its own 39 and were immediately put in a hole when Brady was sacked for a loss of 6 on first down. A pass to Brown made up 9 yards but an incomplete behind Brown on the next play set up a fourth and 7. The series ended just as it started when Trace Armstrong sacked Brady from behind.
With 3:41 left in the game, all that was left for Oakland to do was to continue what they had done throughout the game – ball control. Instead Gannon went over the top for the first time, hitting Tim Brown for 29 yards down to the Patriots 13.
That play sealed the affair. Oakland added a 28-yard field goal and despite Kevin Faulk's return of the subsequent kickoff (where was he all game?), there would be no crazy finishes this time for New England. With just under a minute left, the Patriots onside kick was recovered by the Raiders. Final score, Raiders 27, Patriots 20.
The Patriots loss creates a second place jam in the AFC East with New England, the Jets and Buffalo all sitting at 5-5, one game behind Miami at 6-4. Some good home cooking against the Vikings next week will be what New England needs to keep pace.