Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks have been relatively productive working together all season.
Sunday afternoon at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City the Patriots (8-2) big-play passing duo took advantage of the thin air and the putrid Raiders pass defense to lead New England to the 33-8 blowout victory.
The Patriots closed out what was a two-game road trip outscoring AFC West foes Denver and Oakland a combined 74-24 to extend their winning streak to six games as Bill Belichick's squad continues to prove itself one of the elite teams in the league today.
While Brady and his targets were taking care of business, the defense aided the snowballing bomb-fest with a couple first half turnovers – a Duron Harmon interception and a Marquis Flowers forced fumble recovered by Patrick Chung. Even Stephen Gostkowski got into the fun with a 63-yard field goal to close out the first half for a 17-0 New England advantage at the break.
It's always a good sign when Brian Hoyer gets in for some mop-up duty, as he's done in each of his first two weeks since returning to New England.
Everyone enjoyed the stay in Colorado Springs last week. And everyone certainly enjoyed the results of the work as things played out in Mexico City against Oakland.
New England appears to be getting in midseason form in all three phases. It also played another clean game with just two penalties in Mexico a week after just a single flag in Denver.
"That was a great experience. To win and to be here and to have two tough games back to back and handle the situation, it was a great experience. Happy we won," Brady said.
Before moving on to next Sunday's post-Thanksgiving battle with the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the impressive win over the Raiders.
Dion Lewis – After winning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 103-yard kickoff return in Denver, New England's lead back was productive on offense from the get-go in Mexico. Lewis had a nice cut-back on a catch-and-run 15-yard score on New England's opening possession. He also had a key 20-yard run late in the second quarter to boost the drive to Gostkowski's long field goal. Mixing burst runs with some that were not productive, Lewis finished with 10 carries for 60 yards while catching four passes for 28 yards with the one touchdown. Lewis now has five straight games with 10 or more carries.
Tom Brady –* *The reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week kept things rolling against Oakland's putrid pass defense. Brady completed all nine of his passes on New England's opening drive -- much of it out of the no-huddle -- for 61 yards, including Lewis' touchdown. As he so often does, Brady picked on a Jack Del Rio defense, completing his first 12 passes of the day for the best start of any game in his career. That start was only a taste of things to come as Brady completed 30 of 37 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 131.9 rating. There is a good chance Brady will be adding to his record AFC POW award total this week. Del Rio's defenses are simply defenseless against Brady, who now has 22 touchdowns and just two picks on the season.
Brandin Cooks –Oakland's ineptitude and injuries in the back end seemed to pave the way for a big day for New England's speedy outside receiver. Cooks and the Patriots took full advantage. The receiver had a 52-yard catch in the first half and then got the rout rolling with a 64-yard touchdown on the third play of the third quarter. Cooks finished with a game-high 149 yards on his six catches, a 24.8-yard average.
Stephen Gostkowski – Light air or not, when you hit a 62-yard field goal you have accomplished something. Gostkowski did just that, on a kick to end the first half that would have been good from much farther. That Patriots franchise-record field goal was one of four (63, 51, 40, 29) Gostkowski hit on the day when he also notched six touchbacks in his seven kickoffs.
Rex Burkhead –There weren't a lot of mistakes on the evening for New England. And the ones that did come didn't come close to having an impact on the game. Still, Burkhead put the ball on the ground at the Oakland 24 on the Patriots first drive, fortunate that the somewhat soft fumble was recovered by tight end teammate Dwayne Allen. Burkhead also had a pretty ugly dropped pass on the Patriots next possession and finished with just 16 yards on five rushes.
Run defense – Even while getting blown out, the Raiders were able to run the ball for more than 100 yards. Marshawn Lynch led the way with limited chances, rushing 11 times for 67 yards including a 25-yard long around right end. Three of the four Oakland players that carried the ball averaged better than 4.8 yards a carry, each with a long of at least 7 yards. Playing without Malcom Brown once again and still learning life without Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots run defense remains a work in progress. New England has now allowed 100-plus yards rushing and more than 4 yards a carry in four straight games.
Hydration – Even with the Patriots training all week at 7,000-plus feet at the United States Air Force Academy, New England had its issues on Sunday. Stephon Gilmore and Danny Amendola both had to leave the game and the field due to hydration issues, which can apparently be tied into the high elevation. On a night when nearly everything went right, the Patriots didn't take care of business against the elements as well as they did against the Raiders.
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