A win is a win.
And while it may not feel like it following a 16-9, hold-on-for-dear-life victory over the Raiders in Sunday's home opener, New England improved to 2-1 on the season and is in a first-place tie in the AFC East.
There remain concerns in the pass protection, passing game and overall consistency of the team in all three phases, but it's always better to clean up mistakes coming off a win rather than a loss.
It wasn't pretty, but it was just effective enough.
Here's a look at some of the highs and lows from the win over Oakland:
Dont'a Hightower – The third-year linebacker has been maybe the Patriots best, most consistent defender through the first three games. He finished second on the team with seven tackles, including one for a loss, as well as a QB hit. Hightower is coming into his own as a versatile piece on the Patriots front seven as Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia tweak the schemes on a weekly basis.
Julian Edelman – Edelman has been the Patriots MVP through three games and the only reliable weapon on offense who's always on the same page as Tom Brady. Edelman finished the win over Oakland with a game-high 10 catches for 84 yards on a game-high 13 targets. He entered with a back injury and took a few more big hits as multiple defenders converge on JE11 on each catch, but one can only imagine where the New England offense would be without Edelman.
Penalties – A week after getting nabbed for a Belichick-era-high 15 penalties for more than 160 yards in Minnesota, things were much better against Oakland. New England was called for a season-low six penalties for 59 yards, and that includes a questionable 24-yard pass interference call on Logan Ryan on the Raiders final drive. In terms of flags, it was a clear step in the right direction.
Nate Solder – The left tackle allowed rookie Khalil Mack to beat him easily off the edge for a sack of Brady. He also let veteran Justin Tuck beat him on the inside for a sack of Brady. Both were big hits on New England's franchise. Solder has now struggled to protect Brady in two of the first three games of the year. Not what you're looking for from a guy who's supposed to be developing into a Pro Bowl left tackle in his fourth season.
Brandon LaFell – The numbers end up looking a little bit better thanks to a trio of late receptions, but the free agent addition continues to struggle to fit on the offense. LaFell caught four passes on eight targets totaling 46 yards. That improves him to a total of four catches for 46 yards on 12 targets on the season. LaFell also earned another offensive pass interference call to negate another Danny Amendola reception, blatantly blocking and de-cleating T.J. Carrie before the catch. It's not like LaFell is the only complementary receiver struggling early in the year – Aaron Dobson was inactive again, Amendola was shut out and Kenbrell Thompkins had just a single catch – but his penalties make his early-season work look even worse.
Second-half offense – The Patriots have scored a sum total of 12 points in the second half of three games this season. New England has yet to score a touchdown after halftime this fall. A team that's been known for its in-game and halftime adjustments just hasn't been able to muster much up after the break. The Patriots have tallied a total of 41 net yards on three drives coming out of halftime this season – two punts and a fumble. The offense hasn't been great in either half in the first three weeks, but it's been downright unproductive in 90 minutes of action after the half in three games.
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