The stage was set as the Raiders faced off against the New England Patriots in what was billed as a matchup of top teams. Both were 2-1 with the Raiders coming off a big win over the Jets and the Patriots coming off a big loss to the Bills.
The mistakes began early in this game and plagued the Raiders throughout the afternoon. If there is anything we know about the Patriots, they thrive by capitalizing on mistakes.
The Raiders’ offense looked good on the first drive just as it had all season. With the help of a couple of long catches by Darren McFadden (15 yards) and Kevin Boss (23 yards), they were quickly in the red zone. But a block in the back penalty on the next play pushed them into first and 20 at the 28 yard line and they couldn’t get it back, settling for a field goal.
A field goal on any Raider drive is a victory for a Patriots team that scores in bunches on offense but gives up nearly as much on defense. You immediately got the feeling that missed opportunity would be a costly one.
The Raiders continued their mistakes when the Patriots got the ball. The defense came out swinging and looked to hold the Patriots to a three and out, but Richard Seymour was called for a roughing the passer penalty. The whistle had apparently blown but with the crowd noise Seymour didn’t hear it and threw Brady down anyway. Instead of a three and out, the Patriots had a first down.
“They said that they blew the whistle,” said Seymour. “But it was so loud I never heard a whistle, but the ref said it was unnecessary roughness, but I was like, ‘He wasn’t down,’ but they said I tried to sling him down, or whatever the case.”
Hue Jackson was also not happy about the call on the field.
“Well all I can say is what the official said,” said Jackson. “I know what I thought. I thought it was very loud and you couldn’t tell. When the ball was snapped our players are taught to make sure… you think it’s a live ball. The quarterback has it, you got to take him down. What they said to me is it was the way he took him down was flagrant and so they called a penalty. Obviously I felt different about it.”
A few plays later Seymour would be called for a facemask penalty. Those two plays accounted for 30 yards of the drive and the result was a Patriots touchdown.
Those three penalties kept the Raiders from a chance at scoring a touchdown and gave the Patriots a touchdown.
Then they got the ball back with a chance to atone for those mistakes. They drove into Patriot territory after converting on two third downs. They lined up with four wide receivers both times. The first time resulted in a wide open Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 16 yard gain. The second was a dump pass to Michael Bush that went for seven yards and a first down.
The Raiders would drive all the way to the Patriots’ 40 yard line and were faced with fourth and two. At that point, the two top options are to go for it or to try a Sebastian Janikowski field goal attempt. The Raiders opted to take the third option and punted. The decision wasn’t the aggressive one that you would expect from a coach who is “living on the edge,” especially in a game we knew the Raiders would need to score a lot of points.
Hue was asked about his decision after the game.
“It goes back to the same thing to making a decision, when I get a good feel about our kicker if he can make it. Either you stick him out there and let him kick it or you pin them back there and see if you can hold them and get field position. At that particular point in time, I made a decision to punt the ball.
“I didn’t want to [go for it] at that particular point in time. I thought it was most important at that time to try to play defense and see if we can pin them back there and hold them back there. Obviously there will be all kinds of decisions you wish you could have back but at the end of the day I felt very good with exactly how that part of it went.”
However, the decision wasn’t disastrous and after a short drive, the Raiders would get the ball back. Then on the first three plays Darren McFadden broke off a huge 41 yard run followed by a 17 yard scramble by Jason Campbell and then a 23 yard catch by Kevin Boss to put the Raiders in first and goal from the seven. They scored a touchdown two plays later to take the lead back 10-7.
This quick scoring drive would prove to be the last of the game for the Raiders. And the lead didn’t last long either.
Just as they had after the Raiders’ field goal to begin the game, the Patriots answered the Raiders’ score with a touchdown of their own, picking up huge chunks of yardage in both the passing game and the running game. They would take back the lead 14-10 and never relinquish it.
On the following Raider drive, they drove to first and goal at the seven again thanks in part to a big 29 yard end around run by Jacoby Ford. But on the next play Campbell had the most mysteriously terrible throw I have probably ever seen from him. He dropped back, couldn’t find an open receiver and simply threw the ball right into the middle of the field where there were three Patriot defenders and not a single Raider receiver anywhere in sight.
“Just a bonehead [play],” said Campbell. “Like I was going to throw the ball outside, and I started running around trying to make a play. It was just one of them, I’ve gotta throw it out of bounds… I kind of lost control of it a little bit as I was throwing it… I probably beat myself up more than anybody would, because I pride myself on taking care of the football and put the team in a good position to win, and unfortunately I didn’t do that.”
The interception was a backbreaker for the Raiders who desperately needed to answer the Patriots again and score before halftime. Instead, the Patriots took the ball and had a drive of their own to hit a field goal and head into the locker room up 17-10.
After halftime, it was more of the same, and the tide shifted toward the Patriots and did not return. They took the opening drive for a touchdown. The Patriots converted two third downs on that drive—one a 32 yard pass to Wes Welker, the other a 33 yard run for the touchdown. The 33 yard touchdown run was by rookie Steven Ridley and it was the first of his career. The Patriots were pulling away 24-10.
In response, the Raiders again were able to move the ball downfield but again kept out of the endzone. This time a questionable… no I don’t need to dance around it, it was a terrible call, derailed their chances. A flag was thrown for pass interference as Jacoby Ford was tripped by his defender at the two yard line. The call was overruled as incidental contact. The problem with the ruling was Ford was tripped up while the defender was facing him and in his kitchen and didn’t turn to look for the ball until Ford was already on the turf and the ball was in the air. That is a pass interference any way you look at it. But regardless, the Raiders couldn’t pick up the first down and settled for a field goal.
Then it was time for the Patriots to answer with another touchdown, which they did thanks to another large helping of Wes Welker. The drive took the game into the fourth quarter and left little time for the Raiders to mount a comeback–a comeback that would require three scores as they were down 30-13.
They tried though and were given a boost after a 26 yard screen catch on first down. Then a third down conversion on a 14 yard catch by Darrius Heyward-Bey kept hope alive. A helmet to helmet roughing penalty on the Patriots would put the Raiders in scoring position at the 30 yard line. But another Campbell interception, this time to nose tackle Vince Wilfork, would kill another scoring opportunity.
As crucial as every scoring opportunity was in this game, the Raiders were now battling the clock and that interception all but sealed their fate. From there the Patriots ground out the clock. The Raiders got the ball back with under two minutes left and were able to score a meaningless touchdown. The drive featured a 58 yard catch by Darrius Heyward-Bey—the longest of his career. It ended with a 6 yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore. A failed onsides kick would make it official.
The Raiders are now 2-2 and the two losses they had were the two games Jason Campbell had over 300 yards passing. In their two wins he had under 108 and 153 yards passing respectively. He also had just his second and third interceptions in this game. The only other interception he had was on the hail mary pass to end the Bills game in week two.
Wes Welker was the story of the game. He had 9 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown and had his way with the Raiders’ beat up secondary.
Darren McFadden put up near his usual numbers. In each game this season he has had between 150 and 175 yards from scrimmage. He had 123 yards from scrimmage on 75 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving. He had just 14 carries however which gave him 5.4 yards per carry but his absence from the offense was noticeable. He sat out the entire second quarter for what Hue said was injury related.
“I’m not going to tell you it was just an injury,” said Jackson. “There’s some things we have to check on him, I think he came back in the game… I know there was something there for a second, but he’s fine.”
Kevin Boss had his best game as a Raider. It was just his second game back and he finished with 4 catches for 78 yards. He had a near touchdown in garbage time that would have made his day look better. It is just his second game back after missing a month with injury.
The Raiders actually outgained the Patriots in net yards 504 to 409 but it was the penalties and turnovers that did them in. The Patriots had difficulty with the raucous sold-out crowd, but the prolonged drives quieted the crowd early and noise was not a factor after the initial drive.
Next week the Raiders will have to deal with the crowd noise in Houston against a Texans team that beat up on the Steelers today. That will be another tough test as they will hope not to dip below .500. If they hope to have any shot, it will require a lot of film work and a short term memory.
Everyone talks about the Patriots’ ability to bounce back after a loss. If the Raiders ever hope to be a contender, they will need to do the same.
|New England Patriots (3-1-0)||Oakland Raiders (2-2-0)|