Despite starting the 2020 NFL Season with a record of 1-1 (of which, the loss brought more positives than negatives,) the New England Patriots were somewhat criticized for not showing more offensive versatility. That is, outside of quarterback Cam Newton, of course.
On Sunday, the New England Transit Authority showed that there is more than just one effective train in the fleet.
Rex Burkhead had two rushing touchdowns, as well as a receiving touchdown. Sony Michel finished with nine carries for 117 yards. Undrafted Rookie J.J. Taylor carried the ball 11 times for 43 yards. As a team, New England rushed for a season-high 250 yards in the Patriots’ 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Patriots were also buoyed by a strong performance from an offensive line that was facing some questions heading into this matchup. New England’s line were down center David Andrews who was placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday with a hand injury. Joe Thuney shifted over to center, and rookie Michael Onwenu started at left guard, each performing well in his new role.
Newton was unspectacular, yet serviceable; going 17 of 28 passing for 162 yards, one touchdown and an interception. His counterpart, Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr finished 24 of 32 for 261 yards and a two touchdown passes. However, Carr would surrender two costly fumbles; each leading to a New England field goal and late touchdown, respectively.
ON THE FIELD
In the first half, both teams struggled to find an offensive heading. New England held a two-to-one field goal advantage, until late in the second quarter. Newton capped a 12-play, 86 yard drive by finding Burkhead for an 11-yard touchdown. However, Las Vegas would answer with an aggressive drive of its own, culminating in a Derek Carr touchdown pass to tight end Foster Moreau.
At the half, New England held a 13-10 lead.
On their first drive of the third quarter, the Patriots would get a much-needed boost from a player that arguably needed it the most. Sony Michel, who had struggled throughout the first two games, broke free for a 38-yard run. It was the longest-yardage run for Michel in his Patriots career. Three plays later Burkhead capped the drive with a spinning 5-yard TD run to stretch New England’s lead to 20-10.
After both teams traded field goals, the Patriots would earn their final offensive points of the day. New England consumed five minutes of clock with a 10-play, 86-yard, finished with a 5-yard touchdown rush by Burkhead.
However, the Pats were not done lighting the Gillette Stadium scoreboard, just yet. Following Burkhead’s third touchdown of the day, linebacker Shilique Calhoun (who already had two forced fumbles) helped pressure the ball loose from Carr in the endzone. Defensive end Deatrich Wise, Jr. recovered the fumble for a score, securing the win for New England.
THIS WAS FOR JAMES
Running back James White remained absent for the second straight week, following the sudden passing of his father Tyrone just one week earlier. With White out, the Patriots’ running backs picked up the slack for an offense that struggled early. However it was clear that their thoughts and hearts were with their beloved teammate and captain.
Following the game, Rex Burkhead said that “every time (he) reached the end zone Sunday, it was for James White.”
Sony Michel added, “We came together and just played hard. That’s what James White does.”
Head coach Bill Belichick also praised his team’s ability to play through adversity, saying: “We played our best 30 minutes of football in the second half, which is what we needed. They didn’t get down about it, they just went out there and responded.”
The Patriots, who improved to 2-1 on the 2020 NFL season, have won the last six meetings with the Raiders and improved to 47-9 in regular-season games following a loss.
Bill Belichick joined George Halas (318) and Don Shula (328) as the only coaches in NFL history to reach 275 regular-season victories
The Patriots are ‘goin’ to Kansas City’ to battle the defending champion Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday, October 4th at 4:25 ET.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC