After an incredible game against a difficult opponent in Seattle last week, expectations were high coming into week 3. The predictions for the game were very much up and down; some believing the Pats would win with a blowout and others feeling it would be a close game.
And, in true Patriots fashion, the team gave us as much of a roller coaster ride as those predictions. The first half was a rough showing for the offense, with most drives ending in punts or field goals. The first touchdown came just minutes before halftime, followed by the defense allowing Las Vegas to tromp down the field and score within 28 seconds.
The team seemed to get their heads in the game after halftime and scored on every possession there on out. Some familiar faces had memorable performances, particularly within the run game and continued to show an improved team this season.
Since the 2020 season began, Sony Michel has not had the production the team had hoped for. Through the first two weeks, Michel totaled a measly 56 yards. As this year’s team has been different offensively than previous seasons, running the ball has taken precedence. Needing big runs from what you presume to be your starting running back is a must.
This week against the Raiders, Michel decided to give us a glimpse back into his rookie year self. Rushing for 117 yards on 9 carries, he totaled almost half of the team’s rushing yards in the game himself. He also had two of his longest runs of his short career; with one for 38 yards and his best of the day for 48 yards.
The running game has been a concern in the first few weeks and many were questioning if Michel would finally show signs of life. A lot of runs have fallen on the shoulders of Newton and the sustainability of that also raised questions. With the backs able to rush for season highs of 250 yards and an average of 6.6 yards per carry, it appears the team is taking the right strides in improving the run game.
Deatrich Wise Jr.
Sunday was the day for Deatrich Wise Jr. to mark off all the boxes on his stat sheet for the game. If his performance in this game was not the best of his career, it is certainly up there.
The defense as a whole had a bit of an off game. But the young guys had some standout moments once again. Normally ending a game with 5 total sacks, a quarterback hit and a sack would be a fantastic day for any defensive end. But Wise was able to make it even better.
Late in the 4th quarter, with the pressure on Derek Carr from Chase Winovich, Wise and Shilique Calhoun were able to get to the quarterback easily. Taking Carr down in the endzone caused the ball to fumble and Wise came up with the recovery. Luckily for the Patriots, upon further review, the call was changed from a safety to a touchdown. With the score credited to Wise, it sealed another win for New England.
As it is only week 3 of the season, there is still some worry amongst fans about how this defense will continue this season. Because so many of the veteran players who opted out were on this side of the ball, the younger guys have had to step up their performances much quicker than anticipated. With a performance like this from Wise, and from what we have seen already from Winovich, Adrian Phillips, J.C. Jackson etc., the future looks bright for this team.
It is only week 3 and another member of the Patriots has had the best game performance of their career, this time being Rex Burkhead. With James White tending to his family in need and missing his second game, Burkhead has been the receiving back Cam Newton can rely on.
Burkhead was all over the field on Sunday, displaying his versatility once again. Rushing for a total of 49 yards on 6 carries and scoring 2 touchdowns, this stat line alone would have been an improvement to the Patriots backfield. However, Rex was not done yet; he also had 7 receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, making it his first game with three touchdowns in his career.
In one of the biggest surprises of the day, the Raiders’ defense was able to virtually shut down the Pats’ passing game almost completely. As running the ball often throughout the game did not appear to be the game plan going in, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made the adjustments needed to get the dynamic backfield going.
Coming into his fourth year in New England, Burkhead continues to be a dependable back for quarterbacks. As the season progresses, it would not be surprising if we get more performances like Sunday’s from Rex, even some in conjunction with James White when he returns.
–Joe Thuney filled in for injured starting center David Andrews and helped lead the offensive line to a very successful day creating holes for the running backs
–Chase Winovich gets a strip sack which then set up a fumble recovery by Lawrence Guy
–N’Keal Harry’s game stats may look as if he didn’t have a good game, but his great blocking provided much needed help for the running backs to continue their successful game
–Joejuan Williams, Devin McCourty and Jonathan Jones were very well prepared in shutting down Raiders’ tight end Darren Waller, leaving him to only 2 catches for 9 yards, and his first catch not happening until deep in the 4th quarter
Wide Receiver Group
Sunday’s game was not a repeat for the team’s wide receivers from their memorable performances last week versus the Seahawks. Against the Las Vegas Raiders, the wide receiver group ended with their lowest completion percentage of the season at 63% and their lowest average yards per reception at 9.5 yards. It should be noted that all the blame cannot be placed on the receivers completely, as Cam Newton’s passing was not nearly as sharp this week.
After having the best game of his career, Julian Edelman finished the day with only 2 catches on 6 targets for 23 yards. N’Keal Harry also had quite the drop off this week, ending with only 2 catches on 4 targets for 34 yards.
This Patriots team is fairly young and in transition with a new quarterback and a newly adjusted playbook which will result in very up and down games. As the season continues, the team will gel together more, and receivers are bound to have better games.
Although his overall performance wasn’t all that bad, Cam Newton certainly did not have as great of a game as the last couple of weeks. It’s not expected for Newton to play every game like he did against the Seahawks, but it seemed to take him a bit longer to get into the swing of things on Sunday.
The first half of the game was not the best we’ve seen from the quarterback this season so far. Late in the first quarter, he had a panic thrown interception resulting in the Raiders scoring the first points in the game. Throughout the rest of the first half, despite the offense improving to move the chains and finally scoring a touchdown, some of Newton’s throws were off. With such great success in the air last week, many were hopeful to see a continuance of that in this game.
Fortunately for the team, it seemed things were back on track for Cam after the interception. On every drive after, the team was able to make it into the endzone, eventually able to beat the Raiders 36-20. One thing that did stand out, and not in a good way, was many of Newton’s throws were into very tight coverage, a few of which risked being picked off. His accuracy so far this season has not been an issue, but this will be something to keep eyes on next week.
Because it is only week 3 and this is a young and new team, there will be weeks where it may take time for the offense to get things going. Sunday was no exception. Thankfully for New England, Newton was able to snap out of his funk early on in the game, not allowing it to greatly impact the result.
Defensive Personnel – Timeout Usage
In very non-Patriot-like form during Sunday’s second half, Bill Belichick had used all three of the team’s timeouts with 12:30 left in the 4th quarter. It was hard to ignore the reason for this, and it is certainly a spot in need of improving.
All three timeouts were taken due to the defensive personnel not being set; with either 12 men on the field or substitutions not being made quickly enough. To avoid penalties, it left Belichick no choice but to use the timeouts. As seen during the game, the Patriots lucked out in that it did not negatively impact the team nor did they seem to could have used timeouts in the remainder of the game.
In the big scheme of things, it’s not a huge problem. However, these silly mistakes could have been costly to the team. These kinds of mental errors cannot be made throughout the season, especially against a tough opponent like week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
As the unique 2020 season continues, the Patriots are showing improvements where needed. As previously stated, the first few weeks are always a bit rusty for teams but particularly this year with the lack of preseason. But this team seems determined and ready to continue down a path of success and took strides towards that in Sunday’s game.
Something that seems apparent to most of those watching their games this year is this team has a lot of heart and is working very well together. Having fun and genuinely enjoying games, while also winning, is always great to see as a fan. This may not seem important to many people, but having that chemistry can make or break a season.
With many people worried about Cam Newton “fitting into the Patriot way,” games like this against the Raiders should put those worries at ease. This is going to be a fun and memorable team and year.
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @sarmarxo