BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are in trouble.
Consider that the Raiders entered Sunday’s game with an 0-2 record, outscored by opponents 49-28, surrendering 200 rushing yards per game and never really competing through the first 120 minutes of the season. Yet they waltzed into Foxboro, took a 3-0 lead deep into the second quarter and scored what would have been a game-tying (or perhaps game-winning) touchdown in the final minute, if not for a holding penalty.READ MORE: Head Of The Charles Regatta Will Return To Boston This Fall
Bill Belichick can talk all he wants about “it’s good to be 2-1” and “what happened last week isn’t what happens this week,” but he knows that his team is nowhere near where it’s supposed to be through nearly 20 percent of the season. And the major reason why is that the offensive line just isn’t working.
The tackles — Nate Solder on the left side, Sebastian Vollmer on the right side — are OK, but not great. The reality is that in the NFL, the tackles are going to get beaten by elite pass rushers from time to time. But it’s on the interior — Jordan Devey, Dan Connolly and Marcus Cannon on Sunday — that everything’s going wrong.
Through three weeks, Tom Brady has had absolutely no pocket in which to operate, as heavy pressure continues to shoot right up the gut of the Patriots’ offense. And against a porous rushing defense, the Patriots couldn’t generate any push whatsoever between the tackles — not even when they hurrieed to the line to try to catch the defense off guard. As a result, Stevan Ridley finished with 54 yards on 19 carries (2.8 YPC) and Shane Vereen finished with 20 yards on seven carries (2.9 YPC), and Brady absorbed six hits while having to protect his own neck after taking almost every snap.
While the insertion of Bryan Stork for Devey in the fourth quarter was a good first step, it’s clear that the Patriots have some issues on the offensive line. Of course, lots of folks will point to the departure of longtime O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia as well as the Logan Mankins trade, which admittedly looks worse by the day. But the fact is that these issues existed last year, when Brady was sacked 40 times. Scarnecchia and Mankins were part of the problem then, so there’s no reason to believe that their absences are to blame for this year’s struggles.
As for what the Patriots can do, it’ll be interesting how Dave DeGuglielmo, Josh McDaniels and Belichick adjust their coaching to focus in on their most glaring weakness. But as Sunday’s 60-minute struggle vs. the winless Raiders showed, if a vast improvement doesn’t come along rather swiftly, this season could go south in a hurry.
That’ll do it for offensive line talk this week (oh, who am I kidding — I’ll be talking about Stork at some point in the next 500 words or so), and it’s time to dive into the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ narrow 16-9 win over the Raiders.
–OK, full credit to the Raiders for competing in this game, but man oh man, that classic Raiders ineptitude was on full display early and often. On the very first snap of the game, quarterback Derek Carr frantically shouted at everyone on the offense to get in the right position as the play clock wound down. Did they not have a plan for their first offensive play, on a first-and-10 from the 20-yard line? Later in the first, the Raiders came out of a timeout and got penalized for an illegal formation (on a passing play that impossibly lost 6 yards), which is to say — they called a timeout, picked a play to run, and then lined up in an illegal formation anyway. Oakland followed it up by calling another timeout. In the second quarter, Oakland was called for a false start on a punt. On a punt!
Raiders football, baby!
–Though with some of the sloppy mistakes the Patriots made, I was starting to think the Raiders were contagious. Late in the first quarter, the Patriots were driving, picking up huge chunks of yards on the ground, but Cameron Fleming got called for holding and it set up a first-and-20. They then ran a ridiculous fake end-around screen pass to Shane Vereen, and it developed about as quickly as Tom Brady running a 40-yard dash, and then it was second-and-25. Josh McDaniels loves calling the stupidest plays you’ll see in the entire NFL each weekend, and they never work.
Aside from that, when you’re playing the horrible Oakland rush defense, you don’t have to cheat by holding.
A bad rushing play set up a third-and-22, and Brady almost got killed on the ensuing play, on which the Patriots were once again called for holding. They punted, drawing a well-deserved round of boos from the home crowd.
–Then there was the debacle down on the goal line before halftime. What in the world was that?
Possessing just one timeout with 46 seconds left, the Patriots handed off to Ridley to pick up a first down on third-and-1 at the Oakland 3-yard line. That set up a first-and-goal. The ball was set with 30 seconds left in the half, and the Patriots calmly and slowly huddled up. They didn’t snap the ball until there were just 12 seconds left on the clock, and they ran a running play, with Vereen rushing for no gain. The Pats had to burn their final timeout, which forced them to call a passing play on third down, thereby making the job that much easier for the defense. Well, it got even easier for Oakland, because Dan Connolly’s shotgun snap went straight to Brady’s ankles. The QB looked like an old man trying to pick up a pile of his dog’s droppings (fitting, considering the poopshow that was taking place) and was lucky to be able to get off a desperate incompletion to stop the clock and salvage three points.
Situations like that used to be a guaranteed seven points for the Patriots, but they were only able to score one touchdown on this day despite getting inside the 3-yard line on three separate occasions.
–Are we doing the “overanalyze every single pass from Brady” thing? If so, overthrowing Rob Gronkowski when there’s this much green space around him? Woof.
–But if we’re doing that, we should also point out the beauties, like this one late in the second quarter. Brady perfectly lofted a pass over LaMarr Woodley and in front of Carlos Rogers to complete a 10-yard pass along the right sideline.
—I guess you could say that Jerod Mayo got lost a little bit on this 12-yard completion to Marcel Reece:
–I touched on this in a separate story, but the numbers are so striking that I’m running them again:
Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman: 33 receptions, 376 yards, 3 TDs.
Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Michael Hoomanawanui, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins: 15 receptions, 134 yards, zero TDs.
That means that two people have caught 220 percent more passes for 280 percent more yards and infinity percent more touchdowns than five people.
Also of note: The duo of Vince Wilfork and Dominique Easley has caught just one fewer pass than the duo of Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola. Is that good?
–I found this to be rather interesting, too:
Tom Brady’s stats on Sunday: 24-for-37, 234 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Aaron Rodgers’ stats on Sunday: 16-for-27, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Peyton Manning’s stats on Sunday: 31-for-49, 303 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
That’s two future Hall of Fame QBs and another who has a chance to be an all-time great not looking too good on Sunday (though Manning has an excuse, playing in the toughest place to play in the NFL). I guess what I’m trying to say is that football is weird and crazy.
(What the heck — #ReleaseTheStork was a successful hashtag campaign, so might as well strike while the iron’s hot.)
–Every single Oakland reporter asked every single Raiders player as well as the head coach if they thought Gabe Jackson actually committed a holding infraction on the would-be game-tying touchdown. Lo and behold, nobody in the entire Raiders organization thought it was a hold. Funny, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone bothered to ask anyone on Oakland if they thought the Logan Ryan pass interference penalty was bogus — you know, the one where Andre Holmes grabbed Ryan’s arm and shoulder and shoved him to the ground like so:
Also funny, Gabe Jackson himself said, “I thought it was a clean block.” He was correct, at least for a little while … but he definitely needlessly and stupidly wrapped his arm around Patrick Chung …
… and then tackled him to the ground.
But hey, it’s not like the Raiders have ever harped on a perceived “missed call” before and used it as an excuse for losing a game in New England, right?READ MORE: 3 Boston Police Officers, City Sued For Alleged Excessive Force On 4 Protesters In May 2020 Riot
–Speaking of Oakland complaining and making excuses, Jonathan Kraft relayed a story on Patriots pregame. Apparently, Raiders owner Mark Davis strode into the Patriots offices on Sunday, looked at the Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl XXXVI and told Jonathan Kraft, “You know that’s our trophy.” What a loser. I pointed out on Twitter that there are more than 20 reasons the Raiders can’t blame the tuck rule for costing them that win. They had ample opportunity to make a play after the tuck rule, and they failed to make one. The Patriots, meanwhile, made 18 positive plays, and their kicker made a miracle kick in the snow to force OT.
A Twitter follower also reminded me that the Raiders failed to convert a third-and-1 and then decided to punt on fourth-and-1 on the drive that preceded the infamous Charles Woodson-on-Tom Brady hit. If you want to win a playoff football game, you have to take a chance and execute in short-yardage situations, and you also have to step up after you think the refs blew a call and make a play. The Raiders did neither, yet the organization and fan base remains salty about the tuck rule. I suppose it’s easier to blame it all on other people rather than accepting fault, but it’s been 13 years, people. It’s just pathetic.
–Considering Julian Edelman is basically the only reliable receiver on the team, he might want to think twice about trying to hurdle multiple men at once:
That could have ended badly.
–In terms of “The Most Incredible Athletic Feat That May Be Forgotten” from this game, Edelman’s catch about four minutes into the fourth quarter may earn that title.
For starters, Edelman caught this ball:
While getting mugged in the face:
And after tapping both toes inside the boundary and securing the ball, Edelman got up and immediately starting talking trash to all the Raiders on the sideline who were screaming that he didn’t make the catch.
Well done all around, Jules. Well done.
–In case you missed it, every single point scored in this game was made by a player with a last name ending in -kowski: Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Sebastian Janikowski. Can anybody help me with a clarification — do we call those guys Polish-Americans, or is “white dude” the politically correct term? I always get that confused.
–Rob Gronkowski caught one touchdown, but he let another one slip right through his Hamburger Helper mitts. Rather than read my description of that pass, which was tipped by Woodson before getting to Gronkowski, let’s hear the recap straight from the tight end’s mouth:
“[Woodson] made a good play and when I went up for it, I was like, ‘Aw!’ I was going and then saw him tip it and I was like, ‘Dang!’ And all of a sudden, it went right in front of me, and my eyes lit up, I went to grab it and just tuck it in, and it just came out. It was just one of those plays where you just want to hit yourself in the head, like, dang it! I gotta get those. It’s gonna probably run in my mind for a while, but you gotta move on.”
It’s no surprise that when Gronkowski makes a mistake, his first thought is to hit himself in the head.
Here’s the exact moment where he thought “dang!”
–Gronkowski is very clearly not yet at 100 percent … but that doesn’t mean he can’t barrel through three fully grown adult male humans when he gets a head of steam.
Poor Charles Woodson. That’s his chest you can see underneath Gronkowski’s right knee. Way to respect your elders, Gronk.
–I think more than any other player who left in the past year, the one the Patriots miss the most is Brandon Spikes. Yeah, he was a knucklehead, and yeah, Belichick and Spikes were never going to coexist successfully, and yeah, I understand why the Patriots would want to distance themselves from the one player who was close to Aaron Hernandez. I get that. At the same time, there are drives when the Patriots need an intimidating presence to smash someone in the face and make them think twice about their next step on every single play.
Though I do think Hightower did a decent Spikes impression by demolishing McFadden on a slow-developing pass over the middle.
–Mark Wahlberg was at the game as a guest of Bob Kraft, and while most people were hung up on Marky Mark leaving the Patriots owner hanging on a high-five request, I was mostly tickled by the fact that Wahlberg couldn’t take time out of his life to attend his brother’s wedding but did manage to carve out a few hours to go to Foxboro and watch the Patriots play a Week 3 matchup against the Raiders.
–I also got a kick out of Derek Carr’s response when asked what he was yelling about following the Wilfork interception.
“I can promise you it wasn’t profanity or anything like that,” Carr said. “I don’t remember the last time I said a cuss word so it wasn’t that, I can promise you that.”
The Raiders, long regarded as the meanest and nastiest franchise in all of professional sports, have a quarterback who is afraid people might think he said a swear word. Up is down, left is right, cats and dogs living together … what is happening?
–The crowd at Gillette didn’t have a ton to cheer for. They made a lot of noise for the Gronkowski touchdown, and they cheered loudly on the Gronk TD drop, before they realized he didn’t make the catch. But the loudest cheer of the day came on the replay when Brady raced across the field at full speed to throw a block for a reversing-field Shane Vereen. That was some real speed from the QB. I guess it’s just the football slowing him down when he tries to scramble out of the pocket.
—Great timing by the legendary Jim Rogash, as he snapped a photo that simultaneously captured Darren McFadden’s exuberance for scoring in the final minute as well as the yellow flag flying in the background:
It was all in all a very ugly game, and it came down to the officials getting too involved in crunch time, but as a famous man used to say, “Just win, baby!”
Screen shots from NFL.com/GameRewind.Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Possible?
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