Week 3 Report: vs. Raiders
First off, what a very sloppy game played by the Patriots on Sunday. I expected them to come in and play much better offensively and that simply did not happen. I believed that this offense would move at will on the weak Raiders defense. I expected the defense to play well, and they did just that only surrendering 9 points and 240 yards to the Raiders. It was a very rough one to watch, but a win is a win, and the Patriots are currently even with the Broncos at 2-1, which is all that matters.
The offensive line, yet again, was very inconsistent. Brady had some clean pockets throughout the day, but for the most part, he was under duress a lot. The offensive line also couldn't run block consistently either. In the first half, Ridley ran for 45 yards and couldn't even muster up 20 yards in the second half. One play in particular that sticks out was when Ridley was taking a stretch run to the left and Solder was pushed so far back that he hit Ridley coming off the handoff. Another play, four of the five offensive linemen let their man by on the pass rush. Only Connolly at center held up his man, the rest just left Brady out to dry. These two things are never good sights to see from your OLine. This offensive line needs to figure itself out. Solder and Vollmer, two guys I thought we could count on, haven't been close to themselves. The interior line is still a mess. Devey should not be on the field and if BB thinks Stork isn't ready to start at center then he should at least try Kline at RG over Devey at this point. I'm still hoping that Stork can develop fast and become the starter soon. This way, the offensive line could finally see some continuity. The biggest glaring weakness on this team is without a doubt the offensive line. They have looked very good on some plays and really really bad on other plays. Right now, the bad is certainly outweighing the good for this unit. It all starts there. If they can finally become a cohesive and consistent group, the offense will become a lot more effective and productive. If not, we will continue to see this inconsistent offensive play where they struggle to move the ball and put up points.
Outside of the offensive line, I think Brady played a so so game. He certainly missed a couple passes that should have been made, but he was also taking consistent heat most of the day. He never looked completely comfortable back there, and rightfully so the way his protection has been. His pass to Gronk in endzone sticks out most to me. I think that play should have been an easy TD, but the pass was short. That was the glaring miss I saw from Tom. I hated the time management by the offense at the end of the first half as well. I think they killed too much time and ended up screwing themselves with the bad snap play. Overall outside of that, he hit many of his throws, but just didn't get enough help from his O-Line to make more things happen.
It was good to see Ridley running hard. He was very decisive and hit the hole hard. If the offensive line set him up with more holes, he would have had a much bigger day. He ran hard and got nineteen carries without fumbling, which is always a plus with him. Vereen wasn't much of a factor on Sunday and really hasn't been much at all this season. I expected him to be used in a lot of different situations (spread out wide, slot, etc), but we haven't seen that yet either. Hopefully McDaniels can find a way to get Vereen in spots where he can expose defenses.
As for exposing defenses, the WRs do nothing close to that. Outside of Julian Edelman, who again had a ten catch game, the wide outs were almost nonexistent. Whether that is on them for not getting separation, or on Brady for not finding them, it doesn't matter. This offense needs other players to step up and be difference makers. Once this offense plays a good defense (like Cincy in 2 weeks), Edelman will be doubled and someone else must find a way to take over. I think Gronk is closer and closer by the day to becoming the matchup nightmare he normally is. By Week 6-7 I think he'll be back to form. One thing that is very concerning is how KT and Dobson have both been swapped on the inactive list. Are they both competing for a roster spot? If so, I don't see how BB moves on from a second round pick this early. Brandon LaFell looked pretty good on Sunday to me. He's coming along and I see him becoming a solid wide out in this offense. The biggest question mark is still Danny Amendola. His production has been pretty bad considering the money he is being paid. I think he's a candidate to get cut once Browner returns from suspension or even a chance we trade him. He just isn't the player we thought he was. He's very good with the ball in his hands, but the ball never finds him. Hopefully KT, Dobson and LaFell can continue to grow in this offense and show some production. If two of three can step up and become consistent contributors, the passing game should be fine. The main problem for the wide receivers may again fall on the offensive line not giving enough time to make plays. It doesn’t matter who is to blame, because everyone needs to step up their play at this point.
The defense deserves props for their performance yesterday. They held an NFL team to 9 points and just 240 yards of offense. All three units on defense played a very good game in my opinion. The defensive line lost Siliga early, but didn't let that ruin the day as Wilfork looked very solid in the middle. The D-Line was getting a good push on most plays and slowed McFadden down a lot. Jerod Mayo was all over the field again on Sunday as he had his second straight very good game. Dont'a Hightower also had another good game coming off arguably his best game as a Patriot last week. Hightower playing at the LOS a lot more has improved his effectiveness by a mile. He looks much more comfortable where he is this season. Chandler Jones had another good game being very disruptive off of the end. Revis allowed a couple passes to be completed, but overall I still feel he is playing very well. He isn't in total lockdown mode yet, but he hasn't been assigned a WR where he would need to step up and play. We will see just how good Revis is in two weeks when AJ Green and the Bengals come to town. The secondary looked solid. Logan Ryan didn't look as good as he did last week. He definitely regressed and I'm hoping Dennard can play next Monday to relieve Ryan. I don’t want to rush Ryan too much and then ruin his confidence for good. If we can take it slow with him, then that’s what we should do. We also need to remember that this defense isn't even 100% yet. Jamie Collins certainly wasn’t 100% on Sunday. Vince Wilfork looks to only be getting better, same with Jones and Hightower. Also, Brandon Browner's return is right around the corner and this defense will unleash its real weapons then. We will see what Belichick really has up his sleeve once he gets Browner for this defense. This defense is unproven so far as they haven’t seen any real offensive talent just yet, even though they have won games for the team. Players on this side of the ball will keep developing and improving as the season progresses. This defense has a chance to be scary good by mid-season if all goes as planned. I really like what I’ve seen out of this defense the first three weeks and hopefully they keep up this dominant play vs. Kansas City on Monday night.
So overall it was a rough game and really was too close for comfort against a team that isn’t very good. The Patriots should have gone out and won by two/three and handled business, but that did not happen. It’s time to regroup and find ways to get better in every area and slowly improve as the season progresses so this team is peaking at the perfect time.
Positives: Wilfork, Jones, Mayo, Hightower, Edelman
Negatives: The entire O-Line, Ryan, Amendola