INSIDERS: Report Card Patriots vs Raiders
By Scout.com Staff
REPORT CARD VS. RAIDERS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Forget any injury to Tom Brady. He was excellent in the opener. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 306 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was not sacked, although he did take some shots from the Raiders rush at times. He completed passes to eight different receivers, used his backs and tight ends well, had good footwork in the pocket and managed the game well. Deion Branch, who sat out the preseason, was superb with seven receptions for 99 yards and a score while Tim Dwight also caught a 5-yard TD pass for his only catch. Tight end Ben Watson caught two passes for 55 yards on the Patriots first possession before being shut out, but other than a third-quarter lull, the Patriots moved the ball effectively through the air, which they had to do without much of a running game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The only thing that saved this from being an F was that running back Corey Dillon scored two rushing touchdowns. Otherwise, this was total domination by the Raiders front, which penetrated the backfield and strung Dillon out wide all evening. The Patriots offensive line was manhandled in the running game and it left Dillon with little room to run. He had six carries for 3 yards at the half and finished with 23 for 63. His longest run of the night was a 10-yard run that came late with the Pats trying to run out the clock. While he scored on runs of 8 yards and 2 yards, he also was stuffed on a fourth-and-one play in which lead fullback Dan Klecko didn't block anyone. Dillon had nine runs that went for 1 yard or fewer and three that ended in losses. It was a long night for New England's supposedly potent ground attack.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- With the exception of the game's opening drive in which Kerry Collins completed all four of his passes for 63 yards and a touchdown and also a 73-yard bomb for a touchdown to Randy Moss, the Patriots pass defense played well. It only sacked Collins once, but it generated consistent pressure that forced Collins to unload the ball while either backpedaling or running out of the pocket. While he completed his first four passes and his last four, he was just 10-for-32 in between. He ended with a respectable 81.8 passer rating after completing 18 of 40 passes for 265 yards with three touchdowns and an interception that came when a blind side hit popped the ball upward where Vince Wilfork snared it. Beyond the big slip-up on Moss for the touchdown, the secondary did a solid job. The Raiders converted only 4 of 13 third downs in the game and while Collins did toss three TD passes, the overall pass defense was solid.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The overall numbers weren't terrible with LaMont Jordan running 18 times for 70 yards and the Raiders running for 92 as a team. But it wasn't a great effort either. The Pats struggled early in their 3-4 base and had to switch to a beefier 4-3 front to stop Jordan. The Raiders new running back had four 7-yard runs and added a 12 and a long of 14. He also had 10 runs for fewer than 3 yards in what was a hit or miss night for the run defense. The Raiders converted their only short-yardage run and it seemed like Jordan was close to breaking a couple for big yards. He didn't. Overall, though, the Pats run defense was average at best.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- First the good. Josh Miller punted well, downing three punts inside the Raiders 20, including two on the 4-yard line. Tim Dwight had a 27-yard punt return on which he almost broke free. Ellis Hobbs had an impressive 37-yard kickoff return. Now the bad. The Patriots had an extra point blocked and a punt blocked late in the game when only that kind of play could provide the Raiders an inkling of hope for a comeback. The Pats also struggled covering kickoffs. The Raiders return four of their six kick returns past the 30-yard line and averaged 25.2 yards per return.
COACHING: B-plus -- The switch to the 4-3 defensive front was a terrific in-game adjustment. The offensive game plan designed to attack the Raiders pass defense also proved solid. But the Patriots made a few mental mistakes that fall to the coaches. Getting a punt blocked late in the game is not only a bad mental breakdown, but is also bad awareness. The Raiders had to be coming after that punt and the Patriots should have had a sense of urgency in protection. The coaches obviously didn't relay that point well enough. The Patriots failed on a fourth-and-one rush, but the decision to go for it at the Oakland 31 can hardly be second-guessed. The rotations used at tackle between Tom Ashworth, Matt Light and Nick Kaczur helped keep that trio fresh, which was important considering that Ashworth and Light both missed some preseason action. It was a decent night for the coaches, who had to keep the team focused amidst all the pregame pomp and circumstance surrounding the Super Bowl XXXIX celebration and NFL Kickoff festivities. The coaches never really came up with an answer to the Raiders run defense, but made up for that by picking them apart through the air.
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