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Monday, September 22, 2014

Patriots Hang On 16-9 In Home Opener, Raiders Self-Destruct In Most Raiders Way Possible

It's only Week 3 of the 2014 NFL regular season but I am already going weary of describing a Patriots win as ugly and unfortunately, I think that will be a habit all season long. Of course, what's most important is that New England (2-1) came out on top of Oakland (0-3) 16-9 this afternoon at Gillette Stadium in their home opener. Still, we all know all that matters around here is the postseason and bad habits that creep up now will be nearly impossible to eradicate by then against quality opponents.

The good news is that I think that the Patriots' defense could be the best that they've had in years. For the second game in a row, they held their opponent to a single-digit point total and this time, they spiced it up but not allowing the hapless Raiders to get into the end zone. Clearly, Minnesota and Oakland's offenses are two of the worst in the NFL but we have to be positive about something, right?

New England's offense is the most worrisome aspect of their team, by far. Where to begin with their myriad problems? The offensive line stinks, they only allowed two sacks today but Tom Brady (24 of 37 for 234 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs) was hurried and knocked down numerous other times. The lack of weapons is also downright scary.

Julian Edelman (10 catches, 84 yards) is Brady's only trusted receiver with Rob Gronkowski (3 catches, 44 yards, TD) still working his way back into form and Brandon LaFell/Danny Amendola/Aaron Dobson (inactive again) nowhere to be seen. The running game carried the Pats last Sunday in Minnesota but today, they combined for just 83 yards on 29 carries. Yuck.

Against almost any other club, this would have gone to overtime. Luckily, it was the Raiders so when rookie Derek Carr (21 of 34 for 174 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) drove them near the goal-line, they had a touchdown run by Darren McFadden called back for a holding penalty on a lineman. Naturally, on the next play his pass was deflected and intercepted by Vince Wilfork (his 3rd career interception, 2nd vs. Oakland).

The only points in the first quarter came from a 49-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. The Pats went up 10-3 in the second quarter with a 6-yard touchdown catch by Gronk and Stephen Gostkowski's 21-yard field goal to end the half after they couldn't punch it in from near the goal-line.

Janikowski's two field goals in the third quarter (37, 47) helped rack up the fantasy points for fans. Gostkowski hit two more field goals (20, 36) in the dull fourth quarter as New England continued to falter in the red zone (another main issue).

This contest set football back about 20 years so be thankful that it didn't drag on any longer. New England gets an extra day to prepare for their first nationally broadcast game of the season: next Monday (8:30, ESPN) at Kansas City (1-2). The Chiefs looked terrible in Week 1 (26-10 loss to Titans), almost rallied vs. Denver in Week 2 (24-17) before finally putting it together this afternoon with a 34-15 win over the Dolphins (1-2). Predictably, Miami has played poorly since that big Week 1 win over New England.

If Jamaal Charles misses another game, I like New England's chances to go into Arrowhead Stadium and pick up what would be a nice road win. Kansas City's defense is depleted and Alex Smith is the type of game manager that will put up good numbers vs. New England but probably won't beat them especially now that they have Darrelle Revis.

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