The Rear View Mirror – Game Ten

New England defeated the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City 33-8. The game was so one sided that ESPN’s Win Probability estimator gave the Patriots’ a 98.9% chance of winning just one minute into the 3rd quarter. New England now head home after a two-game road trip that saw the defending Super Bowl champions outscore their opponents 74-24.

Brandin Cooks split corner TJ Carrie and safety Reggie Nelson in the 2nd quartePhoto by Matt Stone, published by Boston Herald

Nine Observations from Game Ten...

1. Receiver Brandin Cooks (149 yards) found an extra gear when he ran past a potential double team to haul in a 52-yard pass play midway through the 2nd quarter. Early in the 3rd quarter, Cooks beat safety Obi Melifonwu badly off the line, and then ran up the right sideline for a 64 yard catch-run-and-score. On the bad side, Cooks dropped a quick slant at the goal line in the 4th quarter.

2. Receiver Danny Amendola converted five first downs and one touchdown on his eight catches. The slot receiver showed sharp, Edelman-like footwork on his first two catches over the middle of the field in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd, Brady (339 yards on 37 attempts) and Amendola had a pre-snap conversation at the line of scrimmage before Brady found Amendola crossing in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Credit to Raiders’ corner TJ Carrie for a nice open field tackle of Amendola on a quick screen on the goal line in the 2nd.

3. Tight end Dwayne Allen went up high to bring down a reception in the 1st quarter. Minutes later, Allen recovered a Rex Burkehead fumble to keep his team’s first touchdown drive alive. In the 2nd, Allen threw a block on a screen pass to tight end Martellus Bennett as part of a three-tight end package on offense.

4. For the second consecutive week, LaAdrian Waddle started at right tackle for Marcus Cannon. In the first half tackle Cameron Fleming had to come in for Waddle and he quickly gave up a speed rush sack to linebacker Khalil Mack. Later in the 2nd quarter, the Patriots’ wisely used tight end Rob Gronkowski to chip lineman Denico Autry for Fleming on a third down pass.

5. LaAdrian Waddle eventually returned to the game and narrowly avoided a major injury in the 3rd when guard Joe Thuney was beaten by defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, who knocked Tom Brady into the back of Waddle’s legs. In a 2nd quarter, goal line run, safety Shalom Luani and linebacker NaVorro Bowman seem to know before the ball was snapped that the Patriots were running right and were in the backfield immediately for a tackle behind the line.

6. Ted Karras started in at center in place of David Andrews (illness), and Dion Lewis ran behind him for a 20 yard gain in the final minute of the first half. That drive ended with a Stephen Gostowski 61-yard field goal in the high altitude air of Azteca Stadium. Earlier, Lewis scored New England’s first touchdown when he caught a short pass on the right seam, stepped backwards, spun off linebacker Cory James, and slipped between the converging safeties Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson.

Lineman Ricky Jean Francois beat guard Gabe Jackson to close line DeAndré Washington

Photograph by David Silverman and published by

7. Marshawn Lynch came into the game averaging 3.8 yards per carry and on Sunday New England’s defense allowed the running back 6.1 yards per on 11 carries. Lynch had a 25-yard gain around right tackle in the 2nd when tackle Vadal Alexander and guard Gabe Jackson neutralized Cassius Marsh and Lawerence Guy at the point of attack. Linebacker David Harris couldn’t disengage from center Rodney Hudson’s block quickly enough to keep Lynch from making the turn up the sideline. In the 3rd quarter the Raiders tried a nearly identical run and Kyle Van Noy cut inside the tackler Alexander to force the run outside where David Harris had run around the guard Jackson’s block and then tackled Lynch for a loss.

8. Oakland converted three of their four “short run” attempts, which this observer defines as runs on third-and-one, fourth-and-one, or within two yards of the end zone. Season-to-date, opposing running backs have been successful in 16 of 24 such situations.

9. Three notable dropped passes by Oakland receiver Seth Roberts (third down), running back DeAndré Washington (third down), and Michael Crabtree. Three Derek Carr (237 yards on 49 attempts) passes bounced off a player’s body, including receiver Johnny Holton’s shoulder pad for a Duron Harmon interception. Holton also picked up a bad unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he took a swipe at Jonathan Jones on a drive early in the 4th quarter. Seth Roberts showed poor ball security in the 2nd when Jonathan Jones tackled him, allowing linebacker Marquis Flowers to punch the ball out and end the Raiders first serious scoring threat.

…And one comment about Game Eleven.

New England next plays a 4-6 Miami Dolphins team that appears to be spiraling into irrelevancy. Just over a month ago a lot of questions surrounded the Patriots regarding their ability to threaten in the post season. The team appears to have gelled into a strong contender, but it remains to be seen if this 2017 team has the discipline to stay at the top of their game when everyone is telling them they are already great.

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