FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots will have to take a six-hour flight to the West Coast to try to bounce back from a difficult loss in Buffalo. That trip to Oakland will yield a flurry of new storylines, as only the Raiders could.
Let's get it started with this week's Two-Minute Drill.
1. While watching the Patriots and Raiders this weekend, keep an eye on a matchup that could be one of the best of New England's season. Former Pats defensive lineman Richard Seymour plays at right defensive tackle for Oakland's four-man line, meaning he'll line up over left guard Logan Mankins throughout the course of the game.
2. This will be Seymour's first opportunity to square off against his old team since getting traded in 2009. I'd expect him to play with an extra bit of fire for obvious reasons, and that will create a passionate matchup between him and Mankins, who always plays tenaciously.
3. Aside from the sentimentality, stopping Seymour will be vital for New England's success. Seymour has been a tremendous fit for Oakland's defense, and he's been one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL over the last two seasons.
4. Seymour, of course, was traded for the draft pick that was used to select tackle Nate Solder. It's too early to know where, or if, or how much Solder will play against the Raiders. It would be great, if only for one play, Solder and Seymour got to line up against one another.
5. Seymour had a great quote after Sunday's victory against the Jets. He celebrated a sack by crossing his forearms in an X-formation and was asked about it afterward.
"When I throw up the 'X,' that means it's time to put the kids to bed," Seymour told reporters. "It's X-rated out there. That means if you're 13 and under, don't watch this."
6. The Patriots had a chance to watch the Jets-Raiders game Sunday during their flight home from Buffalo. Apparently, they lost the television feed after the Raiders took a 31-17 lead in the fourth quarter.
7. So, Bill Belichick interviewed for the Raiders' head coaching vacancy in 1998, but Oakland decided to go with Jon Gruden, who led the Raiders to a 38-26 record and two playoff berths in four seasons. They had at least eight victories in each of his seasons.
8. When it's all said and done, Belichick could go down as the greatest coach in NFL history, and at the very least, he'll be remembered as one of the two or three best of all time. But it's not like the Raiders whiffed by hiring Gruden, who later won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers — by beating the Raiders, no less.
9. Some interesting parallels between Belichick and Gruden: Belichick's Patriots beat Gruden's Raiders in the Snow Bowl in the 2001 postseason, both won Super Bowls and both were traded as coaches.
10. Gruden was sent to the Buccaneers in the 2002 offseason for two first-round picks (2002 and 2003) and two second-round picks (2002 and 2004). That's a whole lot pricier than the first-rounder that New England had to sacrifice to the Jets for Belichick. By the way, after trading Gruden, it took the Raiders seven and a half seasons to win another 36 games.
11. Since we're on the topic, here's how the Raiders used those four picks: They used that 2002 first-rounder as an asset to trade up to No. 17 to take cornerback Phillip Buchanon. They took guard Langston Walker in the second round. They used the 32nd pick in 2003 to take defensive end Tyler Brayton (one pick after using their own selection on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha). And they selected center Jake Grove in the second round in 2004.
12. Let's backtrack a little bit. Albert Breer from NFL Network reminded me Tuesday that Belichick used that interview with the Raiders to get a raise with the Jets and essentially become the coach in waiting in the post-Bill Parcells era. That essentially led to the controversy in 2000 when Belichick backed out of the Jets job to take over in New England, a move that cost the Patriots their first-round pick in that year's draft.
13. That turned out to be the 16th pick in the draft, which the Jets traded to the 49ers to get the 12th pick, which they used to select defensive lineman Shaun Ellis.
14. Let's keep this thing going here. Ellis then chased Drew Bledsoe from the pocket in Week 2 of the 2001 season before the quarterback was rocked and injured by linebacker Mo Lewis, which led to the Tom Brady era. So, by however many degrees of separation, Belichick's job interview with the Raiders in 1998 helped spark the Patriots' dynasty. How's that for a trip down Memory Lane?
15. Few have been through the highs and lows of the NFL lifestyle quite like safety Ross Ventrone, who has been released by the Patriots four times since August 2010. Ventrone was signed to the 53-man roster for the first time last week and made his regular-season debut against the Bills. He was the fourth safety on the depth chart due to Patrick Chung's injury, and Ventrone played on both punt and kickoff teams.
16. Ventrone, obviously, was thrilled to make his debut.
"It was good," he said Monday. "I was happy to play more of a role in the actual game. I wish I was able to help more. I wish I was able to do more on the field than I did to help out because of the way things went. It was a tough game, got to move on. As far as being out there, I was excited to play in my first game, and it felt pretty good to be out there running around and stuff with all my teammates."
17. Ventrone also has a pretty awesome Twitter account. "Rusty Benson" has been his nickname for years, though he hasn't shed the details of its origin. A bunch of his teammates call him Benson, among other things.
18. There was a strange scene in the Buffalo press box Sunday. Some of the Bills' staffers were cheering loudly during the team's second-half comeback. If you're unaware, there's a universal no-cheering policy in press boxes. In fact, the Bills' PR staff puts that rule in writing in their credential packet. It got even crazier after Rian Lindell's game-winning field goal, which sparked one of the Bills' employees to angrily yell at the contingent of New England media, "How do you like that, New England?"
19. Wide receiver Julian Edelman turned heads Sunday when he took the field without his self-proclaimed "lockout locks." Edelman's hair had gotten extremely long, like well-past-his-shoulders long. But he cut it and said it was simply time for a change.
20. I misread something that caused me to think Sunday would be Brady's first game in Oakland. (It's not. He played there in 2002.) So, I went through Brady's game log to see if there are any teams he hasn't played on the road. As it turns out, Brady has played 29 of the NFL's other 31 teams on the road. The only two teams he hasn't visited in the regular season: the Seahawks and his hometown 49ers. The Patriots will play both teams in 2012, but the location has yet to be determined.
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