Patriots-Raiders Takeaways: Defense Still Thriving Without Flash Plays

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MEXICO CITY — Remember when there was actual concern about the New England Patriots? Ha, that was stupid.

The Patriots’ defense, though never dominant with sacks or turnovers, hasn’t allowed more than 17 points since Week 4. They now rank 13th in the NFL in points allowed per game with 20.3 after beating the Oakland Raiders 33-8 at Estadio Azteca in a road game for New England.

The Patriots’ offense only has been held to under 20 points once this season. Though the offense isn’t as high-powered as it might have been with Julian Edelman, they still rank second in the NFL in points per game.

Let’s go through our main takeaways from the game.

PASSING GAME
— Tom Brady went 30-of-37 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions overall in one of his better performances of the season. After two consecutive spectacular games, his passer rating is only 1.3 points off of last year’s pace.

— Among Brady’s seven incompletions, two were drops, giving him an 86.5 accuracy percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.

— Wide receiver Brandin Cooks and running back Rex Burkhead suffered the two drops.

— Brady was 2 of 4 for 116 yards with a touchdown on passes 20 yards or more. Both completions were to Cooks.

— Running back James White didn’t catch a pass and has seen his production significantly drop off the last two weeks to Dion Lewis and Burkhead.

RUSHING ATTACK
— Lewis continued to show he’s the best running back on the Patriots by forcing five missed tackles between the running game and passing game. Burkhead and White didn’t force any missed tackles. Lewis ran so hard his shoe came off at one point. He averaged 6 yards per carry.

PASS PROTECTION
LaAdrian Waddle: one QB hit, one hurry
Cameron Fleming: one sack
Joe Thuney: one QB hit
Shaq Mason: one hurry
Ted Karras: one hurry

— Left tackle Nate Solder was perfect in pass protection. So were White, Lewis, fullback James Develin and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen.

— Karras was impressive in David Andrews’ absence at center. Waddle, who left with an undisclosed injury then returned, also performed well filling in for Marcus Cannon.

PASS RUSH
Trey Flowers: .5 sack, one QB hit, four hurries
Kyle Van Noy: .5 sack, two hurries
Lawrence Guy: three hurries
Deatrich Wise: one hurry
Jonathan Jones: one hurry

— Flowers continues to be the Patriots’ most productive pass rusher.

— Van Noy has taken over Dont’a Hightower’s old edge rush/linebacker role. He’s not as productive as Hightower once was, but he’s tied with Flowers for the team lead with four sacks.

— Cassius Marsh played just two snaps in run defense and none as a pass rusher.

PASS COVERAGE
Stephon Gilmore: 7-11, 64 yards
Patrick Chung: 3-4, 40 yards
Jonathan Jones: 5-10, 37 yards
Malcolm Butler: 3-5, 28 yards, one TD
Johnson Bademosi: 2-2, 26 yards
Marquis Flowers: 3-5, 15 yards
Kyle Van Noy: 2-2, 11 yards
David Harris: 1-1, 10 yards
Trevor Reilly: 1-1, 5 yards
Elandon Roberts: 0-2
Devin McCourty: 0-2
Duron Harmon: 0-1, INT

— Gilmore and Chung responded well to the challenge of taking on Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, respectively. Gilmore briefly came out of the game because he was cramping, so Bademosi replaced him.

— McCourty and Harmon both played well in coverage. McCourty, as he has been all year, was playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Harmon caught his interception off of Raiders receiver Johnny Holton’s helmet.

— Jones was heavily targeted but covered the Raiders’ No. 3 receivers well.

RUN DEFENSE
Patrick Chung: two stops
Ricky Jean Francois: one stop
Deatrich Wise: one stop
David Harris: one stop
Elandon Roberts: one stop

— The only thing the Raiders could really do against the Patriots was run the ball. Oakland averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The Patriots clearly miss starting defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The Raiders probably should have run the ball more in the first half. They constantly were shooting themselves in the foot too often in the passing game with drops.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

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