Raiders-Patriots Preview: New-Look New England Looks To Slow Undefeated Las Vegas

(CBS Boston) — The New England Patriots left Seattle last Sunday night with a loss to the Seahawks. But they have to be pleased with how the 2020 version of the team is shaking out. The Las Vegas Raiders can say the same after winning their first two games. The Raiders used an efficient night from Derek Carr and the offense to neutralized the New Orleans Saints in their first home game in Vegas. The Patriots and Raiders will square off in Week 3.

The outcome of the Patriots-Seahawks came down to a matter of inches and a matter of seconds. Down 35-30, Cam Newton started the Pats’ last drive inside their own 20-yard line, with under two minutes left. After 80 yards, Newton and company found themselves at the Seahawks one-yard line with just three seconds left. They couldn’t put it across the goal line. On the game’s last play, Newton was upended in the backfield, and the game ended.

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The Patriots are getting what they hoped for from their new starting quarterback in the post-Tom Brady era. Newton went 30-44 for 397 yards and a touchdown. He carried the ball 11 times for 47 yards and two more touchdowns. Julian Edelman caught eight of his 11 targets for a career-high 179 yards. Aside from Newton, the rushing games was basically nonexistent, with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead totaling 21 yards. (James White missed the game due to the death of his father.)

The Patriots defense is another story. Aside from Devin McCourty’s interception return for a touchdown early, the Seahawks did basically whatever they wanted. Russell Wilson went 21-28 for 288 yards and five touchdowns, each to a different receiver. DK Metcalf caught four of those for 92 yards. The Seattle running game averaged 5.1 yards per carry, piling up 154 yards.

The Pats defense will have to figure out how to stop a Raiders offense that similarly leveraged its consistency to control the ball and keep Drew Brees and company off the field. A slow start put them down 10 points by the end of the first quarter. But then Carr found his rhythm, with short passes and a steady dose of Josh Jacobs keeping the chains moving. The Raiders moved methodically down the field on four straight scoring drives to take a 24-17 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Carr outclassed Brees, who seemed a little out of sorts without top receiver Michael Thomas. The Raiders’ signal caller finished the night 28-38 passing, with 282 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Darren Waller was unstoppable, hauling in 12 of his 16 targets for 101 yards and a TD. But 10 other Raiders also caught passes. Jacobs’ 27 carries yielded only 88 yards, but balanced out an offense that the kept Saints defense on their backfoot for much of the game.

The questionable Raiders defense was able to contain Brees for the middle portion of the game. He still put up 312 yards on 26-38 passing, but wasn’t able to keep up on the scoreboard. The absence of Thomas, who was out with a high ankle sprain, certainly factored in. The Raiders struggled to slow the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, who led in both the rushing and passing games, with a combined 174 yards. Most important to the Raiders’ defensive effort was a Raiders offense that controlled the time of possession, limiting Brees’s opportunities.

The Patriots, unsurprisingly, have adapted their offense to Newton’s skillset at quarterback. And it’s already paying dividends. The Raiders will need to generate some sort of pass rush if they hope to slow them down, or at least limit their options. More ball control from Carr will help. But the Raiders will have to more heavily involve other pass catchers beside Waller, who has 18 catches in his first two games. (Their second-leading receiver is Jacobs with seven.) The Patriots seem likely to blanket him with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The Patriots play the Raiders Sunday, September 27 @ 1:00 pm ET on CBS.