The last minute of the Patriots’ win Sunday left the field with a bunch of frustrated Raiders. (Getty Images)
With just under a minute left in the Patriots’ Sunday tilt with the Raiders, Oakland running back Darren McFadden rushed into the end zone for what appeared to be a game-tying touchdown. But he would soon discover that it was all for naught.
Oakland rookie guard Gabe Jackson had been flagged for holding Patriots safety Patrick Chung.
One play later, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s attempt at a last-second, game-tying touchdown pass was picked off by Patriots’ defensive lineman Vince Wilfork after a deflection, ending Oakland’s comeback bid.
It should also be noted on the play before Jackson’s penalty, Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan was flagged for a questionable 24-yard pass interference penalty, where he and Andre Holmes were battling for position up the sideline.
Here were some of the Raiders’ thoughts on the controversial play:
“I saw it up on the big screen, and my opinion is it was not a hold,” said Raiders head coach Dennis Allen
“I thought it was a clean block,” Jackson told reporters. “But the call is what it was so I don’t have too much to say about that. … Maybe they saw something from a different angle.”
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FOXBORO — Finishing with 16 points and only one touchdown against a Raiders defense who allowed a combined 49 points in their first two games of the season, Tom Brady and the offense had a reason to be frustrated with their performance.
It hasn’t been the start Tom Brady and the offense had hoped for, but it’s only Week 3 with plenty of time to make improvements. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — Finishing with 16 points and only one touchdown against a Raiders defense who allowed a combined 49 points in their first two games of the season, Tom Brady and the offense had a reason to be frustrated with their performance. But, even with its offensive struggles, the Patriots were able to sneak away with a 16-9 win over the Raiders in its home opener Sunday afternoon.
“We had some opportunities there to score more points and we didn’t come away with it,” Brady said. “We left some chances on the field and certainly scoring opportunities. That’s something we’re going to have to obviously get a lot better at, so we’ll keep working at it.”
The major issue for the Patriots was its red zone efficiency as they ran six plays inside the Oakland’s 3-yard line and scored zero touchdowns on those plays. Their lone touchdown of the game was a 6-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter.
New England couldn’t find the end zone at the end of the first half when Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were stopped on consecutive running plays and then on third down the shotgun snap was botched. Then, opening the fourth quarter, Vereen was stopped and Brady threw back-to-back incompletions, intended for Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals on both occasions and finished with three total in the game.
“We’re going to try to keep making improvements,” Brady said. “I don’t think anything is perfect out there. There are some teams that are playing really well already. We’re not really doing that offensively yet. Defensively we played great but it’s a team sport. We’ve got to handle our business and do our job, whether it’s situationally, whether it’s scoring when we need to score. Not turning the ball over has been good — I think we’ve done a good job of that. We’ve just got to score more points. Especially getting down to the red area and having opportunities to score and not being able to do it.”
Through the first three games of the season, arguably the biggest issue for the offense has been the play of its offensive line as Brady has been under constant pressure — looking uncomfortable in the pocket at times. The quarterback was sacked only twice Sunday, but was hit six times.
“That’s my guy. It’s tough seeing him take hits like that, but it’s Tom Brady and you know he’s going to compete till the end and you know he’s going to take those hits and it’s not going to phase him,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “It’s not good seeing your QB get hit, but it’s a rough game and is going to happen sometimes. When you have No. 12 back there leading your squad you know he’s going to get up.”
In the first three games of the season, Brady is 67-for-114 (59 percent) for 632 yards (211 yard average per game) with three touchdowns — not typical Brady numbers. But, it’s only three weeks into the season and there is a long way to go with plenty of time to make adjustments to get things right for when they matter most.
“It’s only three games in, so we have a long season ahead of us,” said Brady. “There’s a lot of football to play. We haven’t done a lot of good things offensively, period. If you want to settle on the red area, I’d settle on everything ‘ certainly the pass game, run game, penalties. But you know what? We’re 2-1. I think we can make the improvements and understand that we’re trying to build something. But we have to improve everything. That’s the stage we’re at.”
He knows 16 points might be the 0-3 Raiders at Gillette but the bar is a little higher than beating a winless team traveling cross country on its way to London.
Gronkowski had the only touchdown of the day in a 16-9 win over the Raiders Sunday as the Patriots improved to 2-1.
“Sometimes there is frustration but you always want to move on to the next play, and that’s what we were doing,” Gronkowski said. “We did enough this game, but that’s not always going to get the job done. We’ve just got to keep working together as a unit and keep working hard.”
While there wasn’t much offensively to get excited about, Gronkowski and his continued great play in the red area is one thing Patriots fans can take comfort in.
He had another touchdown catch on a crossing route in the end zone in the second quarter as the Patriots found the end zone for the only time on the afternoon. Gronk would’ve had a second touchdown catch if it weren’t for Charles Woodson sticking his hand up at the last moment and deflecting Brady’s pass to an open Gronkowski in the back of the end zone.
“Just a little over route and just got open on the linebacker, and Tom put a nice ball right there, and I just made the catch and got in,” Gronkowski said of his second-quarter grab. “So, good job by everyone as a unit, and we executed well.”
One of the few times on the afternoon an offensive player in a blue jersey could say that. Julian Edelman would be another. He had 10 catches on 13 targets for 84 hard-fought yards, including a somersault flip near the goal line. After the game Edelman, perhaps after a discussion with coaches, admitted he’s got to do a better job avoiding hits.
“Julian is a warrior,” Gronkowski said in admiration. “He has the ball, he goes full speed, game, practice, whatever. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve been around.”
Gronk finished with three catches on six targets for 44 yards, including finding a hole in the Raiders zone at midfield for 22 yards on a pivotal 3rd-and-15 conversion from Tom Brady.
“We’ve just got to keep working together as a unit, and that starts at practice first,” Gronkowski said. “We’ve got to get clicking for sure. We did enough today to get that victory, but there are always a lot of improvements, starting with myself. I could make a lot better blocks, better routes. So we’ve just got to go out there in practice and have the offense clicking altogether as one and bring it out to the games.
“A win is a win. Every team is good in the NFL, so whenever you come out with a win, especially in the first game at home, it’s a win. The defense played very well, and we just did what we had to do to get that victory, which is huge.”
Vince Wilfork gets congratulated for his third career interception, which sealed Sunday’s win for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — With Oakland having first and goal, trailing by seven points with less than a minute to play in the Patriots’ home opener, the defense needed to come up with a big play.
It got that play, but coming from one of the most unlikely of players in that situation — defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr’s pass intended for Denarius Moore was deflected by cornerback Logan Ryan back towards the line of scrimmage and Wilfork was there to snag the ball for his third career interception, sealing the Patriots 16-9 victory in its home opener.
“I think it was a team play,” said Wilfork. “Like I said, knowing the situation we were in, it was a three-man rush and the main thing I didn’t want to do was get tied up at the line of scrimmage because they had more guys to block. We only had three and they have five and sometimes they keep an extra guy in for them to make sure they have protection, so I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t get tied up and just read the quarterback. If everybody is going their job, which they were, he’d have to either scramble with the ball or come to a check down. And once he came to the check down, I was lucky to have some defenders already there that batted the ball around a little bit and I just happened to catch it.
“The credit doesn’t go all to me — the credit goes to the defense. Because without the coverage in the end zone, without the man-to-man coverage we were in, without the bobbled ball, without the two other guys on the line of scrimmage rushing with me, that play probably wouldn’t have happened, so that’s a great defensive play.”
Wilfork is now the Patriots franchise leader in interceptions by a defensive linemen with three — passing Anthony Pleasant, Richard Seymour and Henry Thomas — who all have two. His last interception also came against the Raiders, back in 2011 in Oakland — a 31-19 Patriots victory.
On a day where the offense struggled — finishing with only one touchdown against a Raiders defense that allowed 49 points in two games coming in — it was the defense coming through on a number of occasions, forcing two three-and-outs on the Raiders’ first two possessions of the final quarter, but no play was bigger than Wilfork’s interception.
“That was a huge play,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “We were in a three-man rush there and kind of trying to take away any shot play into the end zone and the play got batted around the middle. We all know the kind of athletic ability Vince has and hands. He’s done that before; making one-handed grabs, so this was easy. He got two hands on it. But it was a huge play. It was a big turnover for us. Defensively we didn’t get a lot of real good turnover opportunities in this game but that was one. We capitalized on it. That was the difference.”
With his third career interception and currently being tied for the team lead on the season, Wilfork may have picked up himself a new nickname — at least for the time being.
“Wilfork island?,” safety Devin McCourty said. “He kind of called that he would get another one this year. Hopefully we’ll slow him down and pick up our play. We don’t want him at the top of the leaderboard. He could have worked on his run after the catch but I think he is so smart and he knows situational football that he just got down and let the offense come on and take a couple of knees.”
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price analyze how the Patriots escaped Raiders, 16-9, Sunday in the home opener at Gillette Stadium, improving to 2-1 on the season. Tom Brady threw the game’s only touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski in the first half and Stephen Gostkowski added three field goals to hold off the 0-3 Raiders, who had a chance to tie the game in the closing moments before a Vince Wilfork interception sealed the win.