By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After two games of Cam Newton carrying the New England offense, the Patriots’ running backs took control of the load Sunday, and powered the team to 2-1 with a 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
With James White unavailable following the death of his father last week, it was the three-headed combo of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and rookie J.J. Taylor that powered the Patriots for a combined 281 yards of total offense by the day’s end.
And it was Michel who led the pack with 117 yards on the ground on just nine carries, which was more than double his output through the first two games of the 2020 season, and was good for the second-highest single-game total of his three-year NFL career (Michel rushed for a career-high 133 yards against the Jets in Nov. 2018). Overall, it was Michel’s best rushing game since his AFC Championship Game performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in his rookie year, which featured 113 yards.
But while Michel piled up the yards, it was Rex Burkhead who found paydirt on three occasions in the winning effort, with scores on two of his six carries on the day, and an 11-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter. The performance was enough for the first three-touchdown game of Burkhead’s eight-year career split between Cincinnati and New England.
The boost was more than welcomed on a day where the New England air attack struggled compared to last week, with Newton finishing with 17 completions for a total of 162 yards, and with no Patriot wideout tallying more than three catches.
Up 16 in the fourth quarter and with the Raiders in desperation mode, the Patriots sealed the deal on a dub when Shilique Calhoun and Deatrich Wise forced Derek Carr into a fumble on the goal line, which was scooped up in the endzone by Wise. Initially ruled a safety, a lengthy video review confirmed the fumble, and a defensive touchdown by the Pats.
And while it wasn’t a perfect effort — the Patriots gave up a late first-half touchdown and had some miscommunication that led to the Patriots burning through their timeouts with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter — the Patriots did a fine job of holding the Raiders’ big weapons off the board. Josh Jacobs finished with 71 yards on the ground, while star tight end Darren Waller was held to just nine yards on two catches, and was targeted just four times.
The Patriots will head to Arrowhead Stadium next week for a 4:25 p.m. head-to-head with the defending champion Chiefs.