By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots are 2-1 on the season after defeating the Raiders handily at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, 36-20. Here’s a look at the players who were “up” and “down” in this one.
RB Rex Burkhead. Clearly, the Patriots’ plan was to attack the Raiders with their running backs both on the ground and through the air, and Burkhead delivered. The first three-touchdown game of Burkhead’s career. He finished with 49 yards rushing and a team-leading seven catches for 49 receiving yards to go with the three scores.
RB Sony Michel. The Patriots offense needed to prove it could get big plays from someone other than Julian Edelman, and they got it from an unlikely source on Sunday. Michel had his best game for the Patriots in a long time, finishing with 117 yards on just nine carries. His biggest play was a 48-yard scamper where he took advantage of a giant hole to the second level and made one guy miss. An encouraging effort after a slow start to the season for Michel.
OLB Chase Winovich. The sophomore edge rusher’s hot start continues. In the first half, while the teams were still embedded in a rock fight with little in the way of offensive production, Winovich came up with the biggest defensive play of the game at the time. He knocked the ball loose before Derek Carr could move his arm forward, forcing the fumble that Lawrence Guy recovered. Winovich has been a real playmaker for the Patriots D in the early-going.
C Joe Thuney. No Andrews, no problem? Bill Belichick opted to move Thuney to center, so he could put Mike Onwenu at left guard and have ostensibly his five best offensive linemen on the field. Not only were there no botched snaps, Thuney looked like a real center in his first career start at the position. There really is nothing the guy can’t do.
QB Cam Newton. The Patriots did most of their offensive damage on the ground and with short, quick passes to the running backs. Newton had minimal impact in the run game and threw a bad interception in the first quarter that put the defense in a bad spot. He played with a clean sheet in the second half, but Newton also completed only two passes that traveled 15 or more yards through the air with some dangerous throws mixed in. Overall, a step back for him after a superb first couple of games.
CB Jonathan Jones. Though he redeemed himself somewhat with a pair of pass breakups in the second half, Jones had a rough start against Raiders slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. He gave up a touchdown to Renfrow in the final minute of the first half, a play that kept the Raiders in the game at the time. Jones competed hard and played better later in the game, but this is now two weeks in a row where he’s given up some bad plays.
CB Stephon Gilmore. His pass interference penalty helped set up the Raiders for their late-second-quarter touchdown. Gilmore wasn’t a disaster by any means, but he has been flagged often in the early part of the season and hasn’t quite shut people down like we’re used to seeing.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at firstname.lastname@example.org.