By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots talk about ‘complementary football’ and giving a ‘full team effort’ all the time, but those concepts were front and center in their 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday afternoon.
Using a balanced game plan matched with balanced personnel, Bill Belichick’s team got contributions up and down the roster. With so many players contributing, it might be easy to miss some of the little things in the game, so here are 16 leftover thoughts from the Patriots 16-point win:
1. The Patriots start 2-1 under Bill Belichick for the 10th time in 21 seasons. Four of those 10 years have ended in Super Bowl appearances, with wins in 2003 and 2014.
2. Although the offense looked impressive for the final three quarters of the game, third downs were a struggle throughout. New England finished 3-for-11 on third down (27.2 percent). That’s a sizable step down from their 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) mark through the first two games of the season.
3. Offsetting the Patriots third-down struggles were bad penalties by the Las Vegas Raiders. Jon Gruden‘s squad committed 6 penalties for 40 yards, including costly early-game penalties on third and fourth down.
4. The Patriots once again played a nearly clean game in terms of penalties. A pass interference on Stephon Gilmore and defensive hold on Joejuan Williams were their only two accepted penalties. However, they did have to use a timeout very early in the game to prevent a “12 men” flag, and were sloppy with their timeouts in the second half as well, using the final one with 12:30 still to go in the game.
5. An area where the Patriots were undoubtably consistant? Snapping the football. With Joe Thuney making his first career start at center, New England didn’t appear to have any issue with the QB-C exchange.
6. Perhaps it was due in part to how much they were under center, but Sunday was the most balanced game for the Patriots offense so far this year. They ran 23 more runs than passes in Week 1, 19 more passes than runs in Week 2, but just 10 more runs than passes in Week 3.
7. Despite being elevated from the practice squad on Saturday and becoming the only true center on the roster, James Ferentz didn’t see a snap on Sunday. He and Brian Hoyer were the only two Patriots who didn’t get in the game.
8. Moving Michael Onwenu to starting guard led to the Patriots not running any tackle-eligible sets in the game. Using six and even seven offensive linemen sets had been a go-to strategy for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels early this season, but for now it appears to be on the shelf.
9. Sony Michel had a great game, and maybe some of his best runs as a Patriot. Still, he missed his career high by a whole 16 yards. He gashed the Jets for 133 yards on 21 carries as a rookie. Still, his 13 yards per cary was more than double his pervious NFL-best.
10. Devin Asiasi saw more snaps on Sunday (29) than he did in the first two games combined (20). With Ryan Izzo not contributing much at the tight end position, perhaps Bill Belichick is ready to open up an in-season competition for the starting job.
11. Deatrich Wise’s touchdown was not only his first NFL score, but the first for him at any level of football. He told reporters Monday afternoon that his last touchdown was, “two years ago, in Madden.”
12. The Patriots rookies continue to struggle in the return game. Last week, J.J. Taylor ran three kicks out of the end zone and didn’t reach the 25 on any of them. This week, Kyle Dugger took a ball out and only reached the 17.
13. It appeared the Patriots came away from this game without any major injury concerns. However, I included that last week before anybody knew about David Andrews’ thumb, so we’ll see.
14. For the second home game in a row, the Patriots new uniforms had some font issues. Among them were Isaiah Zuber’s last name having the old ‘Z’, and Jermaine Eluemunor’s number having the old font.
15. Social distancing markers were spotted inside Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Now, the NFL has flexed the Patriots next home game (October 11 against Denver) to a national time slot. Could there be a push in the coming week to get fans back into the stadium by then? If not, perhaps the first game after the bye (October 25 against San Francisco) would be an option. Could Jimmy G’s return line up with the return of a crowd?
16. Next Sunday will be Cam Newton’s second career start at Arrowhead Stadium. He last played there in 2012, going 15-for-27 for 232 yards with three touchdowns an no picks, while rushing for 78 carries on seven yards. Still, his Panthers lost 27-21.