The New England Patriots responded to their Week 2 loss with a resounding 36-20 win in Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders. With the win, the Patriots now stand at 2-1 through the first three games of the 2020 season. In our newest edition of “Winners and Losers,” we’ll show you who stood out in the victory, as well as some players that struggled.
All three Patriots running backs were very impressive in the Week 3 win, so we decided to include them all in our winner’s list. Let’s start with Rex Burkhead. Burkhead had six carries for 49 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and seven catches for another 49 yards and one touchdown through the air. Those seven catches led the team. Burkhead brings an element of surprise when he’s out there, he can run well, but he’s also a dynamic pass catcher as seen here.
The next piece of Sundays dominating running back performance was Sony Michel. He had a few solid runs in the first half but he did most of his damage in the second half. Michel ended with nine carries for 117 yards; good for 13 yards per carry. The most encouraging sign was his ability to break a few tackles and shake the first attempted tackler. That kind of elusiveness is something we haven’t seen from Michel in awhile. In another positive development, Michel also added two catches for 23 yards.
Lastly, let’s talk about undrafted free agent J.J. Taylor. He wasn’t as impressive stat-wise as Burkhead and Michel, but his presence was felt particularly in the first half when the offense was struggling. Taylor had a team-high 11 carries for 43 yards. Again, it’s not going to blow you away, but he had some nice runs that provided the spark for the rest of the offense. It will be interesting to see if Taylor can stay in the running back rotation with the eventual return of Damien Harris and James White.
Even without David Andrews, the Patriots offensive line still found a way to be its normal dominant self on Sunday afternoon. Without Andrews, Joe Thuney switched from his guard spot to the center spot. That kind of versatility, from one of the best guards in football no less, is so so impressive. We should also recognize rookie, Michael Onwenu, who started at guard. Both played well on Sunday.
As a whole, the Patriots offensive line, particularly in the run and screen game, clearly outmatched the Raiders defense. The Patriots ran for 250 yards on 6.6 yards per carry. The only real concern was a few mishaps in pass protection. Without a doubt, the offensive line is the strength of this offense, and they’ve yet to disappoint early in the 2020 season.
The second-year leap for Chase Winovich is happening. In addition to his growing role in the run game, his already good pass-rush has gotten even better. Winovich has made plays in each of the three games this season. This week, with the game tied at 3-3, Winovich completely shifted the momentum with a strip-sack of Derek Carr. The Patriots went on to kick a field goal, get another defensive stop, and score a touchdown, making it 13-3.
In addition to his strip-sack, Winovich also registered two quarterback hits. He was a problem for the Raiders pass protection all afternoon long. The Patriots are going to need this impact from Winovich week in and week out. Yes, Shilique Calhoun and Deatrich Wise Jr. made some plays rushing the passer, but Winovich is their best bet for consistent pressure. He has lived up to the hype thus far.
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels
The coaching on Sunday, aside from the substitution issues on defense, was high-level. Bill Belichick, as always, completely took away the opponent’s number one option. In this particular case, Darren Waller. Waller only had two catches for nine yards. His first catch didn’t come until the fourth quarter. The defense chipped Waller at the line, went man to man, doubled him, and even played zone. Belichick used multiple defenders to cover Waller. The secondary also deserves credit for executing the excellent plan laid out by Belichick.
As for Josh McDaniels, he was also great on Sunday. His in-game adjustments were crucial in the success of the offense. To start the game, the Raiders’ defense was locked in and forced a couple of quick punts. That all changed when McDaniels opted to open up the run game with more creative outside runs. McDaniels then dialed up some timely screens for big gains. He gets a lot of criticism but it’s been fun watching McDaniels run such a versatile offense this season. The Patriots had success with quarterback runs in Week 1, the passing attack in Week 2, and the running game in Week 3.
Stephon Gilmore wasn’t awful on Sunday, but as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, the standards we have for his play are very high. So far this season, we haven’t seen the dominance we saw in 2019, and that continued today. Gilmore had a massive defensive pass interference penalty on Sunday that ultimately led to a Raiders touchdown right before the half. As you can see in the clip below, Nelson Agholor blew right by Gilmore.
Aside from the penalty, Gilmore played well, but up to this point, he has taken a bit of a step back from his 2019 level of play. Gilmore has logged three defensive pass interference penalties through three games. Keep in mind he only had one all last season. It’ll be interesting to see how he fairs against one of the best passing attacks in the NFL next week in Kansas City.
The Passing Attack (Outside of the Running Backs)
After an impressive passing game last week, the Patriots were unable to come away with a similar performance on Sunday. Cam Newton completed 17/28 passing, for 162 yards, with one touchdown, and one interception. He also threw a couple more questionable passes into tight coverage. The particular throw that stands out was a pass to Edelman in triple coverage. Newton struggled, but the weapons, aside from the running backs, weren’t all that great either. The tight end position continues to lack any type of receiving production and the receivers never really got going on Sunday. The leading receiver as previously mentioned was Burkhead with seven catches. No other Patriot had more than three catches.
Although it wasn’t Newton’s best day passing, when it came down to winning time, Newton made several nice plays including a 21-yard scramble in the fourth quarter. It’s also important to remember that the passing game for the Patriots isn’t always going to be the path to victory. Sunday was one of those days. With that being said, the Patriots will eventually need more from their passing attack.
Jonathan Jones let up some big catches in coverage against the Seahawks and that continued against the Raiders. Hunter Renfrow ran right by Jones for a 26-yard gain right before halftime. Renfrow was ruled just short of the end-zone but the Raiders punched it in a play later. Jones made a couple plays with two pass deflections, but the lapses in coverage were hard to ignore.
Jones, like Gilmore, seems to have taken a bit of a step back from the 2019 season. It’s still early though, and there’s time to turn it around. However, Jones will take on an even bigger challenge next week when he faces off against the likes of Mecole Hardman and Tyreek Hill.
Who were your winners and losers from Sunday’s game?