Run, run and run some more.
New England’s determination to establish the run against the Raiders paid dividends in a major way on Sunday, as the Patriots slashed and dashed their way to 250 yards on the ground in a 36-20 win over Las Vegas.
Following a pair of three-and-outs and an interception on its first three offensive sets Sunday, New England stuck to its ground-and-pound game plan to prolific results.
On just nine carries, Sony Michel amassed 117 yards – the second-most of his career and first game with over 100 yards rushing since the 2018 AFC Championship Game.
Rex Burkhead shined in every facet of the game for New England, scoring three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) and compiling just under 100 yards from scrimmage with an even 49 both on the ground and through the air.
"We tried to go out there and play for him,'' Burkhead said of teammate James White, who missed his second straight game after his father, Tyrone, was killed in a car accident. "He's a brother to me. I really feel his pain.''
"We came together and just played hard. That's what James White does," Michel added.
Undrafted free agent JJ Taylor flashed, particularly in the first half, for the Patriots with 43 yards on 11 carries while Cam Newton moved into second place on the NFL’s all-time rushing yards list among quarterbacks with a 28-yard showing on Sunday.
Most things considered, it was a quiet afternoon for Newton, especially after the first two weeks of the season. But in a game in which Newton was far from dominant (17 for 28, 162 yards, touchdown, interception), that fact that the Patriots still won by two scores illuminated the biggest advantage they still have over the rest of the NFL: coaching.
Even if it wasn’t necessarily a perfect afternoon for Bill Belichick – New England had used all of its second half timeouts before the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter – the difference between him and his peers remains alarming.
Jon Gruden’s Vegas team was penalized six times for 40 yards, perhaps not egregious numbers, but this was a game in which the Raiders had life early. They led, 3-0, after the first quarter, and held the Patriots to just two field goals on their first five drives of the game.
Where a more disciplined team could have sensed blood in the water and put the Patriots away, the Raiders committed unnecessary infractions such as sending an illegal receiver downfield, a facemask, illegal hands to the face, and others.
Belichick also excelled in effectively taking Darren Waller, Vegas’s much-ballyhooed tight end, out of the game. A week after Waller exploded for 12 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, he had just two catches for nine yards Sunday.
New England tied the game at 3-3 on a Nick Folk 33-yard field goal with 12:32 left in the second quarter and went ahead for good on a 23-yard Folk kick with 7:56 left in the frame.
The Patriots appeared poised to pull away from the Raiders after Burkhead caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Newton with 0:34 left in the first half before Vegas moved 75 yards in just four plays to make it 13-10 at the break after Derek Carr connected with Foster Moreau for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 0:06 left.
Burkhead's second touchdown of the game, a 5-yard run, along with a 32-yard field goal for Folk gave New England a 23-10 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Raiders got a field goal back to make it 23-13 before Burkhead completed his hat trick with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:17 left in the fourth and Deatrich Wise Jr. put the game away with a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the end zone with 4:56 left.
The victory for the Patriots was their sixth straight over the Raiders, a streak which dates to opening night of the 2005 season. It was just the third trip to Gillette Stadium for the Raiders franchise, which closed down old Foxboro Stadium in the "Tuck Rule" game in the 2001 AFC Divisional playoffs.
The Raiders, regardless of city, haven't won a game in Massachusetts since 1994.
New England is back on the road to face a different AFC West opponent next week in Kansas City, which will be coming off a short week as it hosts Baltimore on Monday Night Football tomorrow.
Kickoff against the defending Super Bowl champs is at 4:25 p.m. next Sunday.