Note: Sorry for releasing this article really late, I’ll be on the ball next week.
The Patriots jumped out quickly against the Raiders and never let their foot off the gas pedal. About 10 minutes into the game, I realized that the Raiders weren’t going to stand a chance, as they really just came out flat. Big win for the Patriots, as they clinched their eigth straight winning season. The only thing that really matters, however, is the playoff picture. Currently, the Patriots still sit at eigth due to tiebreakers. However, they are tied for the division lead, as well as the last wildcard spot.
- First, full props to Matt Cassel. With everything he went through during the week, it was really amazing for him to come out and deliver the performance that included four touchdowns.
- Mike Vrabel is really back. He had a tremendous game and was all over the field. He recorded five total tackles, as well as a critical strip-sack of Jamarcus Russell.
- Jonathan Wilhite also played really well in his second career start. He played every snap and played shutdown defense, making an interception as well as two pass deflections. He really does look to have a bright future, possibly brighter than fellow rookie Terrence Wheatley.
- The running backs; Lamont Jordan, Kevin Faulk, and Sammy Morris all ran very well. Jordan had 97 on twelve, Morris 117 on 14, and Faulk 47 on six. All three have their distinctive running styles. Jordan is pure north-south, Morris is well balanced, and Faulk is a nice change of pace. Keep in mind, however, that Faulk is actually the starting running back for the Patriots. He plays the majority of the snaps at running back, although he doesn’t carry the ball all that much, he does a great job in protection as well as catching the ball out of the backfield.
- Great kick return by Ellis Hobbs. He’s been a great weapon in that area all season long. However, I believe people sometimes overlook his value on defense, where I believe he is having a career year.
- All three backup defensive linemen – Jarvis Green, Mike Wright, Le Kevin Smith, all had good games, showing how solid the Patriots rotation is.
- Kelley Washington has been hurt much of the year, but his presence was felt on the opening kickoff, when he made an excellent special teams tackle that set the tone for the entire game.
Offense: Matt Cassel – Cassel took the ball off the field and I think that really showed how much he had to earn this victory. With the passing of his father on his mind, Cassel was still able to get to work and played a remarkable game. We wish him and his family the best.
Defense: Mike Vrabel – Ever since Adalius Thomas went down, the Patriots have asked Mike Vrabel to take on more of a pass-rushing role. While Vrabel had struggled much of the season, he has really turned things around and may have had his best game this past Sunday.
In week 16, the Patriots travel back home to take on the 8-6 Arizona Cardinals. The Cards have really been abismal away from home, so the Patriots should be able to win this game, in what may very well be a shootout. Also, the Patriots will be playing for their playoff lives, while the Cards can’t play for much, as they are likely stuck with the #4 seed, unless Minnesota collapses.