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The New England Patriots righted the ship Sunday afternoon, topping the Oakland Raiders 31-19 at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. The win improves the Patriots’ record to 3-1 on the year, tied with Buffalo for first in the AFC East.
Quarterback Tom Brady was solid but not spectacular in the triumph, passing for 226 yards on 16-30 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady led scoring drives on five on his first six possessions to put the game out of reach in the fourth.
Brady’s success was aided by a tremendous rushing effort, as the Patriots ran for 183 yards on 30 attempts to bruise the Oakland defense. Rookie Stevan Ridley had a career afternoon with 97 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 75 yards and a score on 16 carries to help shoulder the load.
Despite allowing a whopping 504 yards of total offense to the Raiders’ attack (344 passing and 160 rushing), the Patriots’ defense made key plays when they had to. The New England defense forced a pair of key turnovers to halt Raiders’ drives. Up 14-10 right before halftime, safety Patrick Chung intercepted Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell in the end zone on second and goal at the New England six. Vince Wilfork recorded his second career pick early in the fourth quarter, snagging Campbell’s pass underneath, returning the ball 19 yards.
The third-round pick from LSU, Ridley shined in his first extended outing. Ridley’s third-quarter 33-yard touchdown scamper changed to complexion of the game, making the score 24-10 early in the third.
Welker continued to dominate early in this 2011 campaign. The Texas Tech alum registered nine catches for 158 yards and a 15-yard first-quarter touchdown to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead. Welker now has 40 catches for 616 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.
The 176 yards given up may look bad at first glance, but Oakland star running back Darren McFadden’s production was limited at best. McFadden totaled just 75 yards after gaining 171 last week against the Jets. Additionally, Campbell rushed for 29 yards while Jacoby Ford gained 30 yards on a reverse to inflate the numbers.
For the second consecutive game, the Patriots were unable to generate any pressure on the opposing quarterback. The team posted just zero sacks and three hits on the Oakland signal caller.
The season is just four weeks old, and the Patriots continue to accumulate injuries. New England lost both Kyle Love and Jerod Mayo due to injury, and had notables such as Ras-I Dowling, Leigh Bodden and Albert Haynesworth out.
If it weren’t for two timely turnovers, the results of this game may have been drastically different. Oakland controlled the time of possession battle with a 33:20 to 26:40 edge, and converted 8-13 third-down attempts.
The Patriots return home to take on the New York Jets in a pivotal Week 5 matchup. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be on the call starting at 4:15 p.m. from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.