The Patriots yet again switched their identity for another week. Week 1 against the Dolphins was about the running game, Week 2 against the Seahawks was about the passing game and in Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders, they reverted back to the run game. The Patriots totaled 250 rushing yards, nearly doubling the Raiders total of 126. Because of this, the Patriots were able to win the time of possession battle and control the pace of the game, keeping quarterback Derek Carr on the sideline and halt the Raiders passing attack. Las Vegas was off to a good start with the ground game, with second-year running back Josh Jacobs tearing through New England’s defensive front on the first two drives. Once the Patriots took a comfortable lead, the Raiders went away from the run and were throwing for a majority of the second half in an effort to catch up. The Patriots got contributions from all of their running threats, as running back Sony Michel rushed for 117 yards on only nine carries, including a 48-yard scamper with two beautiful cutbacks against the defense. Rookie running back J.J. Taylor rushed for 43 yards, and quarterback Cam Newton accounted for 27 of his own. The best offensive player for the Patriots in this game was swiss army knife running back Rex Burkhead, who picked up 49 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, to go along with seven catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. From the sample we saw with Cam Newton playing with do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, Newton thrives with the fast shifty running backs who can make plays in the passing attack, which is right up the alley of Burkhead and fellow running back James White. White missed his second game in a row following the loss of his father and the critical injury of his mother.
Defensively, a barren Patriots defensive front has shown flashes of talent in linebacker Shilique Calhoun and defensive lineman Lawrence Guy, who dominated the Raiders offensive tackles all game long. Calhoun sacked Carr in his own endzone and forced a fumble that was picked up for a touchdown by defensive end Deatrich Wise, which really put the Raiders away at the end of the game, putting the Patriots up 36-13 at the time. The Raiders would end up scoring again with under two minutes remaining, but that would be the rest of the scoring in the game, as it finished with a final score of 36-20.
The Patriots now forward their sights to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Super Bowl champs have not skipped a beat or shown any signs of a Super Bowl hangover. They are 3-0, following their dismantling of the Baltimore Ravens, maybe the second-best team in the AFC, on Monday Night Football. The Chiefs ended Baltimore’s regular-season winning streak of 14 games, a streak going since Week 5 of last season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has only four regular-season losses in his career, and three of them have come against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Through the first three games of the season, Mahomes has completed 68% of his passes for 898 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Mahomes appears as motivated as ever following an offseason where he signed the highest paying contract in the history of American sports.
New England will have plenty of time to prepare for Kansas City, as the game was postponed after Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, Oct. 3. Newton isn’t the only player to test positive this past week, as several players and staff members of the Tennessee Titans also tested positive, shifting their contest with the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend to Week 7 of the season. When it comes to players testing positive for the virus, it was never a question of if it was going to happen, but when it was going to happen and how it’s going to shape the remainder of the NFL season. Time will tell, but fans are holding out hope that football will be able to continue in some form or fashion for the remainder of the season.