At this point, the Patriots are kind of what they are, but something about losing to this specific Raiders team stings. I was never a big McDaniels guy when he was in Foxborough, and Brian Hoyer's emergency start in 2020 against the Kansas City Chiefs haunts my soul to this very day. Ultimately though, this result was about what I expected. This was a relatively low-scoring affair, with the Patriots beating themselves offensively, looking better defensively, but finding a way to lose rather than the opposite. Surprisingly, this wasn't a complete train wreck to watch back on film like last week. Let's dive in.
Hit Stick City
I'm at ease with the fact that the Patriots will likely lose double-digit games this year. On the same foot, I want to see this team show some fight. That was absolutely the case defensively, and two of the guys leading the charge were Jabrill Peppers and Jahlani Tavai.
You want to talk about getting the boys up on the sidelines? You want to talk about some old-school defensive football? I'm sure I wasn't the only one to have an audible reaction when this happened in real time, and that was for good reason. You can't really say any rep is a perfect one, but Peppers got as close as humanly possible here. The entire way, he knows this ball is going to Adams, and he pulls the trigger downhill while Jimmy Garoppolo still has the ball in his hands. Then you want to talk about a perfect, and I mean perfect, hit on Davante Adams: He doesn't lead with his head and hits him in the numbers as hard as humanly possible.
We're not even at the part where this turns into an interception yet, by the way. Give Tavai a lot of credit because this wasn't an easy task to get that ball corraled in after the bobble. While the offense didn't capitalize on what should have been a momentum swing/tone-setting play, it wasn't for the lack of effort on Peppers or Tavai. Give Davante Adams some props here too. He soldiered on after this, and not a single Raider skill position player logged more snaps than him.
Looking for a Mapu, First Name Marte
It was hard not to notice on the Raiders' first drive, but rookie tight end Michael Mayer got everything he wanted. In the span of five plays, he racked up three catches on three targets for 35 yards, adding another two catches on four targets for another 40 yards later in the day. Here are the three big gainers he picked up for 17 yards, 18 yards, and 32 yards, respectively.
First play looks like a busted coverage, and I would assume Anfernee Jennings was supposed to stick in the shallow part of the field. The second play is hard to put on Jalen Mills, only up until he shakes off the initial tackle attempt. He doesn't take the best angle to Mayer, which directly leads to him picking up an extra 10 yards, which cannot happen. While this also technically going on Mills, I can understand why he turned his attention to Tre Tucker working on the seam. If he doesn't try to shade to the near boundary with him, that's almost certainly a touchdown. Pretty much a no-win situation, but that happens.
This leads me to this point: Why did Marte Mapu get zero (0) snaps on Sunday? I understand that the Patriots are running a lot more base looks without Judon and Gonzalez in the mix, but Belichick couldn't have gotten him out there at all? He's probably their best option to fit that tight-end eraser role outside of Dugger, and while Mayer didn't do much damage in the second half, that was a perplexing move by Bill Belichick. I also don't believe he was asked about that either postgame or Monday, but I don't think we'd be getting a worthwhile answer either way.
Obligatory Mac Jones Interception
Just one offensive turnover for the Patriots this week, but it was another brutal interception by Mac Jones. Now, when I tell you this would have been a walk-in touchdown for Hunter Henry, know that I'm not using a shred of hyperbole or exaggeration. There were zero (0) Raiders defenders within 10 yards of him at one point.
This isn't a case of Mac Jones doing too much, making an iffy throw under pressure, etc. This is simply a wretched, inexcusable overthrow when you've had trouble not turning the ball over as it is. Everything mechanically here is bad. He's fading away backward, going off his backfoot, and sails a ball that should have hit Henry right in the numbers. I get that the Patriots don't have much faith internally in Bailey Zappe (he wouldn't have been cut in the preseason otherwise), but at some point, this has to stop right?
All week long, Patriots reporters slowly started to report that Malik Cunningham would factor into things on Sunday, and the former standout Louisville quarterback only played six (6) snaps all game. Going back, just two of those were under center, and one of those was a handoff. Here's the singular play of Cunningham not being a decoy all day.
Hoodwinked, bamboozled, ran astray, run amuck, and flat-out deceived says I. What blows this play up is that cornerback Amik Robertson is on a corner blitz here and times the snap perfectly. Had he traveled with Kendrick Bourne, Cunningham would have gotten this throw-off to Mike Gesicki, but I don't think this one would have gone far either way. They needed to get Cunningham active with his legs and they came nowhere close to doing that on Sunday, which was highly disappointing.
The Parker Drop and the Lack of Accountability
Especially after the Patriots took as long as they did to score their second touchdown, you knew the second DeVante Parker dropped this pass that the Patriots would lose this game.
The two next plays after this were a delay of game, and then the safety that officially put the final nail in the coffin. My issue isn't so much the drop, and although it was a bad one, it happens. The issue is with Parker's comments after the game regarding the drop.
"[The Pass] Probably hit my fingertips, I think. But I didn’t get a full grasp of it. I think so, I mean, fingertips, so I don’t know. But.” - DeVante Parker
And here's the close-up evidence that the pass did not just hit him in the fingertips.
Had Parker said something along the lines of "That's a ball I should have grabbed, that's on me, and I have to be better going forward", I think people would have still been upset over the drop but would have respected the level of accountability. This was probably the worst way he could have answered this, and for better or worse, I think he's opened himself up for more criticism moving forward.
Final Score: Las Vegas Raiders 21, New England Patriots 17
Gaffney's Three Stars from Patriots-Raiders
3rd Star - Jahlani Tavai (7 Tackles, 1 PBU, 1 Interception)
2nd Star - Kendrick Bourne (10 Catches for 89 Yards)
1st Star - Jabrill Peppers (7 Tackles [All Solo], 2 PBUs, Turned into 2013 Kam Chancellor for 1 [one] play)
Main Image via