How do the Oakland Raiders topple the surging New England Patriots?
Sound complementary football. Every piece of the Silver & Black machine working in harmonious unison — that’s how.
It’s what the 7-2 Bill Belichick led Patriots exude and excel in this year and in season’s past. And it’s what the 4-5 Jack Del Rio captained Raiders have been vainly trying to attain.
“It’s just really about playing together,” Oakland safety Karl Joseph said. “I think when the offense needs us, we have to step up, and come up with a stop, and give them the ball, give them a chance to go win the game for us, and same thing, when we need the offense to score for us, when we’re not necessarily playing too good or whatever, they always step up and put up the points.”
Nail. On. The. Head. Mr. Joseph.
New England’s 41-16 destruction of the Denver Broncos last Sunday was a perfect case study in sound complimentary football. Offense, defense and special teams combining in supreme balance to create an impressive display of whoop ass. Belichick and his coaching staff hold a Ph.D in buttkicking. Oakland hasn’t shown anything remotely close to that since a Week 2, 45-20 shellacking of the New York Jets.
It’s no wonder the Raiders, to a man, nary say anything negative of the Patriots when asked by media.
“If you just look at stats, they’re averaging whatever, it doesn’t matter,” said quarterback Derek Carr. “They’re good. They’re well coached. They have first round picks all over the field. They have talent. They have veterans to get them lined up. They have veterans that know that system, been in that system a long time. Like I said, stats are misleading a lot of the time. They play very efficient. They tackle really well. They’re very fundamentally sound.”
Oakland’s game plan is fairly elementary:
- Sustain time-consuming drives and score touchdowns on offense to keep Tom Brady and the high-powered New England off the field as much as possible
- Keep the Patriots out of the end zone. Bend but do not break
- Knock Brady around and ensure he gets quite acquainted with the turf in order to create turnovers
- Tackle like your life depended on it
- And lastly, alter the game via special teams
“I don’t pay too much attention to the stats other than the situational stuff. Like you said, they’ve kept scoring down,” said Raiders Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing. “They’ve done a nice job of buckling down as drives have extended a little bit. They’ve kind of dug their heels in a little bit and stopped people from getting in the end zone. They are certainly playing sound defense. You don’t see a lot of free runners in their secondary. Their communication seems to be on point. We’re going to have to be on the details of our assignments if we’re going to sustain drives, move the chains and score points.”
Executing that plan is anything but elementary. Against a Belichick coached team, it’s akin to solving the world’s most complicated and intricate mathematical equation — without a calculator.
“You have to make plays,” Norton said. “You have to get him (Brady) off the spot sometimes. You have to make him think sometimes. You have to make plays. You have to knock the ball away from the receivers. You have to tackle really well. You have to put together a really solid game because they’re going to test everything that you’re doing. They have a certain formula that works well for them. You have to understand that formula and find ways to try and make them get off rhythm.”
But the Raiders must solve it. Their playoff lives hang in the balance. They must win in order to prove the legitimacy and sincerity of their “playoffs are possible” rhetoric.
That means getting one-man destroyer Khalil Mack’s engine roaring. That means covering the multitude of Patriots receivers — wideouts, running backs and tight ends — to give Mack and other rushers chance to hit home. Defensive line, linebackers and secondary need to complement one another.
“If the quarterback is going to throw the ball in less than two seconds, it’s going to be tough to get there,” Del Rio said. “So when the quarterback is throwing the ball quick like that, we’ve got to tackle and have their punt team come out. They’ll get tired of punting or turning the ball over and they’ll sit and hold the ball a little bit and Khalil can get there. If they’re throwing the ball in two seconds or less, it’s going to be hard to get sacks.”
It’s also going to be hard to swallow how much this Raiders team has under-achieved if the team falls this Sunday in Mexico City.
Oakland keeps catching breaks with teams losing and shuffling the AFC playoff picture. That’s given the Raiders a pulse. A victory against the mighty Patriots would how the Raiders’ heart is beating strongly.
The time for talk is over. Was over weeks ago.
It’s time for doing. Time to end the string of doing Jack Shi …
You get the point.