The New England Patriots now move on to 2-1 after a solid win against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3 by a score of 36-20.
It was an up and down game across the board for New England's positional groups. While players on each side of the football made their fair share of plays, New England benefited from playing a Raiders team that was banged up heading into Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Let's take a look at the grades from each positional group on the Patriots roster.
Cam Newton really struggled early on. The whole offense was stagnant. It took the running backs catching fire for this offense to get rolling. Without the running backs catching fire, it would have been hard to imagine a similar outcome in this game, as Newton was really struggling to see the field in the same light as last week. With the Raiders' defense playing well and the ball not moving, Newton tried to do too much and threw a costly interception in the early goings.
After Newton settled in, he would find some success and do enough to win the game. He ended up playing well enough, and would help lead his team to victory in the second half. Newton did what he had to and showed up when it counted. While we have seen better performances from Newton this season, he played a fine game and the team demonstrated they do not need him to be "Superman" to win against another quality team. Which is a real sign of encouragement.
Running Back: A+
What more can you ask from this group? Rex Burkhead had himself a day, with three touchdowns, two of them being incredibly acrobatic. J.J. Taylor had some nice runs, really being a spark plug to this unit. Even Sony Michel broke off some monster runs of 39 and 48 yards, respectively, rushing for 117 yards on only nine carries, a total good for 13.0 yards per carry. The whole group looked like and ran like they were all shot out of cannons.
The offensive line played an instrumental role in all three players finding success in Week 3. Nonetheless, all three running backs looked phenomenal with the ball in their hands. Michel showed the best runs we've seen from him since his 2018 rookie campaign.
Wide Receiver: B-
The receiving core is hard to evaluate in Week 3 due to a subpar showing from Newton. Most of the plays and catches we saw from this group were rather routine. Nothing really stood out. The only play that really deserves mentioning is a comeback route from N'Keal Harry on a 2nd & 11 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. After coming up with a huge catch to move the chains, backed up at the New England 20-yard line, Harry showed off his run after the catch ability and moved the ball all the way up to mid-field. It was a huge, rather underrated play in the game. Newton and Harry seem to continue to work on that connection.
Tight end: D
Another week without any involvement from Devin Asiasi makes him hard to evaluate. However, if we are giving grades based on Ryan Izzo's performance, the tight end position gets a D. Which is down from last week's grade of C.
Izzo was out on the field running the wrong routes, dropping touchdowns, and getting bullied as a blocker. It's hard to justify a higher letter grade for this position with Izzo's pedestrian performance against the Raiders.
Offensive line: A
After a little bit of a slow start, the offensive line figured things out and asserted their dominance over the Las Vegas front seven. Even with starting center David Andrews and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, the offensive line can still piece things together and turning fantastic performances. They are the unspoken heroes yet again.
Shifting Joe Thuney to center and having rookie sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu notch his first NFL start against Las Vegas, New England's offensive line was a major reason why the Patriots' backfield accumulated 250 yards on the ground in Week 3. That's huge, especially when Newton wasn't on his A-game.
Defensive line: B+
What a phenomenal performance from Chase Winovich. He put consistent pressure on Derek Carr, stripped him for a sack-fumble early on in the game, and then was instrumental in forcing the second fumble that resulted in a Deatrich Wise touchdown.
Speaking of Wise, he also looked great too, using his power to push back offensive tackles and disrupt the pocket for Carr. He is another player, much like Winovich, that seems to improve each time we see him. The future is bright for that pair.
Another name to call out is Adam Butler, who was a strong force in the run game for the Patriots. He is another young, developing player on the defensive line.
The bottom line is that some young, promising defensive lineman had strong performances today. They, as a group, pressured Carr, did a much better job of containing the edge, and had an impact on the outcome of this game.
A few standout plays by Ja'Whaun Bentley earns a B for the linebacker group in Week 3. While Bentley and Brandon Copeland are really the team's only two true linebackers yet again, Bentley had some solid plays after a subpar week in Week 2.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows for Bentley, however, as he had some low points as well, with a lot of issues stemming from his speed. But Bentley did turn in some solid plays against the run vs. Las Vegas.
A C- for this group might almost be generous at this point. Whatever is going on with this group, they are having a tough time coming out of the gate. Most notably this time around, Terrence Brooks and Stephon Gilmore played poorly. Joejuan Williams and Jonathan Jones had some real ups and downs on top of that.
Williams and Jones both made some great plays against Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. At the same time, they also had some gaffs in coverage against those two. Most notably, a huge catch by Renfrow, with Jones in coverage, to get the Raiders to the one-yard line right before the conclusion of the first half. Jones would also give up a garbage-time touchdown to Renfrow as well.
As for Brooks and Gilmore, they two really need to find their groove. Gilmore's play as of late has been uncharacteristic, especially when it's being compared to one of the best seasons the league has ever seen from a cornerback in 2019.
Special teams: B
Before the fourth quarter, there was a write-up on this position with an A grade, talking about Nick Folk and his 3-for-3 day on field goals. It read "While Nick Folk did hit three rather chip-shot field goals, he was 3-for-3 after all. With all the struggles he has had this season and last, he gets credit for nailing all his attempts today."
However, Folk knocks the position down a whole letter grade with an inexcusable missed extra point. A missed extra point that could have jeopardized the outcome of this ball game. Fortunately, it didn't. However, extra points cannot be missed like that, especially when entering crunch time in a ball game.
As for Jake Bailey, he turned in his usual strong performance, along with the hands-team jumping on an onside kick recovery. This group was an A without a inexcusable gaff from Folk.
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