After consecutive blowout losses, it was difficult to say if the New England Patriots goal on Sunday should be to win a football game or simply avoid further embarrassment. Against the Las Vegas Raiders, at least one of those goals seemed to be accomplished. Ultimately that was not enough to get the Patriots back in the win column, as the Raiders prevailed 21-17.
Another Slow Start
Las Vegas began the game with the ball and possessed the ball for the first 8:06 of the game. New England’s defense was able to prevent the Raiders from scoring a touchdown, though they still scored first, taking a 3-0 lead on a field goal.
Then the New England Patriots finally got the ball. Their offensive start to the game began with:
- Penalty on RT Vederian Lowe (false start) on first and 10
- Penalty on LT Trent Brown (ineligible receiver downfield) on first and 15, declined on incomplete pass
- Incomplete pass on second and 15, Rhamondre Stevenson dropped a screen pass
- Handoff to Stevenson on third and 15 for a six-yard gain
Mac Jones was playing for his future as New England’s starting quarterback, but tough to figure out what he could have done differently on their opening drive. Two penalties and an incomplete pass when Stevenson took his eyes off of the ball, followed by a punt.
After the defensive spent over eight minutes on the field, they had 56 seconds of game clock to rest before being sent back out.
Patriots Shooting Themselves in the Foot
For years the New England Patriots achieved success by not beating themselves. On the Raiders opening drive the Patriots were flagged for an offsides penalty (Deatrich Wise, Jr.) and a leverage penalty (Sam Roberts) on a field goal attempt. When New England got the ball they got called for the two aforementioned penalties in addition to Stevenson’s drop. On Las Vegas’ second offensive possession there was another massive penalty on the Patriots. Jahlani Tavai finally stopped Josh Jacobs after a 27-yard gain. But Tavai got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for slamming Jacobs to the ground on the tackle. In effect, this turned it into a 42-yard gain and another costly penalty for the Patriots.
New England seemed fortunate to be down only 3-0 this far into the game, but Las Vegas was driving.
Hope Quickly Squashed
Just two plays after being penalized, Jahlani Tavai made up for his error. The New England Patriots defense has been far from the main issue this season but have also failed to force turnovers. As stated in the pregame preview, if the offense is unable to deliver game-changing plays it is up to the defense to do so. Finally, that occurred.
Patriots’ safety Jabrill Peppers destroyed the intended receiver, Devante Adams, as the throw arrived. The football ricocheted into the air and Tavai made a nice play to corral it in for the interception. New England’s defense got them the ball back as has been desperately needed.
Jabrill Peppers and Jahlani Tavai team up for a crazy INT 😱
— NFL (@NFL) October 15, 2023
How did the Patriots offense respond to this potential momentum changing turnover? Not well:
- Stevenson two-yard carry up the middle
- Stevenson one-yard carry up the middle
- Mac Jones sacked by Adam Butler (former Patriots DL). The four closest players to Jones all played for the Raiders.
Jakobi Meyers Revenge
After getting the ball back quickly yet again, the Raiders made the Patriots pay. Although New England held tough against the running attack, a couple of key completions from Jimmy Garoppolo helped Las Vegas work their way down the field. He found TE Michael Mayer for a 32-yard completion on a third down and six play. This moved the ball all the down to the New England 32-yard line. After converting another third down on a completion to WR Jakobi Meyers, the Raiders found the end zone. It was Meyers once again, working his way to get wide open in the back of the end zone against his former teammates. Obviously nobody can blame Bill Belichick for the former Patriots’ departure. As Belichick said about Meyers earlier in the week, “he was a free agent and he signed with the Raiders.”
The extra point made the score 10-0 Raiders. It was the fifth game in 2023 the Patriots had trailed by double digits and they had lost the previous four.
More Mistakes on Offense
New England Patriots fans finally had something to get excited about in their next possession, at least temporarily. On the third play of the drive, Mac Jones found Ezekiel Elliott open in the flat. Elliott then became something the Patriots offense has badly needed: a playmaker. He took the short pass and went a long way, taking it 76 yards into the Las Vegas end zone. For a second it appeared as though the Patriots offense had finally exploded for big play, but there was a yellow flag on the field. Hunter Henry was called for holding, and the ball came all the way back to the Patriots side of the field. Jones did connect with Kendrick Bourne on a 36-yard completion when the drive resumed, but New England was unable to register a touchdown. They were forced to settle for a Chad Ryland 43-yard field goal to cut the Raiders lead to 10-3. “Touchdown nullified” are not two words the 2023 New England Patriots can afford to see from their offense.
Awful Interception from Mac Jones
After the Patriots defense forced a three-and-out from the Raiders, they were suddenly in the unlikely position of being able to tie the game. The offense was moving the ball effectively, completing passes to Bourne and Henry and Mike Gesicki. The pass to Gesicki was a bit of a floater from Jones, but the tight end made a nice grab at ground level to secure a first down at the Las Vegas 35-yard line. Two plays later Mac Jones threw another floater, but this one had no Patriots receivers in sight.
Hunter Henry was the closest Patriots player and likely intended target, but the pass sailed behind and over him by a considerable margin. The ball landed in the arms of Raiders DB Trevon Moehrig. Raiders got the ball back and would increase their lead to 13-3 at halftime. Mac Jones throw was bad enough that it was worth wondering who would start the second half at QB for the Patriots. Newly elevated practice squad QB/WR/ST Malik Cunningham was the only alternative available to Jones.
Quarterback Change at Halftime
There was a quarterback change made at halftime. However, the change was not made by the New England Patriots. Raiders QB Jimmy Garoppolo was taken to the hospital at halftime for a back injury sustained at the end of the first half. He would be replaced by another former Patriots quarterback in Brian Hoyer. But it was the Patriots ball to start the second half, and they finally made something happen.
Rhamondre Stevenson ran 15 yards on the opening offensive play of the half, his longest carry of the season to date. He then limped off the field injured after the play. Elliott took over at running back and spearheaded a 70-yard drive that ended when he scored from two yards out.
Raiders 13, Patriots 10
After Las Vegas Widens Their Lead…
Following the Ezekiel Elliott touchdown, the Raiders sandwiched a Patriots punt around two field goals of their own. With 13:06 to play in the game, New England had the ball but trailed by two scores, 19-10.
Mac Jones then led a methodical 75-yard drive down the field, taking up 9:30 of the clock in the process. Not only did the New England Patriots defense finally get a well-deserved breather, but the offense also scored their second touchdown of the half. It was arguably the best the offense had looked all season. Of course, New England’s offense seemed incapable of making things easy on themselves. The committed consecutive penalties after getting the ball all the way down to the Raiders two-yard line. Las Vegas helped them out though, with a roughing the passer penalty against All Pro Maxx Crosby. One play later, Rhamondre Stevenson ran it in from one yard out. The lead was down to 19-17 in favor of Las Vegas.
A Comeback Win for the Patriots?
Mac Jones has been criticized for failing to lead the New England Patriots to comeback victories. To date, his only fourth quarter comeback came against the Houston Texans as a rookie in 2021. But before Jones would have a chance to lead the offense to a game-winning drive, the defense had to get the ball back, and quick.
After a questionable penalty called against Patriots DB J.C. Jackson, it appeared Las Vegas needed only one more first down to seal the win. But the New England defense held tough. On third and two, DT Christian Barmore smothered ball carrier Josh Jacobs in the backfield for a two-yard loss. This forced Las Vegas to punt and gave Mac Jones the opportunity he needed to win it.
An excellent punt pinned the Patriots at their own nine-yard line with 2:23 to play. Only trailing by two points, New England just needed a field goal to win the game. After a short completion to Rhamondre Stevenson, the Patriots gave the ball back to Stevenson again before the two-minute warning. Although he picked up six yards, and a first-down on the carry, it was called back. A holding call against OG Atonio Mafi turned the six-yard gain into an eight-yard loss. Jones went for a big gain, targeting WR DeVante Parker on deep throw. A reception would have had the Patriots on the verge of field goal range. But the perfectly thrown pass slipped through Parker’s hands and fell incomplete. Following a delay of game penalty on the Patriots, Jones was sacked by Crosby in the end zone for a safety, ending the game.
Final Score: Las Vegas Raiders 21, New England Patriots 17
The New England Patriots (1-5) will play host to the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.