Pats bend, don't break, in 31-19 win over Raiders

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Pats bend, don't break, in 31-19 win over Raiders

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

If you allow lots of yards, then you'd better create some turnovers and make some big stops. It was the Buffalo Bills' recipe for success against New England last week.

Scoring summary, statistics
The Patriots apparently took it to heart, because that's exactly how they beat the Raiders, 31-19, on Sunday.

The Pats' defense -- which suffered a potentially crippling blow when Jerod Mayo suffered a left knee injury in the second quarter and had to be helped off the field -- once again surrendered a ton of yardage; 504, to be exact. It was once again pathetic on third down, allowing Oakland to convert on 8 of its first 10 attempts. It gave up a mind-boggling 17 plays of 10 or more yards.

But . . .

Cornerback Patrick Chung intercepted a Jason Campbell pass in the end zone on second-and-goal with 2:24 to play in the first half and the Pats clinging to a 14-10 lead, killing a Raiders drive that had started on the Oakland 14.

The Pats' defense -- aided by the referees deciding to overturn their own pass-interference penalty against Kyle Arrington at the New England 2-yard line, ruling his trip of Jacoby Ford was the result of incidental contact -- halted a third-quarter drive that had started on the Raiders 18 and eventually reached the Patriots 8. The Raiders had to settle for a chip-shot Sebastian Janikowski field goal, which cut New England's lead to 24-13 but kept it as a two-score game.

Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who had never intercepted a pass in his career prior the Game 2 against San Diego, snared a Campbell pass intended to Darren McFadden at the New England 30 with the Pats leading 31-13 in the fourth quarter, essentially ending Oakland's last hope.

The defensive effort backed a crisp, mistake-free effort by the offense. The numbers weren't as stratospheric as they've been in other games this year, as Tom Brady passed for a "mere" 226 yards. (He did, however, throw for two touchdowns and move past his childhood idol, Joe Montana, into ninth place on the NFL's all-time list.) But their running game was strong (183 yards) and -- in sharp contrast to the 34-31 loss to the Bills -- there were no turnovers.

"This whole week, we challenged each other," said Wilfork. "Coach Bill Belichick challenged us just to play better football, don't give away games, and we did . . .

"This was one of the best weeks of practice we had this year . . . and it showed."

The victory increased New England's record to 3-1 and moved the Pats back into a first-place tie in the AFC East, thanks to Buffalo's last-second loss at Cincinnati.

The teams traded blows early; the Pats answered a Janikowski field goal with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Wes Welker and held a 7-3 lead after one quarter. The Raiders pushed ahead again, 13-10, on a one-yard run by Michael Bush in the second quarter, which capped a 6-play, 88-yard drive, but the Pats answered that TD with a score of their own: A one-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis that capped a six-play, 64-yard drive jumpstarted by a personal-foul penalty against the Raiders, one of seven penalties (for 70 yards) called against Oakland in the first half.

At this point, however, the Raiders were moving the ball easily and had scored on three of their first four possessions. When they went from their 14 to the Patriots 6 and were on the verge of scoring again, it looked like another long, frustrating afternoon was in store for the Pats' defense.

Then Chung intercepted a pass that Campbell was attempting to throw away. And everything changed.

The Pats got the ball on their own 20 and Brady engineered a two-minute drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Stephan Gostkowski with six seconds left, giving the Pats a 17-10 lead at halftime. It was a lead they increased to 24-10 with a 7-play, 81-yard drive after the second-half kickoff that was capped by an electrifying 33-yard run from Stevan Ridley, who ran for 97 yards on 10 carries during the game.

"Stevan did a good job, but I thought all our backs did a good job," coach Bill Belichick said of the ground game, which averaged 6.1 yards on 30 attempts. "The players did a good job; we blocked well, we ran well . . . It was a good team effort running the ball."

"It was huge," said Brady of the revived running game. "Being able to be more balanced than we've been . . . that's important. It sets up a lot of things."

The defense's stop on Oakland's next drive, which resulted in another chip-shot Janikowski field goal but kept the Pats in front by 24-13. A four-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Deion Branch with 13:43 to go in the final period made it 31-13 -- the 12th straight regular-season game they've scored 30 or more points -- and Wilfork sealed the victory with his interception.

The Raiders scored a garbage-time touchdown with 28 seconds left on a six-yard scoring pass from Campbell to Denarius Moore. Still, the 19 points allowed -- Oakland went for a two-point conversion after Moore's TD and failed -- was the lowest number of points the Pats have given up in a game this year, and put the team in a good frame of mind heading into next week's divisional showdown against the Jets.

"Got a big win today," cornerback Devin McCourty said on Twitter, "now this LONG flight home . . . "

It'll probably seem shorter than the short fight home from Buffalo last week, though.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.

Tom Brady adds sumo wrestling to offseason training regimen

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Tom Brady adds sumo wrestling to offseason training regimen

Tom Brady's off-the-field workout habits are the subject of serious curiosity for those in New England and beyond. Thanks to Under Armour's Instagram account, followers got a brief glimpse of what Brady does to stay in shape. 

OK. It was more like a glimpse at what he did one day in Tokyo.

@tombrady always fighting for that extra yard. 😂😂 #TBAsiaTour #IWILL

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The video of Brady in the dohyo ring was shot at the Sakaigawa sumo stable in Tokyo on Thursday. According to Kyodo News, leading the training session was ozeki Goeido, who won last year's Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

"For them to welcome me means very much to me. It's hard to describe in words how special that was," Brady said.

Brady bounced around China before heading to Japan to continue to help promote Under Armour and in particular its "recovery sleepwear" line. He threw a pass on the Great Wall, and he explained that it was his "dream" to play a game on the continent. 

Arigatōgozaimashita 🇯🇵🙏

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Brady vs Brady #therecanonlybeone 🏆

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