Brady won't receive warm homecoming in Oakland


Brady won't receive warm homecoming in Oakland

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- New England's upcoming matchup against the Oakland Raiders is its second road game in as many weeks. For quarterback Tom Brady and seven other Patriots, it's a free flight home.

Not like that will make the assignment easier.

"It's been a while since I've been there," Brady said Wednesday. "Last time I played there was '02, so I think my parents are the most happy. They don't have to come very far this week. For us, it's a road game, it's an important one. So we've got to go out there and try to win."

The teams last met in 2008, when the Patriots inflicted a 49-26 beating on the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. But the offensive firestorm -- the four touchdown passes on four opening drives -- is credited to Matt Cassel; Brady's bum knee wrote it as such. He hasn't faced the Raiders since a 30-20 win September 8, 2005. And he hasn't visited The Black Hole since November 17, 2002 -- a 27-20 loss.

"We haven't played them -- I haven't played them -- in a while, so it's been kind of a crash course the last few days in getting to know them, getting to know their personnel, their schemes. But they're very good. They play well at home. They're very physical. They're tough. They're big. They're fast. It's always a certain type of player out there: big, tough, fast . . . It's a good front. They're good in the secondary. ... It's going to be a big challenge."


The Raiders haven't had a winning season since 2002; last year's 8-8 record was a boon. But, as it was said about the Bills in Week 3, this team might be different. Oakland's 2-1, coming off a 34-21 win over the Jets. The triumph, which started with a no-huddle first snap and two minute, 24 second 76-yard touchdown drive, was demoralizing for New York. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said Oakland's opening "had us on our heels." Nose tackle Sione Pouha called the game "embarrassing" and "humiliating."

Raiders running back Darren McFadden plowed through the Jets for 171 yards and two touchdowns, abusing one of the AFC East's top teams upped his average to 131 yards rushing per game.

If the Patriots don't want to be pushed around by the "bully" Hue Jackson is building, they can't just lean on their quarterback. Brady's 1,327 passing yards through 2011's first three games is an NFL record. But 387 were wasted in last week's loss to Buffalo. Mark Sanchez's 339 -- part of 439 total yards of offense for the Jets -- weren't good enough to beat the Raiders.

A more complete game will need to be played in Oakland.

"I think the goal is to be pretty balanced in what we're doing," Brady said. "Just based on how the game's played out, it's kind of dictated a certain style of play. When we do run it we need to run it efficiently and effectively and when we throw it we have to do the same. We can't turn the ball over. So whatever we need to do to get the ball in the end zone, we've got to do it well."

Brady throwing four picks, as he did in Buffalo, is unlikely. New England's defense giving up a 21-point lead would be less surprising. The Patriots give up a league-worst 468.7 total yards per game, a stat McFadden must be drooling over. Their 377.0 average passing yards allowed also tops the NFL's naughty list.

Better to look ahead, then.

"I think it's really a fresh week for us," Brady said. "Like I said, there's nothing that we can do about what's happened. We're trying to bring a fresh, new plan, new energy, we're trying to put it together against a damn good football team. We're going to learn more about going on the road and playing a tough opponent than anything. ... We're trying to get a win.

"We've moved on from Sunday and we're focused on what we need to do in our preparation," Brady continued. "I think we've been studying the different challenges Oakland presents to us and we're going to prepare hard like we always do and try to go out there and play well. There's nothing we can do about last week. Certainly nothing we can do about next week. The only thing you can really do is focus on what we have ahead of us today."

From here it looks like one hell of a homecoming.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”