The Oakland Raiders offense has garnered most of the headlines but for the second week in a row Oakland’s rebuilt but maligned defense stymied the opposition’s offense.
Oakland, which has just two starters remaining from last season including injured defensive end Tony Bryant, defeated New England 27-20 Sunday night but outplayed the Patriots more than the final score suggested one week after blowing out Denver 34-10. Against New England, Oakland was only responsible for giving up six points. The Patriots touchdowns came on linebacker Tedi Bruschi’s 48-yard interception for a touchdown and Kevin Faulk’s 86-yard kickoff return to paydirt.
Theoretically, however, one could say that the Raider defense was only responsible for giving up three points. One of New England’s field goals came on a drive kept afloat by Marcus Knight for roughing Patriots punter Ken Walter.
The numbers have been impressive the last two weeks. Denver’s Brian Griese and New England’s Tom Brady combined to complete 52-of-97 passes for 465 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Oakland’s defense sacked both quarterbacks four times apiece. Denver and New England combined for just 124 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
Oakland’s offense has been impressive in both games but the defense set the tone with big plays in each of those contests:
Denver: The Raiders led 3-0 with 3:13 left in the opening quarter but Denver had the ball at the Oakland 4-yard line, facing second-and-goal. Griese tried to connect with running back Clinton Portis over the middle but free safety Rod Woodson picked off the pass and raced 98-yards for a touchdown.
That play was the difference in being, at worst, a 3-3 tie and potentially a 7-3 deficit but instead Oakland took a 10-0 lead and rolled to a 34-10 win. That game gave the Raiders their first win in Denver since 1994.
New England: Oakland clinged to a 10-6 advantage with 1:46 left in the first half. The Patriots faced first-and-10 at their own 13 with a raucous Black Hole (the South end zone) behind them. Defensive end Chris Cooper stripped Brady of the ball – and yes, this time it was ruled a fumble with no instant replay to bail out New England. Trace Armstrong pounced the loose ball to give the Raiders possession at the Patriots 8. Three plays later, Gannon scored on a bootleg around left-end. That play gave the Raiders a 17-6 advantage and New England faced an uphill battle the rest of the night.