Patriots

Curran: Patriots offense hits its stride early

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Curran: Patriots offense hits its stride early

PHILADELPHIA - You could set your watch to it. Four hours after kickoff, a disconsolate but well-appointed Tom Brady would face the media and lament opportunities missed. Sunday night, Brady still wasn't over the moon. But after a dissection of the Eagles defense, he was at least somewhat pleased. His head coach, rarely one to be too specific, explained that it was Brady that got the offense into surgical mode. "Tom did a good job of really pressing the issue," said Bill Belichick. "We felt like we had them on the run a little bit with some of the empty stuff and some of the matchups. We felt good about our running game, too, but just when we felt like we had some matchups we could take advantage of, Tom just kept pressing it. Everybody got involved and that's what Tom does best . . . find the open guy, put the ball on the money and he did it many times today."Brady is the NFL's version of Steve Nash. (Hey, basketball's back, let's embrace it!) He works matchups as well as any quarterback in the league and understands that you need to feed the heat. The heat on Sunday was Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch and Rob Gronkowski. That was it. No overthinking it. No trying to run ridiculous plays to Chad Ochocinco to try and make him feel a part of things. Just snap, read, throw. "Our guys were getting open," said Brady. "We've got some good quickness on the underneath part of the field and I thought we took advantage of some plays there. I thought we should have hit some other ones, though. But all and all it's a good win and as we do at this time of the year, we've got to move on."It's hard to think the offense is "cured" after a few weeks of sputtering starts when Brady willed the team forward after a switch to fast-break mode. But this week,the Patriots were solid early. It's something they've been striving to do for over a month. An over-reliance on Welker and Gronkowski was evident. Part of it was the knee injury to Aaron Hernandez. He came back way earlier than most players do from MCL injuries and his quickness wasn't back until Sunday, even though he told me he still felt slow on some plays. Part of it was the inability of Deion Branch to get apparent separation. Branch was still well-covered on some of his six receptions for 125 yards, but the offensive line gave Brady time enough to find Branch on restarts, like the 63-yarder he caught. The final part was the unwillingness to simply put the ball in the belly of BenJarvus Green-Ellis often enough even when there wasn't a lot there. On Sunday, BJGE carried 10 times for 42 yards in the opening quarter and that changed the Eagles defense as well. "I thought it was more balanced today," said Brady. "I thought we did a good job getting it to the wideouts, Wes and Deion both obviously had big days and then the tight ends made some plays, too. That's how it needs to be. You got to run it, you got to throw it to everybody and you gotta keep them off balance. You've got to screen, you've got to draw, you've got to trap, you've got to run downhill, you need quick hitters, you need all levels of the passing game. When they're able to take a few of those away, obviously it makes it more difficult to execute but I thought today we did a really good job of maximizing all the guys out there who are playing offense."And the Patriots went back to being a team that's difficult to defend not just because of a Hall of Fame quarterback, the best slot receiver in the league and the living, breathing mismatch that is Rob Gronkowski. They went back to being a team that makes you defend everything and everybody. And, as Sunday showed, most defenses can't.

Belichick: Patriots preparing for everything from slumping Julio Jones

Belichick: Patriots preparing for everything from slumping Julio Jones

FOXBORO -- Julio Jones: He’s the best, right? No? No touchdowns this season? He stinks? He’s going to score against the Patriots because their defense stinks? Real breakout game for ol’ No. 11 in red? Who knows?! Lmao. 

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I’ll tell you what Bill Belichick knows: That Jones is not a one-dimensional player. While “deep threat” might be the first thing that comes to mind with ol’ No. 11 in red, Belichick said the Patriots are preparing for anything and everything from ol’ No. 11 in red. 

“Yeah, I wouldn’t say [he’s just a deep threat],” Belichick said. “I mean, he catches a lot of in-cuts, a lot of over routes, out routes, the one he caught against us last year. He’s good on catch-and-run plays, he’s hard to tackle, he’s strong, slants, so he’s pretty good on everything. You know, same thing, but I mean, they screened everybody. They screened the backs and the receivers and Gabriel, Jones. I mean, they all can get the ball. They’re not just going to screen to one guy and just key on that guy. They mix it up.”

The Patriots will mix it up with the Falcons Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. Jones has 25 catches for 367 yards on the season.  

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Raiders score on final play for 31-30 win over Chiefs

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Raiders score on final play for 31-30 win over Chiefs

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

HOT TEMPERS: The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

LONG DRIVE: After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

DEEP CONNECTION: Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

KICKING WOES: The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.