Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (8-2) jumped out to a 17-0 lead and cruised to a blowout win over the Oakland Raiders (4-6) at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Here's what we learned from the Patriots' romp:
- Well, this one was pretty easy to summarize. Tom Brady leads the league in passing, and on Sunday, he showed why: Deep connections with Brandin Cooks and precise hookups with the rest of his targets (especially Danny Amendola) on a 30-of-37 passing day that included 339 yards and three touchdowns. In the second quarter, Brady found Cooks on a long pass down the seam on which he simply ran through the double team to open space (hitting a max speed of 20.23 mph in the process, per Next Gen Stats), which put New England squarely in Oakland territory and eventually led to a touchdown. Later, Cooks ran right past Obi Melifonwu -- a safety playing corner -- and the rest of the Raiders' defense on a 64-yard touchdown reception. These plays alone were massive blows to Oakland's hopes of getting back into the game on a day in which it felt like the Raiders started with a deficit.
- We can talk about how big of a day it was for Cooks (and it was), and how Amendola fills his role within a Brady-led offense so well, but for the second straight week, we should really be looking at Dion Lewis. The running back finished with 60 yards on 10 carries and added four receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown, further emphasizing his role as New England's best all-around back. The Patriots lack a true workhorse, but they haven't needed one (except in goal-line situations) for the last few years, anyway. With the way New England moves around and targets its backs, the versatile, multi-dimensional runners are better suited for this offense, and Lewis is the best of that bunch.
- The Raiders had a grand opportunity in front of them Sunday. Kansas City inexplicably lost to the New York Giants earlier in the day, meaning with a win, Oakland would be just a game behind the division leaders. Instead, they flat out blew it. An interception ended an early drive after New England took a 7-0 lead, and a Seth Roberts fumble killed another promising drive with the Raiders already trailing 14-0. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal followed at the end of the half, and the Raiders hit intermission in a 17-0 hole. They never recovered.
- So what's the deal with Oakland's offense? Surprisingly, it starts up front. New England registered just five quarterback hits and one sack of Derek Carr, but the quarterback often didn't have time to throw. Oakland's lack of a running game also doesn't help Carr in this department. A gripe related to the latter point -- one that plenty pointed out almost immediately on Twitter -- also illustrates most of everything wrong with their offense: Why did Oakland sign Marshawn Lynch if it isn't going to use him on fourth-and-1? That happened again on Sunday, resulting in a turnover on downs and another Oakland drive cut short. Against the pass, the Raiders aren't playing winning football. When facing an early deficit, Oakland also isn't doing much to trust its running game. All of this has a trickle-down effect that results in Carr throwing way too many passes in a futile attempt to toss the Raiders back into the game. They're another loss or two from being tossed out of the playoff picture after this finish.
- Shoutout to Gostkowski, who took advantage of the 7,000-plus-foot elevation to get a little more distance on his kicks, drilling a 62-yarder to end the first half and punctuate a dominant two quarters for New England. The conditions weren't as kind in the second half, with Amendola and Stephon Gilmore leaving the game due to dehydration (both eventually returned). So much for the TB12 method south of the border.
The turnout for the game was great, as expected, and later in the CBS broadcast, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo tossed around different ideas on how to get more than one game a year played in Mexico City. Even in a blowout finish, it was an overall good day for NFL football in locations outside of the United States.