The New England Patriots extended their win streak against the Las Vegas Raiders to six games Sunday afternoon with a strong rushing attack and three turnovers forced on defense.
The Patriots started slow offensively to begin their Week 3 matchup at Gillette Stadium, going 3-and-out twice and throwing an interception on the first three possessions, in addition to not scoring a touchdown until 34 seconds left in the second quarter.
New England eventually found its groove en route to a 36-20 victory. The Raiders still have not beaten the Patriots in Foxboro since 1994.
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Here are four instant takeaways from the Patriots' win.
1. Sony Michel, Pats run game find another gear
After a strong Week 1, the Patriots weren't able to generate much success on the ground in a Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. New England ran for just 67 yards (2.7 per carry) as a team, and its running backs averaged just 1.6 yards per rush.
Sunday was a lot better for the Pats. They carved up the Raiders defense for 250 rushing yards (6.6 per carry) and two touchdowns.
Here's a great stat on the Patriots' rushing prowess to begin the 2020 season:
From @ESPNStatsInfo: The Patriots have eclipsed 200 rushing yards in a game for the 2nd time this season. The last time the Patriots had 200 rushing yards twice within the first 3 games of a season was 1983.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 27, 2020
Patriots running back Sony Michel, who had struggled mightily with 56 yards over the first two weeks, ran for 117 yards on nine carries. Michel's runs of 38 and 48 yards in the second half were two of the best in his career. In fact, entering Sunday, Michel had zero runs of 35-plus yards as a Patriot.
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2020
The Patriots needed a strong game from their rushing attack because quarterback Cam Newton was average at best as a passer. He completed 17 of 28 pass attempts for just 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
If the Patriots are going to be a contender for the AFC title in 2020, the run game will have to carry them to success. Sunday's performance was very much a positive step forward in that regard.
2. Chase Winovich has been stellar through three games
The Patriots lost several players from their front seven on defense through free agency and opt outs, and they needed a young player to step up and become a quality pass rusher. So far, Chase Winovich has answered the challenge.
The second-year defensive end tallied two tackles, one sack, two QB hits and a forced fumble in the second quarter that resulted in New England's first touchdown of the game. His ability to consistently put pressure on the quarterback has been a huge boost for the team's defense.
3. Timeout management must be better
The Patriots had burned all three of their second half timeouts with 12:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. Each timeout had to be taken because New England didn't have the proper defensive personnel on the field. Those are mental errors that, while very uncharacteristic for a Bill Belichick-coached team, just cannot happen.
It didn't prove costly against the Raiders, but these errors must get cleaned up before next week's showdown against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
4. J.C. Jackson gives bounce-back performance
Jackson and the Patriots secondary as a whole played poorly in last week's loss to the Seahawks, but Sunday's performance from the 24-year-old cornerback was much better.
The Raiders could've had a 14-0 lead after the first quarter but Jackson made two huge pays in the red zone. Jackson recovered a Josh Jacobs fumble on one drive, and on the next Raiders possession he broke up a pass on third down that forced Las Vegas to settle for a field goal.
Jackson finished with a team-high six solo tackles, a fumble recovery and one pass defensed. He also excelled in pass coverage. Jackson is one of the most underrated defensive players in the league, and he's shined so far in 2020 with excellent performances in Week 1 and Week 3.