RB Darren McFadden gets a carry in the Raiders 2008 match up with the Patriots. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders will play in front of a sold out crowd for the second week in a row as they face the New England Patriots at O.co Coliseum in Week 4 action. The teams head into the game with 2-1 records after both suffering losses to the Buffalo Bills. After a big win against the New York Jets in their home opener last week, the Raiders look to continue their winning ways against the Patriots, the number one team in passing and total offense in the NFL.
The Patriots may be the leaders in passing and total offense, but New England will be facing the league's top rushing offense. Through Week 3, the Silver and Black are averaging 185 yards rushing per game and have eight rushing touchdowns, led by RB Darren McFadden, who leads the league with 393 yards on the ground. "He's big, fast, good vision, strong runner, hard to tackle, and he can catch the ball," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "He can do it all."
Belichick, who has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, has great respect for the Raiders team he will be facing in Oakland on Sunday. "They're very talented and I think that Coach Davis and Coach Jackson did a good job at putting their roster together," said Coach Belichick. "They're good in all three phases of the game. They're big, they're fast, and they're good football players and their tough. They give you a lot of problems in all three areas of the game."
Patriots QB Tom Brady, who grew up in San Mateo, Calif., returns to the Bay Area and will have to face off against former teammate and friend DT Richard Seymour. "He's a great friend and a hell of a player," said Brady. "He looks like the Richard that I've always seen; he gets after the quarterback, he plays the run, he's a great leader on the defense so he's a great player and he has been for a very long time."
Seymour is looking forward to playing against his former team, but only because it's the Raiders next opponent. "I thought we took a step forward last week," said Seymour. "It's even a bigger game this week because it's our next and it isn't me against New England. It's the Raiders against the Patriots and we're going out to try and get a win. That's our ultimate goal; to try and string some wins together so that's what I'm focused on."
The Raiders defense has a tall task this week matching up with the league-leading Brady and WR Wes Welker. "This team has the best quarterback in football. I mean, Tom Brady is as good as they have anywhere," said Head Coach Hue Jackson. "They have the best coach, quarterback, team – they've been the Super Bowl champion. So, it's going to a tremendous challenge for this football team. But, that's what this is about every week to go out and compete against the best. This is the best of the best week in and week out. If we are going to become the team that I think we can become, these are the challenges you want."
"New England is a team that likes to get the ball to Wes Welker," said QB Jason Campbell. "They have great tight ends, they have young receivers, and Tom Brady is Tom. He's going to go out and spread the ball around, so our defense understands it is a big task."
Welker, who caught 16 passes last week for 217 yards and two touchdowns last week, is an offensive threat the Raiders will have to match-up with. "He's very good at what he does – he catches the ball, runs with the ball, he's one of the catalysts for their football team," said Coach Jackson. "We have got to get this guy slowed down, I mean, he's as good as there is. The numbers prove it, they way he plays proves it - I mean that's the truth. He's as good as there is. He's not a big guy, but he plays big and I respect that."
The Raiders defense views the match up as a great opportunity to gauge and prove that the Silver and Black is back. "I'm just looking at it as a challenge," said DE Jarvis Moss, who recorded two sacks against the Jets in Week 3. "It's a huge opportunity for the Raiders. It just gives us the chance to see where we're at right now against a consistent franchise. You know they are going to be ready to play and it gives us a chance to measure ourselves here in Week 4."
DT Desmond Bryant knows the Patriots present a challenge, but welcomes it. "You know as a player, I'm a competitor so I'm always up for the competition," said Bryant. "They have a good team and they say to be the best, you've got to beat the best and they've been perennially one of the best teams in the AFC. It should be a good match-up for us."
"We've got our hands full," said safety Matt Giordano. "We've got probably the best quarterback in the league right now and he's at the top of his game and he has the offense running on all cylinders. Our defense will definitely have to be ready and, like I said before, we have our hands full."
The Patriots defense will have just as much to contend with as they will face McFadden and a Raiders offensive line that has been coming together as a unit. "I think it's a real solid group," said Belichick. "I think [Samson] Satele has done a good job for them at center. [Stefen] Wisniewski and [Cooper] Carlisle have been solid. Wisniewski is a young guy but he seems to have adapted pretty well in there. [Khalif] Barnes and [Jared] Veldheer have done a nice job outside. Barnes has really always been a good player and he's a really solid guy. You know you can use him on the unbalanced line and extra tight end stuff like that. He's a versatile player for them, very athletic, long, strong guy. [Joe] Barksdale and the rest of those guys, even in the preseason games when they use the multiple offensive line man that's been a strong suit for them too in running games. It's a good looking group."
The Raiders strong offensive line knows they will be dealing with a solid Patriots defense. "They have a lot of good players," said Coach Jackson. "[Vince] Wilfork, to name one of them – [Albert] Haynesworth, if he's playing – [Jerod] Mayo, the linebacker, I mean this team is stocked. This is a New England Patriots defensive football team that's always been one of the better defensive teams in football. I anticipate these guys to play as hard and as well as they've played all year. We've got to be up to the challenge offensively."
C Samson Satele anticipates that the Patriots defense will be firing on all cylinders after allowing the Bills to come back in the second half in Week 3. "They will come out fighting but we've got to come out like how we did against the Jets and better and all," said Satele. "We've got to be ready for them. It doesn't matter where they rank right now; it's only the third or fourth game of the year so you can't rank them like that. They are a good defense, so we've got to play a good game."
WR Jacoby Ford, who has missed the last two games due to injury, is looking forward to returning to the lineup for the Patriots game. "I'm just looking at it as a great opportunity to go out there against one of the elite teams that have been dominating the NFL the past few years," said Ford. "So, it's a good chance to go out there and just showcase what we can really do out here."
Belichick respects all of the weapons the Raiders have on offense. "[Jason Campbell] has a lot of good weapons on offense - running backs, tight ends, receivers," said Belichick. "Guys can make plays with the ball in their hands and can get down the field and go the distance. He's done a real good job getting it to the open guy and he's made some plays scrambling to keep plays alive and moving out of the pocket like he did in the Jets game where he scrambled and hit [Michael] Bush around the sideline."
Coach Jackson, his staff, and the players are looking forward to stepping out on the O.co Coliseum field and facing Belichick and the Patriots. The Raiders anticipate a hard-fought game on Sunday and are ready for the challenge. "I feel good about it," said CB Joe Porter. "If you want to be in the playoffs and be a contender, these are the teams you've got to play."
"We're looking forward to it and plus, I know that stadium, Raider Nation, and the 'O' will be rocking," said Coach Jackson. "That's our other coach – that's our 12th man. They'll show up and we will too."