Skip to main content
Raider Nation, Stand Up - View Schedule - Presented by Allegiant

Sideline to Sideline: Q&A with Patriots staff writer Evan Lazar

For the second straight year, the Raiders and Patriots will face off inside Allegiant Stadium.

Before the game gets underway, we caught up with Patriots staff writer Evan Lazar to get an insider's look at the opposing team.

Q: The offense has struggled as of late and the messaging from the coaching staff seems to be "starting over." What does that mean for this Patriots team?

EL: There's a good statistical argument to be made that the Patriots have the worst offense in the NFL, scoring at a league-low rate through five weeks (11.0). However, it truly wasn't always this bad, going back to camp and the season opener against the Eagles. The Pats showed promise over the summer, leading to 316 passing yards and three touchdowns for quarterback Mac Jones in Week 1, albeit in a losing effort. For the Patriots, starting over isn't necessarily a drastic move like benching Jones or reinventing themselves offensively. Instead, it's returning to what they did well in camp and even the signs of life in the first three weeks. I expect a back-to-basics approach, where you'll see day-one staple concepts as offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien tries to get the train back on the tracks. Will things do a complete 180-degree turn? No. But they are a better offensive football team than they've shown in the last two games.

Q: The season hasn't started the way the way the Patriots probably expected. How would you describe the team's mentality at this point?

EL: That's the No. 1 question for me heading into this trip to Vegas. The Patriots aren't as bad as they've played over the last two games, but even all the schematic tweaks and hard coaching by HC Bill Belichick and his staff can't undo a locker room that has let go of the rope. Over the last two weeks, I've seen many demoralized faces, bad body language and seeds of doubt like the team knows it's at a talent disadvantage every week. For example, the Patriots don't have anyone on their roster that matches the talent level of Davante Adams or Maxx Crosby, which has to make the locker room feel like it's swimming upstream every week. Honestly, there aren't great vibes around the team right now. The coaching staff is doing all it can to get this team to respond, but the lack of pushback against the Saints after the blowout loss in Dallas was astonishing. It'll be interesting to see what the energy is like for the team on Sunday.

Q: Defensively, what is the biggest focus for the Patriots when going up against the Raiders offense?

EL: As well as they know Josh McDaniels' offense and QB Jimmy Garoppolo, I would think the Patriots' game plan will be centered around taking away the middle of the field, particularly the slot with Jakobi Meyers, forcing Jimmy G to beat them without their patented in-breaking routes. Belichick is about taking away what you do best, which I'd normally say is running the ball with Josh Jacobs and throwing to Davante Adams. In this case, this game will be more about them trying to make Garoppolo out of rhythm in hopes that the rest will take care of itself if Jimmy G is off his game.

Q: Who is an under-the-radar player (or players) you expect to make an impact on Sunday?

EL: I'm not sure if he's under the radar anymore, but LB Ja'Whaun Bentley is one of a few guys playing at a high level on this team. Bentley logged a sack, four quarterback pressures and six stops against the Raiders last season. The Pats middle linebacker will be at the center of stopping Jacobs and likely involved in pressure schemes to get to Jimmy G. Also, tight end Pharaoh Brown should have a huge role as an in-line blocker to double-team Crosby and could also play some snaps in the backfield as a fullback. Brown has the Pats' longest play from scrimmage this season with a 58-yard touchdown in Week 3, where the Pats caused a coverage bust by the Jets with a well-timed play-action pass.

Q: What Raiders-Patriots matchup are you most looking forward to this week?

EL: For Patriots fans, I'm not sure they're looking forward to it necessarily, but Maxx Crosby is an incredible football player who is extremely fun to watch. His play speed, recognition and physicality are next-level, and I'm interested to see how much of a nightmare he is for a Patriots offensive line that's struggling big-time. The Pats have been starting Vederian Lowe at right tackle lately, which is a huge mismatch in Crosby's favor. If the Pats can even survive the matchup with Crosby, that's a win. They weren't able to survive Micah Parsons a few weeks ago.

View team photographer Matt Aguirre's top 30 photos from Allegiant Stadium's catwalk during the Las Vegas Raiders' Week 5 victory against the Green Bay Packers.

Latest Content