Brady, Gostkowski fuel Patriots in rout of Raiders
Leave it to Rob Gronkowski to wrap up Sunday’s 33-8 New England Patriots rout of the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City on Sunday with one thought.
“It was just a fiesta all over the field, man,” said Gronkowski, who had three catches in the win, after his team cruised to its sixth straight victory in what turned out to be a very easy win.
Tom Brady threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns and Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals, including a franchise-record 62-yarder, powering the Patriots to their second win on the same “road trip.”
New England (8-2) routed Denver 41-16 the previous Sunday night, then stayed in high altitude to work all week at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs -- before climbing even higher in elevation and having no trouble at all with the Raiders (4-6).
Quick math shows the Patriots won the two high-elevation games against the AFC West by a combined 74-24. And they have held all six opponents to 17 points or less during the winning streak.
Brady, 30 of 37 through the air, notched his sixth 300-yard game of the season -- he had five in his 12 games in 2016 -- and 82nd of his career.
“We played from ahead, which is kind of the way we wanted to,” said Brady. “We didn’t turn it over and that’s a good formula for winning.”
His head coach, Bill Belichick, broke a tie with Tom Landry and moved into sole possession of third place on the NFL’s career coaching wins list with 271.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of great players,” said Belichick, who vowed “I’ll always be a Navy man” while wearing an Air Force hoodie at his post-game media conference.
The Patriots have won a team-record 13 straight road games, 12 of them quarterbacked by Brady, the second-longest QB streak in NFL history. The 13 straight is also the second-longest of all-time (Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers won 18 in a row from 1988-90).
Sunday’s contest was considered a home game for Oakland, which ignored the altitude change by flying in the night before the game, and played in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 77,357.
Brady, who went 9 of 9 with a touchdown on the first New England drive, threw touchdown passes of 15, 5 and 64 yards to running back Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, respectively. Amendola, who had to leave the game briefly in the second half because of dehydration, caught eight passes for 66 yards while Cooks had six receptions for 149 yards.
Brady also cleared the 3,000-yard season mark for the 15th time, third all-time in the league.
The Patriots led 30-0 when Derek Carr hit Amari Cooper with a 9-yard touchdown pass and then connected with Michael Crabtree on a 2-point conversion for the only scoring by the Raiders, who came out of their bye week by laying a giant egg.
“I stood in that huddle with my guys, down 30, everyone hurt and everyone mad,” Carr said. “Nothing changes with us.”
Gostkowski, kicking in high altitude, also hit on field goals of 51, 40 and 29 yards. He is the only Patriots kicker with two 50-plus-yard field goals in the same game, and he has done it three times.
The only real chance the Raiders had to compete came late in the first half, when Seth Roberts fumbled the ball away at the New England 3 in the final minute. The Patriots then moved the ball to set up the 62-yarder, and it was 17-0 instead of 14-7.
“That was a major turn of events ... that was a 10-point swing right there, a tough one to swallow,” said Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio.
The 62-yarder ended the half, marking the seventh straight game New England has scored in the last two minutes of the first half. For the year, the Patriots have outscored their opposition 27-0 in the last two minutes of the first half.
Belichick had been telling players his kicker was good from 70 yards and in at this elevation the 62-yarder easily cleared. So did the 51-yarder.
Carr, limping by game’s end, was 28 of 49 for 237 yards, the touchdown and one interception. Oakland receivers dropped several passes on the day.
Asked if it’s tough for his team to maintain focus with a 4-6 record, Del Rio said, “I don’t give credence to those kinds of questions.”
Marshawn Lynch ran for 67 yards on 11 carries, including 25-yarder that was his longest with his new team. Lewis led the Patriots on the ground with 60 yards (including five after losing a shoe on one carry) on 10 carries.
NOTES: Oakland CB David Amerson (foot) and T Marshall Newhouse (hip/quad) were inactive. ... New England WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), T Marcus Cannon (ankle), C David Andrews (illness), special teams captain Matthew Slater (hamstring), CB Eric Rowe (groin) and DT Malcolm Brown (ankle) were out and RB Mike Gillislee was inactive for the second straight week. ... A moment of silence was held before the game for the 468 lives lost in recent Mexican earthquakes. ... The Raiders host the Denver Broncos and the Patriots face the Miami Dolphins next Sunday. New England has six games remaining, including two each against AFC East opponents Miami and Buffalo.