Despite winning decisively last week, the New England Patriots’ usual dynamic offense didn’t surface.
Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing game have been particularly subpar, and he’ll try to get that back on track in Sunday’s home opener against the winless Oakland Raiders.
New England bounced back from a season-opening loss in Miami with a 30-7 rout of Minnesota last Sunday, but totaled 292 yards. The Patriots used a blocked field goal return and four interceptions to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2001.
Brady had 149 yards but did complete 66.7 percent of his passes (14 of 21) after connecting on 51.8 percent in Miami (29 of 56).
Brady ranks 28th in quarterback rating at 78.8, the lowest in any of his past 14 seasons, and the Patriots are 25th or lower in a number of offensive categories, including yards per game (303.5).
"Our passing game hasn’t been stellar to this point. We have to keep going after it," Brady said. "Guys will get opportunities to get more balls, and I need to do a better job of finding those guys when they’re open."
A bevy of penalties hasn’t helped New England, which was seventh with 384.5 yards per game in 2013. The Patriots have had 24 infractions accepted against them for an NFL-high 263 yards.
They had more penalty yards (163) than rush yards (150) against Minnesota, with Stevan Ridley running for 101 on 25 carries. The Patriots might look to their backs to take advantage of Oakland’s porous run defense.
The Raiders (0-2) have given up a league-high 400 yards on the ground. Houston ran for 188 in a 30-14 victory in Oakland last Sunday, and veteran safety Charles Woodson said he was "embarrassed" by his team’s showing.
"You can’t allow a team to just run the football down the field on you," coach Dennis Allen said. "That has to change. Like I told the players, run defense is a mentality. Run defense is about lining up across from somebody, hitting them in the mouth, knocking them back, getting off a block, and making a play."
The Raiders were hoping to prevent those kind of performances after bringing in former Pro Bowlers Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith.
"It’s no panic, but it has to be a sense of urgency," Tuck told the team’s official website. "It has to be a button that you push that says we got to fix this and we’ve got to fix this in a hurry."
Oakland’s offense had better success moving the ball in Derek Carr’s second career start, gaining 364 against the Texans after totaling 158 in a season-opening loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 7. The Raiders, though, turned the ball over four times and entered the fourth quarter trailing 27-0.
"We’re two weeks into the season. At the same time, you don’t want to bury your head in the sand," Allen said. "We’ve got to get better. We need to do it fast."
Carr passed for 263 yards against Houston after finishing with 151 in his NFL debut, but had his first two interceptions. His quarterback rating of 80.6 ranks just ahead of Brady’s.
"He’s an athletic guy back there," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "He can certainly get the ball down the field. We know he’s a smart kid."
Carr is also Oakland’s leading rusher with 57 yards ahead of Darren McFadden (52) and Maurice Jones-Drew (11), who missed last week’s loss with a right hand injury. Jones-Drew’s status is unclear as the Raiders attempt to avoid their worst start since dropping their first five games in 2006.
Oakland has a league-low 32 rush attempts for 126 yards, and Carr scrambled for 41 on one play.
The Patriots, 9-0 at home last season including the playoffs, have won three straight overall against the Raiders, who have lost 12 of 13 on the road. They haven’t claimed four in a row in the series since Nov. 4, 1960-Oct. 26, 1962, when the teams were in the AFL and New England was known as the Boston Patriots.
Belichick is seeking his 201st regular-season victory to break a tie with Marty Schottenheimer for fifth on the all-time list.