So much for a Patriots slump
One week after blowing a 21-0 second-quarter lead and losing to Buffalo, the New England Patriots got back on track Sunday with a 31-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who threw a career-high-tying four interceptions against the Bills, threw for just 226 yards on 16-of-30 passing against Oakland, but he tossed two touchdown passes with no interceptions.
Wide receiver Wes Welker, the NFL's leader in receptions and receiving yards entering the game, had nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown.
"It's always big to bounce back," Welker said. "We had the letdown last week, and we got a bounce-back from that, and coming on the road into a hostile environment, it's a big win for us. It was good to see."
New England scored at least 30 points for the 12th consecutive regular-season game, two games shy of the NFL record.
Now with 275 career touchdown passes, Brady moved past his boyhood idol Joe Montana (273) on the NFL's all-time list and into a tie for eighth with Vinny Testaverde.
"I didn't know that happened," said Brady, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. "I'll never be in Joe's category. We throw the ball a lot more than they threw it back then. It's much more of a passing league than it's ever been.
"It was a good game for us. Every one of those touchdowns was important today, so it was fun. It was fun to be back out there after last week."
The Patriots, who haven't lost back-to-back games since Weeks 12 and 13 in 2009, improved to 3-1. The Raiders had a chance to start 3-1 for the first time since 2002, the last time they reached the Super Bowl, but they fell to 2-2 despite outgaining the Patriots 504 yards to 409.
The Raiders lost the turnover battle 2-0 — two Jason Campbell interceptions — and committed nine penalties for 85 yards to New England's five for 45.
"We didn't play well," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. "That's just the way it is. We had some opportunities in the scoring zone and just didn't get it done. That's disappointing. We've been very good in the scoring zone. I take the lead on that."
Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey caught four passes for a career-high 115 yards, but running back Darren McFadden, who entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher, gained just 75 yards on 14 carries. Campbell completed 25 of 39 passes for 344 yards and one touchdown but threw two killer interceptions, one in the end zone by safety Patrick Chung and one by Pats defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
"I think this whole week, we challenged each other," Wilfork said. "Bill (Belichick) challenged us, we challenged each other. We were very competitive in practice. This was like one of the best weeks of practice we had. Not a lot of mental errors in practice. We had a good week of preparation, and it showed. We went out and played ball."
Brady attacked an undermanned Raiders secondary missing two injured starters, free safety Michael Huff and right cornerback Chris Johnson. Rookie Chimdi Chekwa, a fourth-round pick from Ohio State, started in Johnson's place, while veteran Matt Giordano replaced Huff.
Huff's loss was a particularly tough blow to the Raiders because he doubles as the slot corner in nickel coverage and would have helped defend against Welker. That job fell largely to second-year cornerback Joe Porter.
Welker now has 616 receiving yards and is on pace for an NFL-record 2,464.
"Nothing surprises me with Wes," Brady said. "He's the heart and soul of this team. He's been that way since the day he got here. He works his tail off. He's a great player, a great teammate. He's become a real dynamic player over the years. He's made some huge plays for us. He's clutch, mentally and physically tough. He's awesome."
The Patriots led 17-10 at halftime and quickly extended their advantage to 24-10 on Ridley's touchdown run. New England needed just 3:53 to cover 81 yards, as Brady and Welker connected for a 32-yard strike on third-and-7 from their 22.
The Raiders answered on their first drive of the second half but had to settle for Sebastian Janikowski's 26-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 24-13 with 3:21 left in the third.
Field goals, of course, weren't going to beat the Patriots.
New England drove 80 yards for another touchdown, as Brady hit Welker for 19 yards on a key third-and-6 from the Patriots' 24, then for 29 yards on a crossing pattern. The latter catch gave New England first-and-goal from the Oakland 8. Two plays later, wide receiver Deion Branch beat cornerback Stanford Routt on a post pattern, and Brady hit him with a 4-yard touchdown pass.
Stephen Gostkowski's PAT put the Patriots ahead 31-13 with 13:38 left to play.
"Tom's a great quarterback, and they have a great offense, but more so than that, me, myself, I can play better," Porter said. "Huff was down today. They called my number in the slot to take care of (Welker), and I didn't get the job done."