Each week there is one player who stands out above the others on the field. In Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders, the Patriots had multiple players who stood out on the field and on the statsheet. Although it seemed unlikely after the unimpressive 16-9 victory, there were a few players jumping off the game film.
Honorable Mention: Julian Edelman, WRSep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) dives over Oakland Raiders strong safety Usama Young (26) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Looking for an offensive star was difficult: Tight end Rob Gronkowski had a touchdown, but not much else as far as contributions; Quarterback Tom Brady had a rough time with the terrible blocking up front by the offensive line. The poor blocking of the offensive line and tight ends also was a major factor in the weak rushing attack as the Patriots gained just 83 yards on 29 rushes (not counting Brady’s kneel downs).
Wide receiver Julian Edelman was once again the only reliable target for Brady. Targeted a whopping 13 times, he hauled in ten passes for 84 yards. Five of the passes resulted in a first down as well as his only rushing attempt. His seventh first down created was drawing a pass interference call on third-and-two early in the second quarter on their only touchdown. He added a nine yard reception on the same drive to set-up the Gronkowski touchdown.
Honorable Mention#2: Dont’a Hightower, LB and Jerod Mayo, LB
Mayo was credited with four run stops and was a beast rushing the passes with four QB hurries on just eight pass rushes (per ProFootballFocus.com – subscription required). Hightower continued his strong pass rushing role in 2014 added a quarterback hit and two hurries on eleven pass rushes (again per ProFootballFocus.com – subscription required). Mayo had eleven combined tackles while Hightower added seven, as they were one-two in tackles for the week.
For week three, the game ball goes to … defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.Sep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (75) celebrates with defensive end Chandler Jones (95) after intercepting a pass against the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Wilfork was a key cog along with Hightower and Mayo in helping hold Darren McFadden to 59 yards on 18 rushing attempts. With fellow tackle Sealver Siliga injured early in the game, Wilfork ended up playing 50 of the 60 defensive snaps while adding three tackles.
However, his biggest play of the game was late in the fourth quarter with the Raiders driving and a chance to tie the game with just a minute to play. On first-and-goal at the 12 yard line after a holding penalty negated an Oakland touchdown, rookie quarterback Derek Carr dropped back to pass and found Denarius Moore across the middle. The pass was deflected by cornerback Logan Ryan into the massive paws of Wilfork.
The giant defensive tackle cradled his third career interception. That allowed the Patriots to run out the clock and win 16-9. For Wilfork, he had the only turnover of the game, but like him it was big. Now 2-1 and tied with Buffalo atop the AFC East, the Patriots are in position to continue their improvement this season as the schedule gets tougher.
For that game-sealing interception, the game ball goes to Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.