FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots lost two
linebackers and two coaches in the offseason.
They still know how to win, thanks in large part to two stars
they didn't lose.
Tom Brady threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns and Richard
Seymour helped make a game-turning defensive play as the Patriots
opened their quest for an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl
victory by beating Oakland 30-20 on Thursday night.
In the process, they held Randy Moss, the Raiders' new star, to
one big play: a 73-yard touchdown catch.
"Richard's so disruptive," Brady said of Seymour, who helped
force the turnover that broke open a tight game in the third
quarter. "He's the best defensive lineman in the league."
New England's 35th win in 39 games since the start of the 2003
season was an odd one -- all offense at the start, mostly defense
after intermission. One key early adjustment was made by the
Patriots, switching from their traditional 3-4 defense to a 4-3 to
help fill the gap caused by the loss of inside linebackers Tedy
Bruschi and Ted Johnson.
It paid off in the third quarter, when the Patriots held a
tenuous three-point lead and neither team could really get going.
Seymour, who as usual made a half-dozen big plays on defense,
pushed Raiders center Jake Grove into quarterback Kerry Collins.
Meanwhile, Jarvis Green, who became the fourth lineman when the
Pats switched to the 4-3, came around from the right side and
sandwiched Collins as he was throwing. The ball popped into the air
and into the hands of 325-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork at the
"We know Richard is a pretty good force inside. He has been for
four years," coach Bill Belichick said of the two-time All-Pro.
"We thought we could get some force from the outside with Jarvis
and Rosie (Rosevelt Colvin.)"
Said Grove: "Seymour did a twist and he caught me in an awkward
angle. We were handling it pretty well until that play."
The Patriots, who also lost coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo
Crennel to head coaching jobs, led 17-14 at halftime on touchdown
passes by Brady of 29 yards to Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch and 5
yards to newcomer Tim Dwight. That offset a 2-yard TD pass by Kerry
Collins to tight end Courtney Anderson on the game's first series
and the bomb to Moss, who at 6-foot-4, simply went over 5-8 Tyrone
Dillon's TD after the turnover made it 23-14, and Dillon scored
again in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run set up by a 24-yard
pass interference penalty on rookie Stanford Routt, as the Patriots
won their 21st straight home game. The call on Routt was one of 14
penalties for 139 yards by Oakland, traditionally one of the NFL's
most flagged teams.
"I thought we played a competitive game against a championship
team," Raiders coach Norv Turner said. "There's a reason why they
have won 20 straight games in this stadium."
That wasn't Moss' only mistake. He also dropped a short
first-down pass that could have gotten the Raiders out a hole early
in the third quarter.
That eventually led to the game-turning play by Seymour, Green
The Raiders, 9-23 the last two seasons, showed more improvement
on defense than on offense, holding the Patriots to 73 yards on the
ground. Dillon started with 11 yards on his first 11 carries before
finishing with 69 yards on 23 carries.
Collins, who threw for 159 yards in the first half, finished 18
of 40 for 265 yards. Moss had five catches for 130 yards.
Overall, the Patriots were satisfied with the win, not
necessarily the way it went. Belichick acknowledged he might go to
the 4-3 more often, but added that "it will go week-to-week and it
will depend on who we play and how the matchups go."
"I'm glad we're not peaking here in Week One. This is a long
season, as we all realize."
This was the ninth 300-yard passing game for Brady in his
four-plus years as a starter. ... The blocked extra point marked
the first time Vinatieri had missed a conversion in 28 games and 82
kicks, including playoffs. ... Moss' touchdown catch was the 91st
of his career. With Jerry Rice's retirement, he is the active
leader. ... Collins passed 30,000 yards passing for his career. He
now has 30,143.
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