Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Raiders and offering some fourth quarter observations:
1) WR Deion Branch's 4-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter was another well-drawn up play for the Patriots. It included both a pump fake from QB Tom Brady on a fake screen to WR Wes Welker to the left, then a play action to RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis before Brady turned and fired at Branch in the back of the end zone. The first two fakes kept SS Jerome Boyd in place, allowing Branch to beat CB Stanford Routt on a slant pattern to the empty part of the end zone.
2) For the Patriots run defense, CB Devin McCourty and LB Brandon Spikes stood out in this game. McCourty had a number of solid plays, shedding blocks on the edge of the field and making fundamentally-sound wrap-up tackles. Spikes, meanwhile, showed an aggressive nose for the ball throughout the game, including a first-and-10 run by RB Darren McFadden early in the fourth quarter. Spikes caused FB Richard Gordon to whiff on his block on the play, while OLB Rob Ninkovich also did a good job of shedding his blocker to help take down McFadden, a prolific runner in the early going of this season.
3) With 9:03 left to play and on third-and-17, a play action pass from the Patriots was a curious play call. Even with an 18-point lead, extending the drive would seem to be more of a priority than taking another 35-40 seconds off the clock. The Raiders were in full-on pass rush mode for the play, with SS Mike Mitchell also coming in on the blitz. The play action gave the pass rush more time to get to Brady, who was forced to step up in a collapsing pocket and take the sack. This seems like a case where you either straight hand the ball off, or go into the shotgun and try to gain the necessary first down yardage.
4) The "amoeba" defense made a return for the Patriots on the ensuing drive, but had the adverse effect of allowing slot WR Derek Hagan to be uncovered at the snap. QB Jason Campbell, already in the shotgun, simply had to step back once and fire it to Hagan for an easy gain. He was held short of a first down, though, due to a solid effort by CB Antwaun Molden to break off his receiver and wrap up Hagan in the open field. Campbell's next pass on third-and-3 would be dropped, leading to a Raiders punt, so Molden stopping Hagan short was a significant play.