Run game revival, led by Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, pushes Patriots to win

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A running game revival led the New England Patriots past the Las Vegas Raiders, 36-20, on Sunday.

Sony Michel (9 carries, 117 yards) ran with a renewed energy in making a decisive statement to keep his job as the team's No. 1 back, as Damien Harris is eligible to return from injured reserve this week.

And eight-year veteran Rex Burkhead (49 yards rushing, 49 yards receiving) registered his first career three-touchdown game.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had made it clear the Patriots needed to run the ball better than they did in their Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, when other than quarterback Cam Newton, the team had 14 carries for 20 yards.

The Patriots (2-1) sure did by eclipsing 200 yards rushing in a game for the second time this season, marking the first time they've had 200 rushing yards within the first three games of a season since 1983. In all, the Patriots rushed 38 times for 250 yards (6.6 average) on Sunday.

Michel's explosiveness was a flashback to what he did at Georgia, leading the Patriots to select him late in the first round of the 2018 draft (31st overall). He had two rushes of 35 yards or more on Sunday. He didn't have any runs that long in his pro career entering Sunday.

Describe the game in two words. Where's Waller? Raiders tight end Darren Waller entered Sunday with 18 catches (second in the NFL) but the Patriots' defense devoted a lot of attention to him and decisively took him away (his first of two catches came with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter).

QB breakdown. Unlike a last-second Week 2 loss to the Seahawks, when the Patriots were in the game primarily because of Newton, this was a different story. Newton's decision-making was shaky at times and the Patriots needed the running game to help settle things down. Perhaps there was some negative trickle-down effect of not having starting center David Andrews, which CBS analyst Tony Romo noted might have limited how often the Patriots went to the shotgun snap. Newton finished 17-of-28 for 162 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, while adding nine rushes for 27 yards (includes kneel-downs).

Troubling trend. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is not playing at that level through three games this season. Gilmore's costly defensive pass interference penalty late in the second quarter contributed to a Raiders touchdown in which they inexplicably drove 75 yards in 28 seconds. In the days leading up to the game, Gilmore was asked if has met his own high standard to this point, and he said, "It's a new week. It's a great opportunity for me to go out there and play how I know I can play. This is still early."

Pivotal play(s). The Patriots recovered a Josh Jacobs fumble (forced by Shilique Calhoun) and had two strip sacks of quarterback Derek Carr (by Chase Winovich, and then a combo of Deatrich Wise Jr. and Shilique Calhoun). Two early turnovers limited the damage that could have been caused by a slow start offensively, while the final strip sack of Carr -- recovered in the end zone for a touchdown -- was the exclamation mark. In Bill Belichick's 21-year tenure as Patriots coach, the team is now 162-18 when on the plus side of the turnover differential. They were plus-2 on Sunday.

Eye-popping NextGen Stat: Newton took 8.07 seconds to throw on the first-quarter play in which he was intercepted by Johnathan Abram. Newton hadn't taken at least 8 seconds to throw a pass since Week 13 of the 2016 season against the Seahawks. Entering Sunday, he was 1-of-6 for 2 yards and an interception when he took at least 8 seconds to throw.