After the Patriots dropped their 2014 opener to the Dolphins, many pointed out that the 2003 Pats also lost their first game of the season but wound up winning it all five months later. After the Patriots beat the lowly Raiders, 16-9, Sunday at Gillette Stadium, the glass-half full crowd could also point out that the 2003 Patriots also slept-walked at home and looked rather mediocre against certain basement dwellers.
In that championship season 11 years ago, Bill Belichick’s squad narrowly beat the Browns, 9-3, at Gillette. Cleveland finished that season 5-11. The 2003 Pats also lost to a 5-11 Redskins team early in that season.
But for the cynics, Sunday’s win over Oakland felt a whole lot like a loss. Oakland controlled play for much of the game Sunday, nearly matching the Patriots total yard output as the Raiders racked up 241 yards of offense and the Pats totaled 297. The Patriots defense did a fine job in the red zone, however, never allowing a touchdown. All of the Raiders’ points came via the leg of Sebastian Janikowski.
Stephen Gostkowski also booted three field goals, but Rob Gronkowski’s second quarter TD grab proved to be the difference for New England. Gronkowski finished with 44 yards receiving on three catches.
Oakland looked as though it would tie the game or even attempt to win the game outright with a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. A pass interference penalty was called on Logan Ryan along the sidelines as Derek Carr looked for Andre Holmes. The call set up what was thought to be a six-yard touchdown plunge by Darren McFadden but that play was wiped out by an Oakland holding penalty.
The hold doomed the Raiders as Carr was intercepted on the very next play by Vince Wilfork after the ball bounced off the helmet of the covering Ryan and into the arms of the big man.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS