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TJ Carrie, Obi Melifonwu are keys to Raiders pulling out win over Patriots

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Secondary coverages will decide this weeks game.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders, who will eventually become the Las Vegas Raiders, will be the Mexico City Raiders this week as they ‘host’ the New England Patriots. The Patriots are currently 7-2 and sitting in first place in the AFC East having just dismantled the Denver Broncos 41-16.

Surprisingly New England is ranked dead last in the NFL in defensive yards allowed but lead the NFL in offensive yards gained. That is an interesting combination that could lead to a shootout on Sunday depending on which version of the Raiders offense shows up to this game.

From a Raiders stand point the focus is going to be simply whether they are able to slow down the Patriots’ offense and allow their offense to win this shoot out. The match-ups are not in the Raiders’ favor but there is a way they can both surprise and overcome their talent deficiency on defense by playing a form of Man-1.

Teams that have historically slowed down Tom Brady have been able to get hits and pressure on him with a 4-man pass rush. This season the Raiders have not shown they can do that on a consistent basis.

Their inability to get quick pressure on Brady will be a hindrance to the defense stopping this offense. In order to make up for it, they will need great performances from cornerback TJ Carrie as well as safety Obi Melifonwu.

Solid coverage will forcing Brady to hold the ball longer, giving the pass rush an extra time to get home. The Patriots’ offense thrives on quick underneath routes which Man-1 robber is designed to take away.

While teams would traditionally use their safety as the ‘robber’ the Raiders should use their linebackers while Melifonwu (playing the moneybacker role) shadows Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Safety Karl Joseph will be free to take anyone coming out of the back field and safety Reggie Nelson will be single high. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr even alluded to Obi’s match-up last week.

“It’s not too big for him,” Norton said of Melifonwu. “So I think that as the games go, he’ll get more time and he’ll get more exposed to better players. I think that the next time we play we have pretty good match-ups for him. So, we’ll see how he plays in the big match-ups.”

The Raiders need to eliminate any passes under 10 yards and force Brady to throw deep. Safety Reggie Nelson will have single high responsibilities, something he has struggled with at times during his time in Oakland. This is where cornerback TJ Carrie is going to have to step up.

One of the first names that any Raider fan will recognize on New England's roster is Brandin Cooks. Raider Nation knows all too well the consequences of leaving a cornerback on an island with the speedy receiver.

With Melifonwu covering Gronkowski, Carrie shadowing Cooks, and a linebacker patrolling the short middle zone, Brady shouldn’t have fewer quick throwing options. Holding the ball to let deeper routes develop will hopefully let EDGE players Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin get to the quarterback.

It’s only chance the defense is going to have is to keep Brady from getting into a groove and marching up and down the field. Typically getting pressure on the quarterback can result in turnovers, but Brady has only thrown 2 interceptions compared with 19 touchdowns.

It is worth pointing out that those two interceptions were on deeper routes over the middle of the field. These are the throws the defense will be trying to limit Brady to. Mixing these with Man-2 looks will also work to force Brady to hold the ball as he determines what coverages the safeties are playing.

The best chance the Raiders have of getting the upset win would be for TJ Carrie and Obi Melifonwu to take away New England’s two most dangerous receivers. The pass rush can feed off of that coverage and give them a fighting chance.


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