High expectations as Brady, Pats meet Raiders

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Sunday, November 19, 2017
A girl poses inside a giant Oakland Raiders helmet during NFL football's Fan Fest in Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

No one has to tell the Oakland Raiders what they're up against south of the border.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are on a roll entering Sunday's game in Mexico City.

"When you've got a guy like Tom Brady, it's crucial you can't let him sit back there and bake a cake," defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes said, via the Raiders' website. "Obviously he is who he is, been in the NFL (18) years, so when you've got a guy like that you can't let him bake a pizza, so you've got to disrupt him a little bit."

Leave it to a bulky defensive lineman to make not one but two food analogies. But the message is clear.

"They're loaded," Oakland safety Reggie Nelson said. "They just picked up (tight end Martellus) Bennett, got 'Gronk' (tight end Rob Gronkowski), (wide receiver Chris) Hogan ... there's a lot of them. Like I said, we've got our work cut out.

"They've got Brady who's going to get them in the right position, and the right play call, so we've got to do a good job on our end of just taking care of the little things."

Hogan missed Sunday night's victory at Denver with a shoulder injury and neither he nor right tackle Marcus Cannon, out against Denver with an ankle injury, were with the team in Colorado. Neither is likely to play this week. Special teams captain Matthew Slater (hamstring) was also out.

The Raiders started the season with two straight wins but are 2-5 since. However, they have won two of their last three heading into this game -- against a very hot New England team.

After starting 2-2, the Patriots have reeled off five straight wins, with Brady winning yet another AFC Offensive Player of the Week award after throwing three touchdown passes at Oakland on Sunday night. Oh, and Dion Lewis became the second player since the merger to produce a kick return and a rush for a touchdown in a game.

The goal, at least that of the fans, was for New England to go 19-0 and win its sixth Super Bowl. Julian Edelman called that talk "stupid" and then went down for the season with a knee injury.

But the Patriots have surged, as the defense has held everyone to 17 points or fewer during the winning streak. A strong running game and a healthy Gronkowski have also taken some pressure off the 40-year-old Brady.

The Patriots are 4-0 on the road, and stayed out in high altitude after the Broncos' game, getting ready for Mexico City. The game will be played at 7,280 feet -- 2,000 higher than Denver.

"We feel like it's the best thing we can do," said New England coach Bill Belichick, whose team is working out at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. "I think everybody understands that. We're ready to go to work and make the most of it."

Asked if he and the staff have to talk to players about working in the high altitude, Belichick said, "Yeah, we talk about some things we feel are important, but I mean, we do that every week. Every week's got its own challenges."

Oakland coach Jack Del Rio has an extensive resume against Brady and just sees more of the same in the 2017 version.

"It's pretty much vintage Tom Brady," he said.

"I think he's been as good as anybody doing it for quite a number of years. Obviously, adding a guy like Brandin Cooks helps with some of the deep shots they want to take and (Phillip) Dorsett. I mean, a couple of the skill people they've added, it makes sense to take deep shots with them."

In 2014, when Del Rio defeated the Brady/Belichick combination for the first time in eight games, Del Rio, then the defensive coordinator for the Broncos said, "Clearly, the combination of Tom and Bill (Belichick) has been a very productive combination and one that I hadn't seen a lot of success against. I took a lot of pride in the fact that we were able to put together a good plan, go out there and execute, play well and advance (to the Super Bowl)."

The Patriots hold a 16-15 regular-season record against their old rivals but have won the past four meetings since the Raiders won Nov. 11, 2002.