By Erik Frenz (Twitter: @ErikFrenz)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Patriots beat writer
Darren McFadden's dominance has been a driving force behind the Oakland Raiders' solid start to the season, specifically on offense. The New England Patriots game plan on defense is simple -- shut down an opponent's best threat and make them beat you with their left hand. Of course, simple doesn't always mean effective, as the Patriots currently rank dead last in total defense.
For all the talk of the woefully bad pass defense, they're pretty bad against the run, too. The total yardage isn't so much the concern as the average yardage. They give up 4.3 yards per carry, good for 21st in the league.
The Patriots have already had more problems controlling opposing offenses than Ben had controlling Junior in Problem Child.
High speed rides at the town fair are the least of New England's concerns, though. They're worried about a high speed running back gashing them once again. So far, McFadden averages 6.4 yards per attempt, which is tied for second in the league.
The biggest problem for the Patriots, though, has been against dual-threat backs. To slow down the Raiders offense, though, isn't just to stop the run. Oakland's running backs are also very good receivers out of the backfield. The Patriots will need to put someone in on spy duty on McFadden, but it has to also be effective. Thus far, their efforts to stop opposing backs in the passing game have been futile. Through three games, the Patriots have allowed 275 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 64 carries, but also have allowed 28 receptions for 271 yards and a touchdown.
Run defense has to be priority No. 1 for the Patriots, and with that in mind, the Patriots may be willing to allow Jason Campbell to have a big game. Of course, this isn't exactly music to the ears of Patriots fans hoping for a more aggressive defensive approach this week, specifically in defending the pass.
Forcing Campbell to beat them has to be considered a win for the defense. He clearly isn't a dynamic playmaking quarterback, with just three touchdowns and one interception through three games. He's also averaging just 7.1 yards per attempt. Another reason to believe that Campbell will have a good game, though, is his efficiency. He is completing 65.9 percent of his passes and has a 93.8 passer rating. Both of those numbers rank in the top 10 in the league.
Expect to see a lot of run blitzes, as this will allow the Patriots to stop the run on their way to the quarterback, but they must be careful. Excessive run blitzes will give Oakland's backs opportunities in the screen game if no one is outside in contain or locked in on the back in spy duty.
The way the Raiders are playing right now, they will be unstoppable if the Patriots are unable to put the breaks on McFadden. It may come at the expense of another All Pro day for another average quarterback, and it may cause a lot of grief in the newspapers in New England, but if it results in a win, stopping McFadden is the obvious right choice.