MEXICO CITY (AP) — The New England Patriots approached their nine-day trip to Denver and Mexico City the way they do just about everything else under coach Bill Belichick.
They were all business.
And now they head home with two convincing wins over AFC West opponents as the Patriots once again appear to be peaking at just the right time of the season following their sixth straight win.
Tom Brady threw for 339 yards and three scores , the Patriots forced two key first-half turnovers and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a team-record 62-yard field goal to lead New England to a 33-8 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
“These trips come down to whether you win or lose,” Brady said. “You remember it when you win, but if you lose, you want to forget it as fast as you can. … You really have to focus in on what you have to do, and you’ve got to try to keep your routine as best you can so that, when you come out there and play, you’re ready to go.”
After starting the trip with a 41-16 win over the Broncos , the Patriots (8-2) spent the week at the Air Force Academy to acclimate themselves to the thin air at 7,200 feet elevation at Azteca Stadium.
They arrived in Mexico City on Saturday and thoroughly dominated the Raiders to the delight of a crowd that featured many fans chanting “Brady! Brady!” throughout the game.
“We talked about it, when we took off to go to Denver, about a long trip but making it worthwhile,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Being away from home meant preparing, doing a good job of preparing, and being together, executing our game plan. I think, both sides of the ball, we did that today.”
The game turned during a key sequence late in the first half. The Raiders (4-6) were driving and poised to cut into a 14-0 deficit when Seth Roberts caught a pass inside the 5. Roberts held the ball loosely as he fought for more yardage and Marquis Flowers knocked the ball loose . Patrick Chung recovered with 33 seconds left at the New England 7.
The Patriots managed to move 48 yards in four plays and ended the half with Gostkowski’s field goal that was tied for the sixth-longest field goal in NFL history.
“That was a 10-point swing right there,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “That was a tough one to swallow.”
Here are some other takeaways:
NAVY MAN: Belichick has long ties to the Naval Academy because his father spent years there as a scout and coach. That made it a little unusual for him to walk into his postgame news conference wearing an Air Force hoodie. The sweat shirt was a gift from academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria after the Patriots spent the week practicing there.
“I’ll always be a Navy man,” Belichick said. “Just want to give a shoutout and a big thanks to General Silveria and his staff at the United States Air Force Academy and the work we had there.”
FAILED EXPERIMENT: With starting cornerback David Amerson sidelined a third straight game with a foot injury and the secondary struggling as a whole, Del Rio moved rookie Obi Melifonwu outside. The second-round safety had played only seven snaps on defense all season because of a leg injury that sidelined him for eight weeks. But he struggled in his start at cornerback against the Patriots, allowing a 64-yard TD catch by Brandin Cooks on the opening drive of the second half when he bit on a double move.
The Raiders have no interceptions this season, tying the 1976-77 49ers for the longest streak ever without picking off a pass.
“We need more production,” Del Rio said. “I’m willing to try just about anything.”
STEPPING UP: The Patriots thrived despite missing two starting offensive linemen. Center David Andrews (illness) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) both were inactive, giving an opportunity to center Ted Karras and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle. New England averaged 4.5 yards per rush and gave up just one sack.
DROPSIES: The Raiders once again struggled to hold onto passes with Roberts dropping one on third down to stop Oakland’s first drive, Michael Crabtree dropping one later in the first quarter and Oakland finishing with five overall in the game. There was also another deep pass that bounced off Johnny Holton’s shoulder pad for an interception by Juron Harmon .
“I’ve got to throw the ball better,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “The drops, it’s got to be something to do with me.”
RETURN TRIP: Before the game, the NFL announced that the league has extended its deal to play games in Mexico through 2021. The current three-year contract is set to end in 2018. The announcement didn’t specify where the games will be played or what teams would come. There is a new stadium in Monterrey that also could accommodate an NFL game.
“They’ve done a nice job for us the past couple of years,” Del Rio said. “If this was a road game, I’d enjoy it.”