The Raiders returned to earth Sunday, courtesy of the New England Patriots.
In a 31-19 win over the Raiders before a crowd of 62,572, the Patriots showed the difference between an elite team and one that wants to reach elite status. And the difference is: finishing what you start.
With quarterback Tom Brady throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker and a 4-yarder to Deion Branch, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley adding rushing touchdowns of 1 and 33 yards, respectively, the Patriots put the ball in the end zone four times out of five prime scoring opportunities.
The Raiders, on the other hand, made the game's biggest mistake late in the first half when Jason Campbell gift-wrapped an interception to safety Patrick Chung in the end zone on a second-down play. There were also two red zone penetrations that ended in field goals of 28 and 26 yards by Sebastian Janikowski.
"I really apologize to the fans and the people in the organization," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. "We had our chances and we didn't get it done. We got beat by a team and an organization that's a little bit better than us at this point."
Ditching their pass-first offense for one of perfect balance, the Patriots had 30 passes and 30 rushing plays. Brady had 16 completions for 226 yards, with Ridley carrying 10 times for 97 yards and Green-Ellis adding 75 yards on 16 carries as New England rushed for 183 yards and a 6.1 average.
A 1-yard run by Michael Bush put Oakland up 10-7 early in the second quarter, but there were no more touchdowns until a 6-yard pass from Campbell to Denarius Moore with 28 seconds left and most of the crowd having headed for the exits.
The Raiders had too many penalties, with nine for 85 yards. Included were two 15-yard fouls on ex-Patriot Richard Seymour for unnecessary roughness and a face mask on New England's first scoring drive.
The Patriots gave the Raiders too much of Welker, who got loose for nine receptions and 158 yards against a depleted Oakland secondary that didn't give up more than two catches to any other New England receiver.
Campbell completed 25 of 39 passes for 344 yards but had two interceptions, the first of which permanently swung the game in New England's favor.
With the Patriots leading 14-10, Campbell completed a 28-yard pass to a leaping Darrius Heyward-Bey (four receptions, 115 yards), and Jacoby Ford later took a reverse 30 yards to the New England 6-yard line.
On second-and-goal, Campbell let the air out of the stadium when he threw a pass directly to New England's Chung over the middle without a Raiders player in sight.
Campbell broke free of a pass rush before the interception, with Heyward-Bey looking as if he would flash toward the middle. Instead, Heyward-Bey broke toward the corner. Campbell said it didn't matter -- he was trying to throw the ball away.
"Just a bonehead (play)," Campbell said. "I was looking to throw it out of bounds, I kind of lost control of it as I was throwing it. It's just one of those things. It happened."
To make matters worse, New England got the ball back on its own 20 with 2:15 left and Brady drove the Patriots 54 yards for a 44-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
Instead of going onto the half leading 17-14, the Raiders trailed 17-10.
Ridley bolted 33 yards for touchdown on the opening possession of the second half to finish an 81-yard drive -- with the key play a 32-yard Brady-to-Welker hookup on third-and-7 -- and the Patriots led 24-10.
New England was in control the rest of the way, with the Raiders occasionally getting yardage in chunks but unable to capitalize with points.
Seymour, whose game against his former team went nothing like he'd hoped, was philosophical.
"You live to fight another day," Seymour said. "We're not going to hang our heads and say, 'Here we go again.' We're just going to keep fighting, plugging away. It's a long season."
With the Raiders having already rebounded from a difficult loss in Buffalo, linebacker Quentin Groves is confident they can do it again next week in Houston but would rather kick the habit of being on the rebound.
"The thing is, you don't want to keep having these bounce-backs, because pretty soon you're going to run out of them," Groves said. "You have to play good all the time."