OAKLAND, Calif. — Tom Brady grew up in the Bay Area rooting for Joe Montana so it was only fitting that in his first game back here in nine years he passed the Hall of Famer on an exclusive list.
Brady bounced back from a four-interception performance by throwing for two touchdowns to pass Montana on the career list and committing no turnovers to help the Patriots beat the mistake-prone Oakland Raiders 31-19 Sunday.
“I’ll never be in Joe’s category,” said Brady, who was at Candlestick Park in 1982 when Montana and Dwight Clark connected on “The Catch.”
“We throw the ball a lot more than they threw it back then. It’s much more of a passing league now than it’s ever been. Every one of those touchdowns was important today, so it was fun. It was fun to be back out there after last week.”
Wes Welker caught nine passes for 158 yards and a score, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley added rushing touchdowns and the Patriots (3-1) played a mostly mistake-free game after last week’s surprising loss in Buffalo.
“It’s always big to bounce back,” said Welker, who has 40 catches 616 yards through four games.
“We had the letdown last week and we got a bounce-back from that and coming on the road into a hostile environment, it’s a big win for us. It was good to see.”
This time the interception that changed the game was made by New England instead of thrown by Brady.
Patrick Chung got a gift-wrapped pick in the end zone late in the first half when Jason Campbell inexplicably threw the ball right to the safety with no receiver in the area for the Raiders (2-2).
“It was just a bonehead play,” Campbell said. “I was just going to throw the ball out of bounds, then I start running around trying to make a play.”
Campbell threw another interception early in the fourth quarter to 325-pound defensive lineman Vince Wilfork as the Raiders were unable to give the energized sellout crowd much to cheer about after the opening minutes.
The Raiders committed nine penalties for 85 yards, including a pair of personal fouls on New England’s opening drive by former Patriots star Richard Seymour.
But the biggest mistake was the one made by Campbell at the end of the first half.
The Raiders were at the New England 6 and in position to take a 17-14 lead when Campbell stepped up in the pocket and threw the ball directly to Chung.
The Patriots drove for a 44-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in the closing seconds of the half. New England then took the opening kickoff of the second down the field for a score on Ridley’s 33-yard run so the Raiders trailed 24-10 by the time Campbell took his next snap.
“It cost us. It cost our team,” Campbell said. “It’s something I don’t usually do. Unfortunately, it happened. And from that point on, it kind of stirred the momentum. We just pretty much were going tit for tat at that point. You’re going against a team like New England, an offensive juggernaut, you can’t have mistakes like that.”
Oakland settled for a field goal deep in New England territory late in the third quarter after the officials overturned a pass interference call against the Patriots.
New England answered with another touchdown drive capped by Brady’s 4-yard pass to Deion Branch that made it 31-13 and gave him 275 career TDs, tying Vinny Testaverde for eight place all time. Brady passed Montana with his TD pass to Welker in the first quarter and he also tied Peyton Manning’s record of 13 straight games with at least two TD passes.
New England’s much-maligned defense did enough despite losing star linebacker Jerod Mayo in the first half to a knee injury and allowing 504 yards.
The Patriots held an opponent to under 20 points for the first time this season, a drastic change from last week’s 34-31 loss to the Bills.
Darren McFadden, the NFL’s leading rusher, had 75 yards on 14 carries. Campbell finished 25 for 39 for 344 yards, but the Raiders only made it into the end zone once before Campbell’s 6-yard TD pass to Denarius Moore with 28 seconds left.
Brady, who threw for a record 1,327 yards the first three games, needed to do much less against the Raiders. He completed 16 of 30 passes as New England did plenty of damage on the ground with Ridley rushing for 97 yards and Green-Ellis adding 75.
“We had a good day running the ball so that always helps balance things up,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “We always want to have balance and we were able to have it today. We blocked well, we ran well.”
Buoyed by a sellout crowd and big-game atmosphere, the Raiders came out fast with Campbell completing four of five passes for 57 yards in the opening drive to set up a 28-yard field goal by Sebatsian Janikowski.
But that emotion also hurt the Raiders with Seymour being called for unnecessary roughness for throwing Brady to the ground after a delay of game penalty and a facemask later on a TD drive.
“They said they blew the whistle,” Seymour said. “But it was so loud I never heard the whistle. That’s still no excuses. We have to play better. We just couldn’t get off the field on third down.”