FOXBORO -- The Patriots rushed for just 96 yards against Miami in Week 15.
They lost that game. Then things changed.
New England gained 142 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against Baltimore the following week. LeGarrette Blount exploded in the regular season finale, running for 189 of the team's 267 yards. He had 166 yards and four touchdowns last weekend when the team went off for 234 and six TDs.
The secret to such success? It's not complicated.
"I think we've blocked better. I think the backs have run better. It's just a combination of everything," left guard Logan Mankins explained Wednesday. "It's not just the line, it's the tight ends, the fullback. On those big long runs you need receivers blocking. It's just a total group effort and we've all done a better job."
Mankins pointed out how the tight ends in particular don't get enough credit.
"I think with the game the way it is now, no one ever talks about a blocking tight end, it's how many catches they have. The tight ends on our team have been vital to our running success. They've done a great job. They don't get much credit for it, but you're never going to get to the edge if you can't block. There's a lot of plays when we run right behind those guys so they've got to do a good job for our backs to have any success."
The responsibility has largely fallen on the shoulders of Michael Hoomanawanui and Matt Mulligan since Rob Gronkowski went on IR in December. Fullback James Develin is also often on the case, and paired with Mulligan last weekend against Colts great Robert Mathis.
"It kind of just trickles down from the line to the tight ends, from Tom to the backs," Hoomanwanui said. "Even the wide receivers are doing a great job of getting their guys out and forcing guys out.
It's true receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, who both stand around 5-10, also did a good job of bothering Mathis.
But that's what it takes.
Said Hoomanawanui: "It's a total team effort and we've got to keep it going."