In their last three wins of this season, the Patriots run game was their strength. LeGarrette Blount emerged as the team's go-to battering ram, putting up a career day against the Bills and then outdoing himself with four touchdowns in the AFC Divisional round against the Colts.
The Patriots had what looked like a dominant offensive line and 6-foot, 250 pound back that no one seemed to want to tackle.
That running game was nowhere to be found in the AFC Championship. The Broncos stuffed New England's early attempts to run the ball and then built a big enough lead that made it hard for the Patriots to continue to try and run the ball.
Blount finished the game with five carries for 6 yards, and he didn't get a touch after halftime. As a team, the Patriots ran for 64 yards on 16 attempts. Shane Vereen ran for 34 yards on four carries, while Stevan Ridley chipped in with 17 yards on five carries.
Quarterback Tom Brady was actually the third leading rusher on the team with 7 yards on two carries -- one of which went for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Patriots were attempting a comeback.
"There were plays out there that we didn't make," Blount said after the game. "This is my first time getting this far into a season, and yeah it hurts."
Brady lamented the fact that the Patriots couldn't get more rush attempts early in the game. The team struggled on third down (6-for-12 on the game), and especially in the first half, making sustained drives and more rushing attempts difficult to come by.
"We didn't do much of anything early in the game, run or pass," Brady said. "We didn't complete third downs so it was hard to get into the run game . . . It's hard to be productive when you're not making third downs. Our conversions weren't good. We just didn't make enough plays."