Patriots running attack is a legitimate threat

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Patriots running attack is a legitimate threat

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The numbers are uncannily similar.

In 2009, the Patriots ran for 1,921 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.1 yards per carry and were ninth in the AFC in yards per game on the ground.

This year? They ran for 1,973 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.3 per carry and were sixth in the AFC in yards per game.

But those are surface numbers. Plumbing a little deeper, you can uncover some of the key stats that show just how effective the Patriots were on the ground.

For instance, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was second in the entire NFL in second half rushing TDs.

Complementing that, Danny Woodhead was fourth in second half yards per carry (5.9, 50 carries, 297 yards).

In first half YPC, Woodhead was seventh in the NFL and Green-Ellis was 16th.

On first-and-10, Green-Ellis was 13th in the NFL with 623 yards.

On third down, Green-Ellis was tied for seventh in creating first downs (12 for 18). He trailed three fullbacks and three quarterbacks.

In the entire NFL, Woodhead finished third in yards per carry (5.64 on 97 carries).

Total yards arent as important as when they come. For instance, Laurence Maroneys 45-yard touchdown run in a 59-0 win over Tennessee in October 2009 were not quite as impressive as the Patriots 72 rushing yards in the second half at Pittsburgh in October. Especially with those yards coming against a team that hadnt allowed a 100-yard game by an opponent all year.

The general feeling about the 2009 Patriots running game was that it was pretty good. But this years edition spearheaded by a pair of undrafted guys is far more effective.

I think the durability of that running back position and to rush the way that our offense has been rushing lately, its been great, Tom Brady said Sunday night after the win over Miami. Weve played some really stout defenses lately, especially in the AFC East. The Dolphins are a great run defense and the Jets are tough. These 3-4 defenses are tough to run against, whether it was the Steelers or Green Bay was a good defense, so weve played a bunch of great defenses. So, I think theres really been a strong commitment over the course of the season to make yards in the run game and keep things balanced and use our run to set up play action. Its definitely been a huge threat.

The Patriots rushing attack is a realistic threat this year. Last year, it seemed more a device used until Brady could go long for Randy Moss again. The diversity of the offense with tight ends now being featured in the passing game has had an impact. And the blocking of the tight ends has as well.

Its interesting because, last February, the Indianapolis Colts presence in the Super Bowl despite having the planets worst rushing attack was seen as proof of a sea change.

The notion teams needed a legitimate, grind-it-out rushing attack to succeed was pass. Protections for quarterbacks and receivers, sophisticated advances in the passing game made the air the way to go. Indy was at the leading edge of that wave.

Last season, the Colts advanced to the Super Bowl with an attack that averaged 3.54 yards per carry, 80.9 per game. That was last in the NFL.

But the presence of Peyton Manning was the equalizer.

And this year, the presence of Brady and an effective running game has resulted in a Patriots team that is again historically explosive.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”