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

Belichick: Brady-less Patriots ‘just really focused on Buffalo’

Belichick: Brady-less Patriots ‘just really focused on Buffalo’

FOXBORO -  A verrrrrryyyy long time ago, the Patriots targeted September. There were t-shirts and everything printed back in 2002 as the Patriots came off of their first Super Bowl title.

The names of that season’s first four opponents – Steelers, Jets, Chiefs and Chargers – were all listed on a bullseye.

How’d that work out? Well, they hit the bullseye for most of September, winning the first three. Then they lost four in a row and the notion of “targeting” a segment of the schedule around these parts went the way of the Dodo bird.

Which may be why, as truly remarkable as this September’s been, Bill Belichick isn’t taking any bows after three damn wins.

“We’re just really focused on Buffalo,” Belichick told me Friday morning when I asked about whether winning the first three in the face of some adversity was a point of pride. “I don’t really care about last week. I don’t really care about two weeks ago. I don’t really care about last year. I don’t really care about four years ago. I don’t really care. I think we’re just trying to get ready and compete against Buffalo. That’s our challenge this week.

“The rest of it – it’s in the books. It is what it is,” he said. “So write whatever you want to write about it. It’s good, it’s bad, I mean I don’t really care. It’s done. We’ve got to do a good job of what we have here with Buffalo. We can’t live in the past. And I respect where you’re coming from, I really do. It’s not like I’m trying to be dismissive of it, but I really don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing that happened last year, last week, last month really has anything to do with this week.”

Things change after Sunday. The best player the franchise has ever had rejoins a team that – in spite of the adversity – flourished without him. Even though the competition wasn’t what one would call “stiff” compared to challenges Brady faced as recently as last January, it’s still remarkable.

Asked about Brady’s looming return, wide receiver Julian Edelman also redirected.

“We got a game before that,” he pointed out. “When he comes back we'll obviously be happy but we got a job ahead of us with the Buffalo Bills.” 

Asked if there’s some pride taken in the beginning, Edelman replied, “It’s just having pride in your job in general. Really just focusing every week and trying to improve. I say it every week on these cameras, if you try to get better and you get better every week, you're gonna do these things. 

“It tells you that you have a mentally tough team that goes out there and works hard and prepares hard and does the extra things,” Edelman added. “I've been around here a little while and that's just the mentality we've always had and continue to have. We have a tough one against the Bills and we'll see how it tests out against these guys.”

 

 

Patriots-Bills injury report: Garoppolo, Brissett listed as questionable

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Patriots-Bills injury report: Garoppolo, Brissett listed as questionable

The inury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

OUT
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

QUESTIONABLE
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)