In response to prolate0spheroid's comment:
In response to TrueChamp's comment:
I remember guys on this very thread questioning the o line and its depth all year. They were also questioning this lines capability to run block. I guess they have their answers.
Champ, I call it like I see it. I saw a lot of bad blocking early in the season, especially from Wendell and Connolly. Yesterday was different. I can't wait to watch the film once it's available, but I really think Cannon is a difference maker on the right side. I also think Hoomanawanui and Develin had big days. I'm not sure because I haven't seen the film, but it strikes me that Cannon and the TEs and FB took some pressure off Wendell and Connolly and maybe even freed them up to get downfield a bit. I'll know more once I see the film, but it seems to me Develin, Cannon, and Hoomanawanui really stepped up yesterday and made the guys around them all better.
Solder and Mankins were also playing possessed. Solder in particular seemed much more aggressive than he has recently.
There's no doubt that the lost of Gronk had a lot to do with this new strategy. I do think this new runnning game started during the Ravens game and that the smash mouth attitude and momentum carried into the Bills game. That last offensive series against the Ravens was also special against the 11th run defense in the NFL. It was one of those football moments when they had to kill the clock and everyone knew including the Ravens defense that the Patriots were going to run the ball but they couldn't stop them. There's no doubt that the rain kind of forced them into the running game against the Bills but what they did against that Ravens defensive line had to have been a big factor and confidence builder heading into the Bills game.
Normally the Patriots offense tries to identify their opponents weakness and they at least try to exploit it whether it be the defense is light and running a lot of nickel and dime packages so run it or they know certain defensive backs can't cover their receivers which in the past was a given.
Do they feel that the blocking and running game has improved enough and feels confident enough to just force the issue? If nothing else it certainly would open up the passing game.
Here's the where the 3 possible teams they might play in the Divisional round stand in run defense:
Bengals - 5th 96.5 yards/game
Colts - 26th 125.1 yards/game
Chiefs - 22nd 120.2 yards/game
Lot's of folks are saying they'd like the Patriots to face the Bengals but I think they may match up better with the Colts. Unfortunately that may not happen.