Gearing up for a ground battle


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Colleague Chris Gasper wrote yesterday on the Patriots’ re-purposed offensive attack, with Tom Brady under center more frequently and the running game more of a focal point.

We’ve been talking about this here for a while (a real long time, actually) and it looks like the plan is coming to fruition — A unit that became overly pass-happy in the last few years seems to be getting its physical edge back. And for the wars of the AFC East, that’ll be necessary. Not only are the Jets and Dolphins big and physical, they both ranked in the Top 4 in the NFL in rushing last year, and Buffalo is making a concerted effort to move in that direction, roster-wise, as well.

But if you want to look for perspective, just how much more effective have the Patriots been running the ball this year versus last? The best way, I figured, to examine this was to take the best comparable example, which would the first two preseason weeks of last year. So let’s go (excluding kneeldowns) …

2009
Week 1:
24 rushes, 102 yards (4.25 YPC), 0 TD
Week 2: 24 rushes, 108 yards (4.50 YPC), 0 TD
Total:
48 rushes, 210 yards (4.38 YPC), 0 TD

2010
Week 1:
33 rushes, 127 yards (3.85 YPC), 3 TD
Week 2: 29 rushes, 121 yards (4.17 YPC), 2 TD
Total: 62 rushes, 248 yards (4.00 YPC), 5 TD

… It did look different, though, right? The difference in my mind has been a) red-zone production and b) explosive plays. The consistency (or lack of) is now what you have to watch for — Reflected in those stats, and something Bill Belichick noted in him conference call yesterday.

But one thing is for sure: The Patriots are making the running game a priority this preseason.

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