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Smith on the run in winning route

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before last night, the Patriots had not required a productive running game to be successful. But Antowain Smith believes that is about to change.

 

"At playoff time, you've got to be able to run the ball if you are going to win," said Smith after gaining 121 yards in the Patriots' 21-16 win over the New York Jets.

This was Smith's 13th 100-plus-yard career game and his first 100-yard-plus performance since he rushed for 111 yards in a 38-7 win over Buffalo Nov. 3, 2002. In the 2001 season, Smith had four games of more than 100 yards rushing, plus three performances of 90-plus yards. Smith has had at least one 100-yard-plus game in each of his seven NFL seasons.

Smith gained nearly half of his total on a 30-yard run on the eighth play of the second quarter and a 23-yard run on the third play of the second half, the longest gain on a seven-play drive which produced the Patriots' third touchdown and a 21-10 lead 4:07 into the half.

"It starts with the big guys up front," Smith said. "Those guys were doing their job and once I get a full head of steam, I am going to get positive yards.

"When you pop one or two, you get into a rhythm, you see things. You've got to be able to grind it out on the ground. Once I got into the secondary, it was kind of easy."

The Patriots have never lost when Smith gains at least 100 yards. The Patriots won their 12th game of the season, but though they had their most productive rushing performance, the offense scored just twice.

"It was frustrating, of course, we left some points out there on the field," Smith said. "At playoff time, you can't leave points out there against a very good team."

The Patriots continued to be resourceful, also scoring on their first play from scrimmage and an interception return.

"Whenever there is a challenge we have been up to the challenge," Smith said. "It's a tribute to the coaching staff. They get us ready and we just have to go out and execute.

We have to concentrate on getting better in the running game, but the main thing is to run the ball hard. The type of weather we have in the Northeast, it is going to take a good running game to win in the playoffs."

But first, the Patriots will play host to Buffalo, Smith's former team, in the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium. The Bills took a 31-0 win over the Patriots in the season opener.

"That will be a big game for us," Smith said. "In the first game, they handed it to us pretty good. Of course, after 31 to nothing, you want to go out and have a better game. We have to try put another win together. There are a lot of things we can do better offensively.

"But we took care of our business [last] night. Now, we can sit and watch all the other games."

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  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 13 2 0 .867 317 238
Dolphins 8 6 0 .571 268 237
Bills 6 8 0 .429 240 228
Jets 6 9 0 .400 262 276
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