FOXBOROUGH - Laurence Maroney, it seems, is recovered from the groin injury that kept him out of action for three weeks.
Yesterday against Washington, Maroney showed burst, explosiveness, and patience in leading a solid Patriots ground effort. New England's offense and defense ran all over the Redskins in a 52-7 rout at Gillette Stadium.
Maroney carried 14 times for 75 yards, including back-to-back runs of 11 and 13 yards on the Patriots' first possession.
The second-year running back missed games against Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dallas before making a quiet return last week in Miami. He had just six carries for 31 yards, all in the first half. Four of Maroney's touches were during New England's opening drive. Maroney, making a bit more noise yesterday, carried six times for 36 yards on the Patriots' first drive, a 14-play, 90-yard march that finished with Tom Brady's 3-yard touchdown run.
Six of Maroney's runs went for first downs. The Patriots set a team record with 34 first downs.
"Laurence ran well this week," fullback Heath Evans said. "It was fun to see him out there. He ran hard, he did what was asked of him, and he was extremely productive. I like having 39 [Maroney's uniform number] back in there."
The Patriots rushed for 152 yards, their highest total in four weeks. The Redskins had ranked fifth in the NFL against the run, allowing just 80.7 yards per game.
"The backs did a great job, I thought, of making guys miss," Brady said.
Kevin Faulk (five carries, 32 yards) and Evans (five carries, 24 yards) also contributed. Brady went to Faulk extensively in the passing game as well. Faulk's seven receptions for 57 yards were second only to Wes Welker's nine for 89 yards. With a 7-yard catch in the first quarter, Faulk moved into sixth place on the Patriots' all-time receptions list.
"It was a patient game plan, poise, just to kind of take what they gave us," Evans said. "As an offense, it was fun doing that."
In the third quarter, on the drive that made it 31-0, Maroney took Brady's handoff and went right, broke defensive lineman Anthony Montgomery's tackle, reversed direction, and went for a 9-yard gain and first down. That was his last carry of the game.
Maroney also caught two passes for 37 yards. The first was a beautiful catch-and-run in the second quarter that went for 25 yards and took the Patriots to the Redskins' 5-yard line. Maroney's 3-yard gain on first-and-goal preceded Brady's 2-yard TD pass to Mike Vrabel.
"I thought when Tom hit him on that seam pass, he made a nice run on that," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He cut back to the outside, broke a couple tackles in the running game, reversed his feet one time, which is always a little bit dangerous . . . but Laurence is fast. He showed his strength, breaking out of a couple of tackles, so he made some big plays for us today."
Maroney's still looking for his first touchdown of 2007.
The running back, who moved into the lead role after Corey Dillon departed, had offseason shoulder surgery, and the Patriots played it safe with him in the preseason as he wore a red, noncontact jersey for most of camp.
He had increased production in each of the first three games of 2007. He rushed for 72 yards in the opener against the Jets, 77 against the Chargers, and 103 against the Bills.
He missed the next three games, but New England's running game hardly took a hit. Sammy Morris filled in just fine with a pair of 100-yard efforts. Morris was injured in the Dallas game and has missed the last two weeks.
Maroney, who did not speak to reporters after the game, said last week he did not want to be labeled injury prone. Rib, knee, and shoulder woes dogged Maroney during his rookie season, in which he split carries with Dillon and rushed for 745 yards and six touchdowns. "You want to play," Maroney said, "and you want to contribute."
He did that yesterday.