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Ouch - that smarts

Posted by Tom Wilcox October 23, 2008 05:58 AM

During the peak of the Patriots’ run, conventional wisdom was that Bill Belichick was such a genius that he could plug anybody into his system and still succeed.

Whether it’s true or not, that opinion is certainly being put to the test this season.
Lost in the euphoria of Monday night’s impressive 41-7 win over the Broncos were the injuries that seem to just keep piling up.

Although injuries are part of life for every team in the NFL, the Patriots have seemed particularly snakebit this season, which started with the catastrophic loss of Tom Brady in Week 1.

Starters Nick Kaczur and Jarvis Green went down two weeks ago against the Chargers and were unable to play against Denver. Then the Patriots announced that another starter was finished for the season, putting running back Laurence Maroney on injured reserve before Monday’s game.

“It’s obviously not something we like to see, but I think we’re used to it by now. It seems to happen quite a bit every year,” said left guard Logan Mankins. “We have a pretty deep team with a lot of talent, so we know we have guys that can fill in and take over.”

But the Patriots suffered perhaps their biggest injury of the season on defense when Rodney Harrison was carted off the field on the final play of the third quarter. Although the team hadn’t officially announced anything as of Tuesday, the Globe’s Christopher L. Gasper confirmed that Harrison is done for the season with a torn quadriceps muscle in his right leg. “It doesn’t look good,” Belichick said after the game, and many of the players seemed resigned to the fact that Harrison was done.

Tedy Bruschi was seen talking to Harrison before he left the field but would not reveal what he said to the veteran safety.

“I’m going to keep that to myself, if you don’t mind,” said Bruschi. “Rodney is one of my favorite teammates of all time, and I just went out there to check on him. What I told him and he told me was something between us.”

Take it on the run

With the news of Maroney’s being placed on IR just hours before Monday’s game, the Patriots had to wonder where they were going to get their rushing yards for the rest of this season.

For at least a half, it looked as though Sammy Morris had the answer to that question.

The ninth-year running back showed the type of offense Belichick would like to run with Matt Cassel at the helm, running for 23 yards on New England’s first three offensive plays, which set up a beautiful play-action pass from Cassel to Ben Watson.

Morris established a career high in rushing yards for a single game in the first half alone, with 138 yards on 16 carries. He didn’t play a single snap in the second half, when he was held out with a knee injury. But the most encouraging thing might have been that when backup BenJarvus Green-Ellis came into the game, the team didn’t miss a beat. Green-Ellis ran for 65 yards on 13 carries and his first career touchdown. The Patriots repeatedly took advantage of the left side of the offensive line behind Pro Bowlers Matt Light and Mankins.

“A lot of the credit goes to the running backs,” said Mankins. “Sammy [Morris] runs as good as anyone and as hard as anyone. He hits the holes. Ben [Green-Ellis] gave us a nice spark. We got to see what he can do and we liked what we saw.”

“I thought all of the running backs ran hard,” said Belichick. “Obviously the offensive line blocked well, and the tight ends – Heath [Evans] when he was in there at fullback. We got some downfield blocks from the receivers on a couple of those longer runs too. So you know that is just good team football. Not all one guy but good production from all of the backs.”

Rushing around

The Patriots’ total of 257 yards on 38 carries tied the team’s highest single-game rushing total since Dec. 22, 1985. … Wes Welker’s 6-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was his first of the season. …The Patriots’ 41 points against Denver tied the team’s second-highest point total ever at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002. It also tied the team’s largest victory on “Monday Night Football.”

Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots for OT and can be reached at twilcox@globe.com

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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
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