FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Need a quarterback to throw for four touchdowns or a running back to rush for four?
The New England Patriots have those.
How about a defense to dominate the NFL’s highest scoring team?
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The Patriots have done that. Twice.
Their latest blowout, 42-20 over the Indianapolis Colts, was their sixth straight win and another sign of their all-around superiority entering the last six weeks of the season. At 8-2, they have the best record in the AFC with wins over the other three division leaders.
”Whatever it takes,” Tom Brady said.
On Sunday night, it took little-known Jonas Gray to rush for 199 yards and four touchdowns behind a steamrolling offensive line.
In the previous game, Brady was the key to the prolific offense, throwing for four scores in a 43-21 rout of the Denver Broncos.
Denver entered that as the leader in points per game. Indianapolis took over that spot before Sunday night’s game.
Now it belongs to New England.
”We always try to stay balanced,” Brady said. ”You never go in saying we’re going to run it this much or throw it this much. You try to get the runs on your terms, and if they’re going to load up and stop it, you’ve got to throw it, but if they’re not going to respect the running game, you’ve got to keep giving it to him.”
Gray’s 38 carries were tied with Jim Nance for second most in Patriots history. His 199 yards rushing tied for third with Curtis Martin.
”I don’t think I ever had a game where I had 38 carries and going into the game I didn’t think I’d get 38 carries,” said Gray, who has played in just four NFL games after starting the season on the practice squad.
But he seemed fresh on Monday, less than 18 hours after the game ended.
”Surprisingly, I feel great. I actually just did some extra conditioning,” he said. ”I’m feeling good, ready for a big week against Detroit.”
The emphasis is likely to shift away from the running game on Sunday since the Lions (7-3) have allowed the fewest yards on the ground in the NFL.
”It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” said fullback James Develin, who threw key blocks for Gray. ”Whatever gets the `W’ on the board is what we’ll do.”
The challenge for the defense won’t be as great as it was against the Broncos and the Colts. Only six teams have scored fewer than the Lions’ 18.8 points per game.
But safety Devin McCourty welcomed the task of trying to stop the offenses of Denver and Indianapolis.
”It’s not a couple of games where they’re averaging a lot of scoring. It’s every week,” he said. ”That’s who they are. That’s their identity. So I think, first, we look at that, especially at the beginning of the week as a whole.
”And, then, once you start game planning if you want to try to stop that offense then you’ve got to start looking player by player and going that way.”
The Patriots held Reggie Wayne to five catches by matching Darrelle Revis up with him. The other wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, also was limited, making three catches. And the Colts running game managed 19 yards on 17 carries.
”I just think as a competitor when you go against the best you want to go out there and play well,” McCourty said. ”That’s anybody, whether the offense plays (against) a good defense and vice versa. You want to go out there and play great against a great team or a great player.”
The Patriots have a few of them coming up in their next two games – Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson followed by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
But this is the time of year the Patriots are nearly unbeatable – 22-2 in the last six games of the past four seasons.
”We know how critical each game is,” Gray said. ”Every game becomes bigger and bigger.”
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