Patriots offense on pace for record-setting season
The New England Patriots set team records last season for first
downs and yards gained.
Those marks may not last long.
After five games, the Tom Brady-led offense is on pace to break
both of them and he’s getting plenty of help from a revived running
game with a deep group of backs who combine power, speed and
That’s been evident in the past two games. The Patriots rushed
for 251 yards in Sunday’ 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos one week
after gaining 247 in a 52-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
”All our backs ran hard and were productive,” against the
Broncos, coach Bill Belichick said. ”We’re confident in all of
The challenge figures to be tougher next Sunday when the
Patriots visit the Seattle Seahawks, who have given up the fewest
yards in the NFL, 258.6 per game. But the Patriots have gained the
most, an average of 439.4, an increase of 11 yards over last year’s
On Sunday, they set a team record with 35 first downs against
the Broncos after picking up 33 in each of their previous two
games. If they maintain their pace of 30.2 first downs a game,
they’ll finish with 483, shattering the NFL record of 416 set last
year by the New Orleans Saints and the club mark of 399.
The Patriots used a no-huddle attack for most of the first three
quarters, making it tough for the Broncos to make substitutions and
get in the proper positions.
”It takes a lot of concentration,” tight end Rob Gronkowski
said. ”You’ve got to have all 11 guys working at the same pace and
you’ve got to make sure you’re doing your own job out there.”
They did on Sunday when running backs Stevan Ridley, Brandon
Bolden, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen followed outstanding
blocking. They accomplished a rare feat – gaining more yards on the
ground than Brady, with 223, did through the air.
It marked the first time since 1978 that the Patriots had
consecutive games in which they rushed for at least 200 yards.
”We’re getting a lot of nickel defense,” Brady said. ”When
they put little guys out there (in the secondary), we have to take
advantage of it. I think we’re playing definitely a more physical
style and controlling the tempo of the game by running the
football. We have to keep doing it. It’s only been five
Against Denver, Ridley rushed for a career-high 151 yards,
Bolden had 54 and Woodhead gained 47. The previous Sunday, Bolden
led the team with 137 and one touchdown and Ridley added 106 yards
and two touchdowns.
”A lot of people key on (Brady) and our running back group has
to get some pressure off him so he can be the quarterback he can
be,” Ridley said. ”If they’re sitting back there staring Brady in
the face every play, we can’t be a one-dimensional offense.”
The Patriots are averaging 165.4 yards rushing this season after
picking up 110.3 per game last year when BenJarvus Green-Ellis, now
with the Cincinnati Bengals, led them with 667 yards and Ridley was
second with 441. Ridley already has 490 this year.
They’ve also improved in the red zone. In the first three games,
they scored on 11 of 12 trips inside the 20-yard line with six
touchdowns and five field goals. In the last two games, they’re 11
for 11 with nine touchdowns and two field goals.
And they’re getting better in third-down situations with more
than 5 yards to go for a first down.
Brady hit Woodhead for a 25-yard gain on a third-and-14 that
kept alive a drive that ended with a field goal that gave New
England a 17-7 lead with two seconds left in the first half. Then
Woodhead ran 19 yards on third-and-17 in the third quarter to help
set up Brady’s 1-yard touchdown run that made the score 24-7.
”It’s hard to make those, but we were able to convert a few,”
Belichick said. ”You’d like to think you can make the
third-and-one and third-and-twos, but the third-and-17s, those are
little bit tougher.”
Brady has passed effectively but has thrown just eight touchdown
passes with one interception. His ability to understand defenses
and the best way to attack them remains exceptional.
”You can’t just throw it all day. You can’t just run it all
day. You have to be able to do both,” Brady said. ”It’s been
pretty good the last few weeks.”
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