Boy, those New England Patriots. Just when you think you have them figured out, they're changing again.
First the Patriots turned into a spread offense, taking their ball-control system and turning it into an aerial circus. Then they redefined the role of the tight end, putting two versatile players at the position and attacking the middle of the defense.
Now, they're at it again. These days, being a running back is where it's at in New England.
Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and (once he heals) Aaron Hernandez are still in the picture, as is new addition Brandon Lloyd. But the Patriots have decided that running the ball can be just as efficient and lethal as throwing it—if not more so.
This newfound interest in the running game has produced immediate dividends.
New England is third in the league in rushing. Stevan Ridley is on pace for 1,568 yards. Brandon Bolden has rushed for almost 200 over the past two games. Even 5'8" Danny Woodhead is breaking off 19-yard runs on 3rd-and-17.
As has been the norm since Corey Dillon's huge 2004 season, New England has been getting the job done with a stable of running backs, rather than relying on one back to carry the ball over and over and over again. This time, however, the talent and depth in the backfield is at a high level.
Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each contributor to New England's ground success.