New England Patriots: New Running Schemes Could Lead to Success in 2012

Max SullivanContributor IIIOctober 12, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 07: Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots dives in to score a touchdown over Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos in the second half during the game on October 7, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

With the ball behind the Patriots' 5-yard line and 5:03 to go in the second quarter Sunday afternoon, Bill Belichick knew there was a risk of scoring too fast.

Even by making it 21-7, no one would want to hand the ball back to Peyton Manning with time on the clock.

What followed was a gorgeous display of the Patriots' ability to run at-will via one clicking offensive line and three hungry, young running backs.

Five minutes, 98 yards and ten rushing plays later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal, and the Patriots headed into the locker room ready to take the ball back at halftime with a 17-7 lead.

It happened again in the second half.

The Patriots had the ball on their own 20-yard line with 11:24 to go in the third quarter. They crossed 80 yards in over five minutes, running 11 rushing plays. They scored a touchdown, making the score 24-7 Patriots. 

If that kind of efficiency remains a constant this season, the Patriots will be almost guaranteed to outscore any opponent they face.

That is the name of the game, right? If the secondary is going to be anemic, then Brady and his offense need to score, score, score.

In years past, though, that meant pass, pass, pass.

Last season, most drives involved no more than three rushing plays. This idea of running the ball twice as much as having the future Hall of Famer throw was insanity. Brady and his favorite receiver, "the open one," were without question the weapon of choice. 


In a weak AFC, it was good enough to win the conference.

In the Super Bowl, however, it made the Patriots one-dimensional.

It may have been a freakish, other-worldly dimension that defenses were warped to, but it was still only one dimension. Good defenses aren't fooled by one dimension, and the Giants had a good defense. In that final game in Indianapolis, IN last February, no Patriots drive incorporated more than four rushing plays.

The Patriots forced the pass all night, and it got them nowhere in the end.

By drawing the comparison between last season to this one, one might ask why anyone should get excited about an unproven Stevan Ridley, an undrafted Brandon Bolden and a previously unwanted Danny Woodhead.

It wouldn't be the first time Bill Belichick used a pack of no names to make things happen in New England—David Patten, Troy Brown and even Wes Welker, who was fielding punts in Miami before Belichick nabbed him.'s Albert Breer pointed out in a column this week that the term "game manager" has a negative ring in the modern quarterback era, and that it is perceived by some that Brady's 223 passing yards Sunday should be preceded by an "only." He went on to point out that "managing" a game the way Brady can is what makes Brady a winner.

In his case, controlling the drive leads to controlling the win.

Having the running game come together like it did last Sunday, as well as against Buffalo the week before, gives Brady that extra control. The Broncos defense admitted they were caught off guard enough by the way the Pats ran their no huddle offense, calling two plays at a time and employing one-word play calls for quicker snaps.

The Patriots ran 85 five plays Sunday.

In contrast, they only got off 60 in the last Super Bowl. 

On top of the speed, a good running game could be the boost Brady needs to keep opposing teams guessing. If Belichick keeps this cast of no-name running backs from faltering, then these clock-eating New England marches downfield might show up against the NFL's best in the postseason. 

If they couldn't hold onto the ball quite long enough against the Giants, then maybe those few extra rushing plays will make that bit of a difference this year.

This weekend against the Seahawks, the third-best run-stopping team in the NFL and fifth-best against the pass, the Patriots will finally be able to demonstrate how well they can move the ball.

We'll get the first real glimpse of what the offensive line can do and if the backs can still blaze past defenders like they did against the Bills and Broncos.

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