Breaking Down the Many Faces of the New England Patriots Running Game
The New England Patriots have successfully integrated four running backs into their offense in 2012. All of them have scored multiple touchdowns during the first half of the season as runners or receivers.
Yet, the Patriots lead the NFL by just three attempts on third down (117; the Jets have 114) and boast the second-best third-down conversion percentage (49; the Pittsburgh Steelers converted 52) when they do get to those situations.
Unsurprisingly, New England’s offense is the highest scoring unit in the NFL—this machine is humming.
Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead have all contributed to the Patriots offense with their respective allotment of touches.
Here’s a look at their individual numbers.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Games Played: 6
Rushing: 43 att, 234 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: 2 rec, 11 yds
Total: 45 touches, 245 yds, 2 TD
Bolden’s best game was against New England’s divisional foe, the Buffalo Bills. The rookie carried the ball 16 times for 137 yards and a touchdown, and also caught one pass for 11 yards in the Patriots’ highest-scoring game of the season.
They knocked off the Bills by a count of 52-28 in Week 4.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Games Played: 8
Rushing: 150 att, 716 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: 6 rec, 51 yds
Total: 156 touches, 767 yds, 5 TD
Ridley is listed at 5’11” and 220 pounds: the same dimensions as his teammate, Brandon Bolden. Their birthdays are even on back-to-back days, though the second-year running back is about one year older than Bolden.
Their roles, however, are different.
Ridley’s the guy that the Patriots get the ball to most often from the backfield. He’s on pace for 300 carries this season—a surprising number as the Patriots are often thought of as a pass-first offense.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Games Played: 5
Rushing: 17 att, 72 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: 3 rec, 32 yds
Total: 20 touches, 104 yds, 2 TD
Vereen didn’t get to see the field until Week 4 after a preseason foot injury knocked him out of the first three games of the season.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Games Played: 8
Rushing: 48 att, 164 yds, TD
Receiving: 19 rec, 200 yds, TD
Total: 67 touches, 364 yds, 2 TD
The receiving maven of the bunch, Woodhead has caught more passes this season than all three of the other Patriot running backs combined.
His most productive game in terms of yardage came against the Denver Broncos in Week 5, when Woodhead rushed seven times for 47 yards and caught one pass for 25 yards.