Who will be the biggest difference maker in the Patriots vs. Colts game?
Though players like Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson have stepped up for Brady and the Patriots offense, the biggest development, over the course of the last four games, is the Patriots' newfound ability to run the ball successfully. Led by the re-emergence of running back LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots' running game will be the difference when the Colts travel to Foxborough, Mass.
In the final four games of the season, the Patriots averaged 4.9 yards per rush and 148 yards per game as a team.
For the Colts, a potent running attack is not a good sign. Indianapolis has given up 2,002 yards rushing on the season, ranking them as the seventh worst defense against the run. In the playoffs, where a quality running game is needed to wear down an opposing defense, the Colts will have their struggles against New England. Blount told Erik Frenz of The Boston Globe:
It wears and tears on a defense. They get tired of hitting backs like me, like (Stevan Ridley), like (Brandon) Bolden, and they get tired of chasing Shane (Vereen) around. So, I feel like if you do that to them for a while, sooner or later they’re going to crack.”
In his first season with the Patriots, Blount struggled in the early going to find a role in a crowded backfield. However, over the course of the final two games, Blount has looked like a player who's starting to figure it out.
"As the season went on, I got more comfortable and I got a chance to figure out the blocking schemes, what’s supposed to hit where, who’s supposed to block where," Blount told reporters Wednesday, per the Patriots' official site. "As far as that goes, I just kind of figured out a lot more about the offense to be a little bit more successful.”
Blount has accounted for 265 yards rushing and four touchdowns in his last two games, including 189 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 17.
Brady, throughout the season, has done well with a powerful running game, using play action to his advantage.
According to Frenz, 24.6 percent of Brady's passing attempts came via play action. On those passing plays, Brady accumulated a 99.8 passer rating.
With running the ball comes an increased time of possession. Keeping control of the clock is vital for a Patriots victory.
The Colts, and second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, showed last week that its offense is a powerful one. Mounting a 28-point comeback in the third quarter appeared nearly impossible. However, Luck accomplished this against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. Keeping Luck, and the Colts, on the sideline should be an integral part of the Patriots' game plan.
Against the 26th ranked rushing defense, the Patriots will continue its recent trend of running the ball successfully, being the main difference in a New England victory over the Colts in the divisional round.