New England Patriots: The Committee Has Found a Chairman

Terry RobinsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 4, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 09:  BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 of the New England Patriots carries the ball in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills on November 9, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 20-10.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Benjarvus Green-Ellis does NOT rest his case. The Patriots' third-string running back made it clear Thursday night that he will not rest anything, least of all opposing defenses.

"The Law Firm" scored three touchdowns in New England's 38-27 victory over the New York Giants, impressively powering into the end zone, shaking off, dragging along, or outrunning every defender who tried to get in his way.

He carried the ball 29 times for 125 yards. He had Tom Brady dancing on the sidelines. Bill Belichick actually smiled. I almost forgot this was a preseason game.

The Firm got game, and it is exactly the game this team needs. It seems certain that Bill Belichick will want to rely on the running game more than ever this season, at least until he knows just what to expect from the passing game. The running-back-by-committee concept could be the key to the season.

I mean no offense to Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, or anybody else who has lined up in the Patriots' backfield during this preseason. Anyone who makes the 53-man roster this year has earned his spot.

The final version of the committee was somewhat in question until this last game of the preseason, but Green-Ellis has claimed his seat at the table.

Sammy Morris, who is listed as the Patriots' No. 1 running back, has played his heart out for this team over the past two seasons. He came back last year from a 2007 chest injury and picked up where he had left off. He isn't an every-down kind of running back, but he has been effective when he gets the ball.

We have yet to see everything that Fred Taylor can do for this team, but I have no doubt that he will contribute in a big way. He was a team captain in Jacksonville, and his leadership qualities alone are worth his spot on the team. Plus, he still has a little something in the tank.

I can't even count all the ways Kevin Faulk earns his paycheck. One of the few players on the team who has been around for all three Super Bowl wins, Faulk does a little bit of everything. There is a reason why the Pats organization recently named him number two on the list of all-time great Patriots role players.

(Troy Brown was first on the list, of course.)

And then there is Laurence Maroney. When the Patriots made him a first round draft pick in 2006, he looked really promising. He played in 14 games that year, gaining 745 yards rushing with quite a respectable 4.3 yards per carry.

The following year, he played in 13 games and improved to 835 yards with a solid 4.5 yards per carry. He caught some passes out of the backfield as well.

He was pathetically ineffective in Super Bowl XLII, but so was most of the team. He is, um, excused.

Then came 2008, and Maroney went down early in the season, landing on injured reserve in October. Only then did we learn that his shoulder actually had been injured toward the end of the previous season.

And since his injury? What have we seen, really? No, I'm serious, what have we seen? This is not a rhetorical question.

Somebody tell me, please, because I missed it. He lost something along the way, and I'm not sure what it is.

I believe that No. 39 might have become a little gun shy—not a good situation for a player of his potential caliber.

The Law Firm, on the other hand, has become the player Maroney was supposed to be.

Bill Belichick will do the right thing because he always does. And I would not be stunned if Laurence Maroney became a casualty of the coach's acute decision-making.

Whatever happens, I wish Maroney well... somewhere else. I just don't see him contributing to this team.

Thursday night's game was a powerful display of what this season could become. Coming back from a 21-0 deficit with hard-nosed, energetic defense, an effective running game, and the work of an unknown, undrafted free agent quarterback in Brian Hoyer, they reminded me of a certain 2001 team.

Yes, it was a preseason game, but nobody on the field at The Razor seemed to approach it as one. Too many jobs were on the line.

All I know for sure is that The Law Firm is here to stay.


This and other articles by TR can be found at Boston Sports Then and Now.