This year is just a bit different from the offensive explosion we saw coming out of the Northeast last year. First off, the almighty Tom Brady is not on the field, and to add to the strain, Laurence Maroney is also on IR. The Patriots' passing game has been decent, but the reason for that is the running back core.
Even without Laurence Maroney, New England has a very modest group of RB's. Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are those three special players. Morris has been riddled with injuries throughout the seasons, but when he has been in, he has shown great.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is only a rookie, but when the Pats have given him playing time, he has played great. He has really shown some of that power that the other two backs lack. He has the ability to help convert those short distance situations that the Pats had trouble with (San Diego game, goal line stand). Then there is Kevin Faulk.
Faulk is a long time Patriot, one of the few players left from the 90's. Faulk has been a huge part in the three Super Bowl runs that the Pats had. He is also having a big role in this season, where he has become a key component on the 2008 Patriots' offense. He is primarily a third down back, but he can do so much more. He is a RB, WR, kick returner, punt returner, and sometimes even QB (ha-ha).
But in all seriousness, Kevin Faulk can run the ball out of the shotgun very effectively, and he is just as effective when coming out of the backfield, either getting open or drawing multiple defenders towards him. He also has showed up in key moments in close games.
In the San Fran game, he caught the game winning TD in the end zone. Most recently during the Steelers game, I believe that Faulk was one of the few players that actually showed up ready to play. As I watched Moss drop a perfect pass 30 yards down field with no one within 10 yards of him, the next play Faulk leaped up high in the air with defenders about to nail him, and he made the dangerous reach up catch.
If the Pats are going to make the playoffs, everyone needs to keep playing hard, but they need to include Kevin in more plays, because he is the playmaker of that team at the moment (little weird saying that about a team with Randy Moss on it).
There is also the issue of what to do with Maroney. He is signed through 2010 to play with the Patriots. Should the team keep him though? Sure he has played good, only when he has played though. He has been bugged with a reoccurring shoulder injury. Does the talent outweigh the injury risk? This is the question we are left to ponder. If you would have to ask me, I would say that unless he goes through the '09 season injury free, he'll be gone. You never know in the NFL though, especially with the Hoodie.