Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Mike Lowe firstname.lastname@example.org
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - What were you doing in 1978?
Did Star Wars come into your life and hook you forever? Or were you discoing to the sounds of the Bee Gees and "Saturday Night Fever"?
Well, if you were the New England Patriots, you were pounding opponents with a big running attack, led by Sam "Bam" Cunningham, Horace Ivory and Andy Johnson.
And Sunday afternoon, the Patriots reached back a little bit to 1978.
With second-year running back Stevan Ridley running for a career-high 151 yards, the Patriots rushed for 251 yards in a 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos.
It was the second consecutive week the Patriots rushed for over 200 yards -- they ran for 247 in a 52-28 win over Buffalo a week ago -- and the first time the team had accomplished that feat since, well, 1978.
This year's two-game total of 498 yards is the best since the team gained 519 rushing yards in back-to-back games in, you guess it, 1978: 240 against the Jets on Oct. 28, 279 against Buffalo on Nov. 5.
What's it all mean?
"It means that we can do it," said right guard Dan Connolly. "It means that teams got to prepare for both (passing and running) attacks now, I guess."
But unlike that 1978 team, which was methodical in its offensive philosophy, this year's Patriots club likes to push the limits.
It prefers a track meet or, if you will, a fastbreaking offense.
Running out of the no-huddle set, the Patriots went fast against Denver, and then sped up.
They didn't want the Broncos to be able to substitute defensive players, so the Patriots kept their foot on the pedal.
"They got in and out of some stuff," said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. "But we felt like the tempo helped us control the game a little bit."
Asked if he noticed the Broncos getting tired on defense, Connolly responded, "I was getting tired. I don't know if they were getting tired, but I was."
But the Patriots have prepared for this. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said this is the tempo they have set all through the offseason workouts, training camp and practices.
"This is how we play," he said.
And when they can run the ball well, this offense can be breathtaking to watch.
Lloyd, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski are all going to get the catches. They combined for 20 against the Broncos.
Running the ball allows the Patriots to control the clock and keep quarterbacks like Peyton Manning off the field. On Sunday, the Patriots had a big edge in time of possession: 35:49 to 24:11.
"They certainly did a good job of staying on the field," said Manning.
Especially on third down, where the Patriots converted 11 of 17 opportunities, or 65 percent.
Danny Woodhead had perhaps two of the biggest. The first came with New England facing a third-and-14 from its 11.
Brady threw a short pass to Woodhead in the right flat and he gained 25 yards. That would lead to a field goal and a 17-7 Patriots halftime lead.
Then, with the Patriots facing a third-and-17 in the third quarter, Woodhead ran left, cut back to the middle of the field and gained 19 yards. That led to a Tom Brady touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
Ridley, who had his third 100-yard performance of the season, knows the importance of the running game.
"It takes a lot of pressure off Brady," he said.
"And that's our leader, that's our team. A lot of people key on him and our running back group has got to get some pressure off him so he can be the quarterback ... . We can't be a one-dimensional offense."
Belichick was asked what it meant that the Patriots had rushed for 200 yards in back-to-back games in a league that favors the 300-yard passing game.
"I don't know," he said. "We just try to go out there and move the ball and score points. That's what we try to do. Sometimes we run it, sometimes we pass it, sometimes we do a little of both, sometimes we do more of one than the other. But we try to got out there and move the ball and score points."
As fast as they can.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: