FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Earlier this season, the New England Patriots ranked among the NFL leaders in rushing defense. They hadn’t allowed an opposing running back to pass 100 yards in 21 straight games dating to last year.

The last two weeks, opponents have run all over them. New England is now ranked 19th in the league against the run, allowing 117.6 yards per game.

Next up are the Miami Dolphins and Reggie Bush, who has rushed for a career-high 973 yards this season, including 203 and a 76-yard touchdown run Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Washington rookie Roy Helu exposed the Patriots two weeks ago by gashing the defense for 126 of the Redskins’ 170 yards rushing. Then came Denver’s top-ranked running game. Tim Tebow and the Broncos amassed 167 yards rushing in the first quarter alone en route to 252 yards.

The Patriots are now even more vulnerable against the run after their leading pass rusher, Andre Carter, was lost to a season-ending leg injury last week.

Bush brings three straight 100-yard games to New England (11-3) on Saturday when he and the Dolphins will try to snap the AFC East champions’ six-game winning streak.


“When you think of Reggie Bush, you just think electric plays,” Patriots defensive end Shaun Ellis said. “So far that’s what he’s been getting. So for us, we’ve just got to pay attention to our keys, read our blocks, get off the blocks and make the tackle.”

Bush rushed for just 38 yards on 11 attempts in a season-opening 38-24 loss to the Patriots. He did catch nine passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, and has 1,243 yards from scrimmage this season.

“He’s a special guy,” New England linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. “A guy like Reggie can do a lot of different things. So you’ve just got to make sure you don’t let him do those things.”

CARDINALS: Coach Ken Whisenhunt saw no reason to address who will be the starting quarterback Saturday against Cincinnati.

Kevin Kolb, still not back to “normal” after a concussion, said John Skelton took a few more reps than he did in practice. Skelton started Sunday in place of Kolb and as he has done time and again in recent weeks, led Arizona to a late come-from-behind victory, 20-17 against Cleveland in overtime.

Skelton is 4-1 as a starter this season, 5-1 if you count the victory two weeks ago against San Francisco, when Kolb was knocked out of the game on Arizona’s third play. Overall the Cardinals have won four straight and 6 of 7 to climb to 7-7 with a slim shot at making the playoffs.


Arizona placed outside linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve with a knee injury, ending the season for the four-time Pro Bowler. 

RAMS: Rookie receiver Austin Pettis was suspended for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Pettis, a third-round pick out of Boise State, has made three starts and has 27 catches for 256 yards, a 9.5-yard average. He’ll be eligible to return after the Rams’ second game next season, and can participate in offseason and preseason practices and games.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said in a statement that the team was disappointed but respected the NFL’s decision. 

COWBOYS: Running back Felix Jones sat out of practice again because of hamstring tightness.

While Jones worked on the side during practice, he wasn’t involved in any work on the field with the rest of the team for the second straight day.


“It seems like he’s getting better,” said Coach Jason Garrett, adding that Jones had been in all offensive meetings. “We just felt it was the right thing to do today to not practice, and obviously keep him engaged.” 

BEARS: Quarterback Josh McCown will start an NFL game for the first time in four years Sunday night for Chicago at Green Bay.

McCown will replace the struggling Caleb Hanie. McCown hasn’t started a game since Dec. 23, 2007, for Oakland against Jacksonville. He was completely out of the NFL last season. 

BILLS: Tight end Scott Chandler practiced on a limited basis for a second straight day, and has what Coach Chan Gailey calls “a decent chance” to play Saturday against Denver.

Chandler has missed the past two games with a left ankle injury. He’s tied for the team lead with six touchdowns.

A PERSON with knowledge of the payout said the NFL Players Association gave its executive director, DeMaurice Smith, a $1 million bonus. The bonus was paid solely at the discretion of the union, the person said on condition of anonymity.


COLTS: Running back Joseph Addai said the velocity on quarterback Peyton Manning’s short throws last week was game-ready.

Addai was one of the three players catching passes from Manning after last Wednesday’s team workout. Receiver Anthony Gonzalez, center Jeff Saturday and a receiver from the practice squad also took part.

RAVENS: Baltimore signed kicker Shayne Graham as a possible replacement for the injured Billy Cundiff.

Cundiff has a sore left calf and has struggled this month. He missed a 36-yard field goal Sunday night in a 34-14 loss to San Diego and is just 2 of 5 in December.

STEELERS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is optimistic he’ll play Saturday at home against St. Louis.

Roethlisberger said his injured left ankle is no worse after throwing 45 times Monday night in a 20-3 loss to San Francisco.

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