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Patriots' Balance Provides Test

Posted Jan 15, 2014

The Patriots have seen a lot of success in the run game in their recent contests.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In the Week 12 matchup between the Patriots and the Broncos, Tom Brady threw the ball 50 times for 344 yards and three touchdowns.

In the Patriots’ Divisional Round win against the Colts, the numbers tell a completely different story. The Patriots scored six touchdowns and every one of them came on the ground. Brady threw the ball just 25 times and for less than 200 yards.

“They’ve had a lot of things happen to their football team, just like we have had a lot of things happen to our football team, and I think that they’ve done a tremendous job kind of reinventing as far as the run game,” Head Coach John Fox said. “They’ve lost pass-catching tight ends and have incorporated some guys that are doing a really, really good job in the run game. They roll the whole stable of backs throughout the season. They’ve kind of settled in on LeGarrette Blount who’s a really physical downhill runner.”

Blount – a 6-foot, 250 pound back -- was responsible for four of those six rushing touchdowns and finished the game with 166 yards. That number alone was 50 more yards than the entire Patriots team picked up on the ground in the Week 12 game.

As a team against the Colts, the Patriots rushed for 234 yards – more than 54 percent of their total offense.

“I mean, they’re just like us in a sense,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “They’ve lost key players and you’ve got to find your strength as a team once you do that. They lost (tight end Rob) Gronkowski. He was a big part of their offense, so they’ve got to find other ways to beat teams. They have a great coaching staff there and a great quarterback and offensive line group that is solid.

“They’re going to go to their strength -- right now it's their backfield and offensive line -- and that’s why they’re trying to run the ball.”

But just because the Patriots ran the ball a lot and with a lot of success last week doesn’t mean necessarily mean they will ignore the passing game. Tom Brady, three-time Super Bowl winner and two time Super Bowl MVP, is still the quarterback.

So should New England come out throwing the ball, Knighton said he wouldn’t be surprised.

“No, it wouldn’t surprise me because San Diego had some success at the end of the game doing that and they had success when they came back on us Week 12,” Knighton said. “But in the playoffs it’s about running the ball and controlling the clock. They’ll come out and try to do that and we’ll do our best to stop that and force them to throw the ball.”

However the Patriots attack the Broncos, whether it be with the streaking Blount or the consistently dangerous Brady, the Broncos know they are going to be in for a battle.

“It’s going to be tough,”cornerback Champ Bailey said. “Brady has always been tough against us. I don’t know how many times we’ve beaten him, but not a lot. He is one of the better quarterbacks to play the last 15 years. It’s going to be one of those challenges (where) we’ve definitely got to bring our ‘A’ game.

“We know they’re going to be ready, so it’s going to be a war out there.”