In Sunday’s 34-31 loss to the Bills the Patriots certainly had plenty of opportunities to put the game away, but they failed to do so. One of the major reasons was their failure to commit to a running game and maintain long sustained drives. This is becoming a major issue for the team.
It wasn’t like the Patriots weren’t successful running the ball. In total they ran for 108 yards. Their leading rusher was rookie Steven Ridley, who ran for 44 yards on seven carries. Danny Woodhead ran for 21 yards on six carries, which was a bit surprising considering he had two solid games against Buffalo last season and didn’t get more opportunities. Finally, BenJarvis Green-Ellis started the game, but only played a few plays after the first series finished with 16 yards on nine carries.
There are times in order to win a game an offense needs to sustain a long drive, trying to take off as much time as possible. For example, the Patriots were up 24-17 with 13:11 remaining in the game, and had the ball on their own 46 yard line — the perfect set up for a solid drive leading to a touchdown taking as much time as possible off the clock.
Wes Welker ran for 19 yards on the first play, then Ridey ran two consecutive plays for eight and four yards, setting up a 1st and 10 on the Buffalo 23, when Brady threw an interception trying to force the ball to Rob Gronkowski. They were successful running the ball the three plays before hand, why not continue the trend taking more time off the clock? The drive only took 1:44 off the clock.
A long sustained drive in that situation could have put the game away, especially if they could have got into the end zone. Another point along the same lines is the defense was on the field a ton in the second half, being as depleted as they were, they needed to be on the sidelines as long as possible, to get rest and get back some of their strength. The offenses’ short drives, ending in turnovers really put more pressure on the Patriots defense.
I am not making an excuse for the defense because they were terrible, there is no getting around that, but being on the field as much as they were, with not many subs, did not help the fact.
The Patriots have not had a consistent running game since the Corey Dillon era. They have a guy in Green-Ellis who ran for over 1,000 yards last season and has proven that he can be a decent running back. In games like yesterday where the team needs a long and sustained drive, the team needs to use their running backs instead of continuing to be a pass first offensive. This will help put teams away and enable the team to win the games that they should.