Nov 18, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
With all their offensive weapons back in the fold, the New England Patriots offense is finally clicking like it used to, particularly through the air. The combination of Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Shane Vereen looks to be a dangerous one, and I fully expect Tom Brady and company to deploy these three throughout the rest of this regular season, and the playoffs.
However as good as the aerial attack has looked over the last few games, airing it out 50 times on Sunday will not net New England a win. When you are playing an offense as hot as Denver’s is, it will be tough to outscore them, especially with a beat up secondary. Granted, Sunday’s game looks like it will be played in frigid temperatures, and we all know that colder weather favors Brady over Peyton. But the Patriots cannot give in to their “need” to throw the ball, despite facing the 28th ranked pass defense in the NFL. A much better strategy would be to balance their offense out, making the passing game even more effective, while also keeping Peyton Manning off of the field.
What makes the Pats ground game special, is their ability to roll out three different backs that can burn you. Stevan Ridley is the workhorse, as evidenced by his team leading 131 carries. He has that rare ability to be a power guy, while also obtaining some finesse skills, in the form of some deceptive speed, and great vision. When Ridley gets tired, New England can throw in either Shane Vereen or LeGarrette Blount to carry the load, and both have shown that they are capable. Blount is a bigger guy, as he weighs close to 250 pounds, and he has revitalized his career this season, averaging four and a half yards per carry, while also scoring two touchdowns. When the defense is beginning to get worn down by the two big backs in Blount and Ridley, the Patriots hit them with the explosive Shane Vereen. Vereen has missed most of this 2013 season with a wrist injury, but he showed last week in Carolina, that he is still just as explosive coming back from injury. He has great speed and quickness, and when Brady splits him out wide as a receiver, Vereen will win that matchup nine times out of ten.
I think that the combination of these three backs will wear down the Denver front (which is fourth against the run), giving Brady and company even more openings in the back end. There is nobody in the world that can cover Rob Gronkowski, and Denver doesn’t have the necessary personnel to defend Vereen or Amendola. This alone would be enough to devastate this defense, but when you combine that with a running game, then a 40 point outing is not out of the question.
There is no doubt in my mind that New England will throw the football a great deal. Stopping Tom Brady from doing that is just about impossible. But I do think that they will realize that running the ball will be important too, especially when you consider the offensive talent that will be on the opposite sideline. With these two offenses going at it, this game has the potential to generate over 60 points of offense, and 900 total yards. I just hope that Brady and the Pats play wisely, and get another win over Peyton Forehead, and the Broncos.