Digging Deep: Analyzing the New England Patriots’ Offense in their 28 to 21 Victory Over the Pittsburgh Steelers

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Rushing Offense:

Sep 10, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) attempts to tackle New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots did not come into the game with their full cache of weapons in the running game. However, it was a big game for roster long-shot Dion Lewis as he was the primary back without LeGarrette Blount available. Lewis was a force in the passing game and showed elusiveness in the rushing game.

Lewis finished with 69 yards on 15 carries which was good for a 4.6 yards per carry average. Lewis did a lot of work on his own without having as much help up front as he would have liked. Lewis caused five missed tackles and gained 49 yards after contact (per PFF). He was shifty, strong at times, and explosive. His longest carry was just 13 yards, but against a strong run defense it was a positive performance.

Sep 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon (90) reacts during player introductions before playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field. The Buccaneers won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis had to do much of the work himself as the offensive line struggled to make space. His best rushes were following right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder were fine, but the young interior line struggled against Pittsburgh’s big and strong interior line. Nose tackle Steve McLendon is an underrated run stuffer inside and Cameron Heyward is a beast.

Backup nose tackle Daniel McCullers was a force as well as the six-foot-seven and 350+ pound big body was near impossible to move. Tre’ Jackson had his struggles and Shaquille Mason did not look like the road-grader he appeared to be against lesser competition in the preseason. Blocking tight end Michael Williams seemed to lose leverage too often as well. That New England able to move the ball on the ground and contain Heyward was a big plus.

Brandon Bolden did get a few carries but had difficulty finding space. Often hit behind the line of scrimmage, he had to work to prevent a negative play. The other carries were two sneaks by quarterback Tom Brady on two third-and-one’s which he converted and kept the drive alive. Julian Edelman’s reverse on third-and-two on the first play of the second quarter netted nine yards and extended the scoring drive.

It was not the most impressive rushing performance by the Patriots, but Lewis made it work with some excellent individual effort. With Blount returning, the rushing offense should continue to improve.