W2W4: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

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When the Patriots Run the Ball:

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

New England lost a weapon in the running game when Dion Lewis went out for the season with a knee injury. Since then, the Patriots have had to lean on LeGarrette Blount more in the past two weeks. Blount has answered the call with 29 carries for 129 yards against Washington, 19 carries for 66 yards against the Giants, and 16 carries for 56 yards against a stout Buffalo defense.  

Blount has already surpassed his total of rushing yards from Pittsburgh and New England in 2014 as he has 569 yards on 133 carries. Blount has had to earn his yards the past few weeks as the banged-up offensive line has struggled to make space for Blount. He will have another tough test against the underrated Broncos front seven.

Denver’s defense gets credit for their ferocious pass rush duo of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware (Ware did not practice all week and likely is out Sunday) and their spectacular secondary. However, the Broncos defensive line and interior linebackers have been outstanding in 2015.

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Sylvester Williams–once thought as a bust–has seamlessly replaced Terrance Knighton in the middle of the defensive line.  He is big, strong at the point of attack, and can push the pocket and penetrate somewhat. He is joined by defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. Wolfe and Jackson do not get a lot of national press, but they do their job and do it well inside–particularly against the run.

Inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall are also two of the best 3-4 interior linebackers in the league. Marshall burst upon the scene in Denver last year in his third NFL season and has performed at a Pro Bowl level against the run and in coverage this season.

Trevathan is a smaller linebacker but quick and aggressive. He was a surprise starter in 2013 when Denver made it to the Super Bowl but injuries derailed his season last year and he barely got the field. This season he has bounced back and been a pest all over the field. Last week he had an interception versus Chicago and three weeks ago he had 19 tackles against Indianapolis.

Per ProFootballFocus.com, Trevathan is rated as the third best 3-4 inside linebacker in the league and Marshall is not far behind at sixth. The Patriots will have a hard time moving Williams, Wolfe and Jackson to give Blount space to run. If they do succeed in doing that, Trevathan and Marshall are filling gaps and taking down the running back. This is not a matchup to try and run the ball for the Patriots.


Next: When the Patriots Pass the Ball