W2W4: New England Patriots vs Houston Texans

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When the Patriots Run the Ball:

Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

New England has continued to eschew the running game in 2015 as the Patriots put the game in the hands of quarterback Tom Brady. Last week the Patriots ran the ball their first three plays and featured the running game early on as they built a 14-0 lead. However, after that the running game was again put the side as the Patriots had to pass to back in the game.

LeGarrette Blount finished with 13 carries for 54 yards against Philadelphia last week and continues to average 4.2 yards per rushing attempt. For the season he has 650 yards on 155 carries and 6 touchdowns. James White does not get many carries and Brandon Bolden has been solid when called upon as a change of pace.

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Surpisingly, FootballOutsiders.com has the much-maligned offensive line is ranked as the top run-blocking line in the NFL. They rank the Patriots as tops in Stuffed Rank (fewest rushes for zero or negative yards) and in Adjusted Line Yards (responsibility of the offensive line for yards gained). The question that is left unanswered is if the Patriots do well because of their passing game or if they are underutilizing a strength?

Houston’s run defense is anchored by old friend Vince Wilfork. Lining up at his traditional nose tackle spot, Wilfork has struggled but played well against Buffalo last week. he is joined by all-around best defensive player in the NFL J.J. Watt who excels as a pass rusher and against the run. Brandon Dunn and Jared Crick rotate in and out on the other side of the line.

Week 14 picks: Patriots get back on track

Linebacker Brian Cushing is the Texans’ leading tackler and takes advantage of the defensive line tying up blockers for him. He is quick, strong, and plays with an edge. He will not back down against any running back and is extremely physical. The underrated John Simon and rookie Benardrick McKinney join him at inside linebacker to help in the running game.

Houston is just 21st in the league in run defense but the Patriots are unlikely to take advantage of that based upon their reliance in the passing attack. Unless New England gets up by multiple scores there is little reason to believe the running game will be a major part of the game.


Next: When the Patriots Pass the Ball