On Sunday the New England Patriots got back to their winning ways with a 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills. More importantly the Patriots were able to effectively move the ball on the ground which is a very encouraging sign going forward. With both Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden rushing for over 100 yards, the running backs and offensive line proved against a strong Bills defensive line that they can maintain an effective rushing attack.
One major question heading into the 2012 season was the Patriots running game. The team lost two key offensive linemen in Matt Light and Brian Waters during the offseason. It got worse when the team recently lost Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly to injury. But the young offensive line which consisted of only one starter from last season Sunday gave Ridley and Bolden gaping holes to run through.
Another issue for the running game was the backs themselves. During the offseason the Patriots lost starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to free agency. That left the team depending on two 2011 NFL Draft picks and a rookie undrafted free agent. Complications arose when Shane Vereen, one of last year’s picks, was injured and has yet to return. But even with the inexperience of the running backs and offensive line, the Patriots were able to accumulate big gains on the ground with virtual ease.
Assuming the Patriots don’t suffer any more major injuries to key offensive players, the team’s rushing attack should only get better. The more the young linemen play the more they should progress. Also the Patriots should soon get back Mankins who has been selected to four Pro Bowls. Another improvement will be the return of Vereen who status continues to improve. While Ridley and Bolden showed Sunday they can handle the running game themselves, Vereen’s return will make a fearsome backfield that will challenge any opposing defense.
The Patriots are unquestionably a passing team but a strong running game gives the offense options. On Sunday key targets like tight end Rob Gronkowski were unable to hold onto some passes so the Patriots were able to adjust by running the ball. When players are healthy the Patriots have one of the best passing attacks in the league and with a strong running game as seen Sunday, their offense is virtually unstoppable.