One thing that has been learned about the New England Patriots this season is that the running game is more important than ever. In a repeat of 2011, the Patriots defense cannot be depended upon to get the necessary stops at the end of games. To keep the defense off the field the Patriots must keep possession of the ball and use as much of the game clock as possible. To run the game clock the team must run the ball.
The Patriots defense cannot be counted on to stop opposing offenses in key situations. In the three games the Patriots have lost this year, the opponent has gone ahead with a late score forcing the Patriots to race down field to regain the lead which they have failed to do. In the Patriots three wins this year, the team has had double digit leads and was not forced to depend on their defense.
Going into Sunday’s game in Seattle, the Patriots were riding a two game win streak. A big part of that win streak was the way the Patriots ran the ball. Two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills the Patriots ran the ball 39 times in a 52-28 win. A week later they ran the ball 50 times in a 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos. The Patriots snapped their streak on Sunday losing to the Seattle Seahawks 24-23. In the loss they ran the ball just 26 times.
The success of starting running back Stevan Ridley has mirrored the Patriots success. In the three games the Patriots have won, Ridley has rushed for over 100 yards and has been an integral part of the team’s offense. In the three games the Patriots have lost, the ball has been taken out of Ridley’s hands and he has not hit the century mark.
Despite the stats showing that running ball consistently has been very successful over the past two games, the Patriots reverted back to their old ways in Sunday’s loss running the ball just 26 times. Ridley had just 16 carries for a measly 34 yards.
After six games it’s clear that there is a direct correlation between how many times the Patriots run the ball and the team’s results. Despite the stats proving this and despite the fact that the Patriots are in a tough divisional race, Bill Belichick decided to abandon the running game Sunday as the team’s primary attack. The result, as expected, was a one point loss to the Seahawks just as happened in their previous losses this season.