No, it's not a title bout between two heavyweights, but the pregame hype may lead you to think that.…
Balanced Attack Helps Everyone
While there's some truth to the idea the Patriots don't care how they get their points just as long as they get them, there's no question that being more balanced makes life a lot easier on all parties involved.
In Sunday's 30-21 win over the Jets, the Patriots featured a two-pronged attack rarely seen this season. More often than not, quarterback Tom Brady has had to carry the offense on his back, but against a Jets defense struggling to stop the run and focused primarily on shutting down the passing game, BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 136 yards on 27 carries, providing much-needed balance for the second week in a row.
As a team, the Patriots rushed 35 times, while Brady attempted 33 passes. The previous week in Oakland, New England featured a similar split, attempting 30 passes and rushing 30 times. The point totals have essentially been the same as they were in the non-balanced games, with the Patriots scoring 31 against the Raiders and 30 against the Jets, but the lack of stress on Brady's shoulders and the equally important lack of turnovers has been the real key to success.
In the loss to Buffalo, Brady threw four interceptions, resulting in a wild, fourth-quarter comeback for the Bills. Brady indicated the newfound balance has more to do with what the opponents are offering defensively. Regardless, it's given teams more to worry about when facing New England.
"The Jets are focused on stopping the pass. A lot of what they do is coverage related," Brady said, "and they did a decent job stopping the run at times (Sunday), too. They stopped us for 1 yard gain; it's not like it was 7 yards a carry out there. There were 1-yard gains.
"They're a tough, physical front. They've got some good linebackers, some good run-stopping linebackers, (and) there's a lot of movement on that defense, too, so you don't always get great angles."
The Patriots became less effective last year when their running game eroded, and the Jets took advantage by attacking Brady in New York's playoff win at Gillette Stadium. In order to avoid another pitfall in January, the Patriots will need to maintain the balance throughout the entire year.
As everyone knows, it becomes harder to throw when the weather deteriorates, so if the Patriots can continue running effectively down the stretch, they might have a much longer stay in the playoffs this time around.
"We've got to be able to run the ball, we've got to stay balanced, and we've got to be able to take advantage of whatever we see," Brady said. "I think it gives everybody a lot of comfort, knowing that we are capable of running the ball effectively as we did (Sunday)."
Patriots remain unbeatable at home
--The Patriots have now won 19 consecutive regular-season home games dating back to a 47-7 win over Arizona in 2008.
Sunday's win set a franchise record in that category, with New England topping the previous record of 18 consecutive regular-season home victories from Dec. 29, 2002, through Sept. 8, 2005. The Patriots own an overall record of 62-12 (.838) at Gillette Stadium in regular-season games, which is the best home record in the NFL since the stadium opened in 2002.
--Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished with a career-best 136 rushing yards on 27 carries, two of which were touchdown runs.
Green-Ellis' 136 rushing yards are the most for a Patriots player since October 2008, when Sammy Morris had 138 rushing yards in a 41-7 Patriots victory over the Broncos.
--Quarterback Tom Brady threw for one touchdown Sunday against the Jets, snapping his streak of 13 consecutive games with two or more touchdown passes.
That streak leaves him tied with Peyton Manning's 2004 total for the longest such streak in NFL history.
--TE Aaron Hernandez returned to the lineup Sunday and finished with five catches for 56 yards. He had missed two weeks due to a sprained MCL in his left knee.
--WR Deion Branch hauled in an 11-yard catch in the third quarter, moving him past Jim Colclough (283) into ninth place on the Patriots' all-time receptions list.
--WR Matthew Slater suffered a rib injury Sunday and did not return to the game. His status could be in doubt this weekend.
--S James Ihedigbo left Sunday's game due to a stinger and did not return, though it appears he'll be fine for the upcoming game against the Cowboys.
--WR Wes Welker finished with 124 yards on five catches, and he now has 740 yards receiving on the season -- the most ever by a player in his team's first five games.
Hot Topic: Patriots - Jets Game Thread
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