In Sunday's game against the Vikings, the Patriots rushed for nine yards in the first half on nine carries.
The best run in the first half was a three-yard TD by Danny Woodhead on a direct snap. Tied 7-7 at halftime, it looked like a repeat of Week Seven when the Chargers shut down any semblance of a rushing attack. Both the Vikings (in the first half) and Chargers made Tom Brady look human by taking away the pass with no threat of the run.
Then, something clicked. In the second half, the Patriots' rushing attack exploded for 113 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 28-18 victory, advancing the Pats to 6-1 — the best record in the NFL.
The PFW Spin
Coming into the season, there were four running backs expected to get carries: Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.
Who would have thought through seven games the leading rushers would be BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead? (If you did predict that, please pick my Lotto numbers for this week).
With injuries to Taylor and Faulk and the trade of Maroney, Green-Ellis got his time in the spotlight, and the diminutive Woodhead became Faulk's replacement. Green-Ellis rushed for a career-high 112 yards (6.6 avg.) and two TDs, while Woodhead had five catches for 45 yards out of the backfield in Sunday's victory.
On the Pats' final scoring drive, which included Woodhead's crucial 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-12, Green-Ellis had seven rushes for 62 yards (8.9 avg.) and a two-yard TD plunge to turn a 21-18 advantage to the final 10-point margin, 28-18.
A key component to Green-Ellis' success is veteran TE Alge Crumpler, who delivered some huge blocks on the drive. "I think Alge is a friggin' great blocker. He's a dominating blocker in there," Brady said after the game.
Without a fullback (OG Dan Connolly fills the role in short-yardage and goal-line situations), Crumpler serves as the de facto lead blocker for Green Ellis, whether it is from the backfield or pulling from his TE spot on the line. Crumpler said from the beginning of the season that he will do whatever is asked of him, and with the success of rookie TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, that means deferring catches to them while helping the team with his blocking.
As the defense continues to be vulnerable, the Patriots need to have the ability to score at will. The passing offense hasn't had many easy scoring drives since the Randy Moss trade, and a productive running game can help open it up more for Brady and keep a young defense off the field.