Patriots 60-second rant: Room for improvement in ground game

Posted Nov. 30, 2011 @ 2:52 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

For the third game in a row, the Patriots looked like the well-oiled machine we're used to, and they even played well on defense in their 38-20 win over the Eagles.

Sound familiar?

At this time last season, the Patriots had just won their third game in a row — a 45-24 Thanksgiving Day victory over the Lions. The Pats went on to win the next five, finishing the season 14-2 on an eight-game win streak.

Last season, the schedule was much harder. The Patriots' three opponents after Thanksgiving were the Jets, Bears and Packers. This week, New England is preparing to play the worst team in the entire league, the 0-11 Colts. And the schedule doesn't get much more difficult after that.

The Patriots need to continue to take advantage of the cream-puff schedule by improving their weaknesses. We didn't see much of an improvement in pass protection early against the Eagles, but the defense played better and the wide receivers finally had a big game.

The run game looked better against Philly early on but could still use some work, and the Colts' 31st-ranked run defense should provide that opportunity.

Obviously, the Patriots need to avoid a letdown, keep up the improved defense and refuse to slow down the offensive juggernaut. Those are all givens against a Colts team that the Pats could beat by three touchdowns.

With those objectives in mind, the Patriots can continue to work to improve the run game with different runs to continue to get the blocking right.

I wrote something similar a couple of weeks back before the Patriots-Chiefs game, and although BenJarvus Green-Ellis looked better against K.C., there is still clearly room for improvement, and there's no better team to do that against than the Colts.

Green-Ellis hasn't lost his grip of being the top back, but he only has one game with more than 81 yards rushing this season — a 136-yard outburst against the Jets. His rushing average is below four yards. These games against poor defenses are the times for The Law Firm and his O-line to get better, starting with the Colts.

When the playoffs come around, if the Patriots cannot prove to be a balanced squad, it will be a tougher task to get to Indy. In the Patriots' three losses, Green-Ellis is averaging 26.3 rushing yards a game. In their eight wins, Green-Ellis has an average of 63.3 rushing yards. Defenses are aware of what it does to New England's passing game if there is no room to run. Even if it needs to be taken with a grain of salt because of the Colts' porous defense, the run game can gain some confidence by proving it can be effective.