Over the years, the Patriots have been accused of many things but never once has the word "complacent" entered the discussion. That was evident Sunday, in their latest win, a 31-21 romp over Peyton Manning and the Broncos. We say "romp" because it was 31-7 late in the third quarter before Denver mounted a mini-comeback that officially ended with running back Willis McGahee's fumble with five minutes left in the game.
And while any Manning-Brady get-together is an excuse for the media to go overboard in their coverage, the way the Patriots have been winning most definitely is newsworthy. In a typical season, the explanation would be some form of "Tom Brady's right arm." Now, New England has a legitimate rushing attack to compliment the passing game for the first time since Corey Dillon was in the backfield from 2004-2006.
For some perspective, New England rushed for more than 200 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 1978. Second-year back Stevan Ridley has 490 yards on 102 carries (4.8 YPC, 4 TDs) and rookie undrafted free agent Brandon Bolden has added 206 yards on 37 carries (5.6 YPC, 2 TDs) have been the workhorses. The new found ground game coupled with the finely tuned passing assault has made the Pats' offense nearly unstoppable, something Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey conceded Sunday night.
“To make it short, we worked on (what we expected the Patriots to do) all week,” Bailey said, according to CSNNE.com's Tom Curran. “That lets you know right there. You gotta translate things from the meeting room and practice field to the game. Coaches can’t go out there and play for us. We gotta make sure we put ourselves in position to make plays and get off the field on third down. We worked on everything they did to us. There wasn’t no surprises. They just hit us in the mouth and we didn’t hit back hard enough.”
And now that the Patriots are back in first place in the AFC East, this could be the beginning of another deep run in the playoffs. This time with a running game that travels well.