By: Ian Logue/
September 30, 2002

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Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
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New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

SAN DIEGO, CA -- For two straight weeks, the Patriots defense seems to have forgotten how to do what it was that they had gained the reputation of doing best.

Stopping the run.

They allowed 217-yards rushing by San Diego Chargers runningback LaDanian Tomlinson on Sunday and 180-yards on the ground by Kansas City Chiefs runningback Priest Holmes last weekend.  The defense struggled all afternoon, with Tomlinson breaking tackles on runs where he could have been brought down for a loss.  Instead he turned them into big gains, including touchdown runs of 37 and 58-yards.

Through two games the Patriots defense has allowed a total of 459-yards on the ground, which is a big problem.  They held Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis to just 35-yards in game one and Curtis Martin to 5-yards in game two of the 2002 season.  They were getting pressure up the middle from Richard Seymour, and it was the middle of the defense where Tomlinson blew up the middle for a touchdown.

New England's defense was supposed to be so good that their win over the Patriots gave San Diego a reason to believe they can replace New England as AFC Champions.

"I'm telling you right now, we're contenders," said Tomlinson after the game.

With his team sitting at 4-0 and after averaging 8.0-yards per carry with two touchdowns, Tomlinson has every reason to be confident.

After all, he did it against what used to be one of the best defenses in the league.

Prior to the Kansas City game last week, the Patriots defense had played unbelievably well against their opponents starting runningbacks.  Dating back to the Oakland game last year team's starting runningbacks were averaging 38.2 yards-per-game against them.  During the last two games they're averaging 198.5-yards-per-game.  New England's defense has dropped from 3rd in the AFC last year to being currently ranked 15th in the conference, allowing 141.3 yards per game which is up from last year's 115.9.

The ironic thing was that after bulldozing the Patriots defense for 180-yards last weekend, Chiefs runningback Priest Holmes was held to just 52-yards by the Dolphins defense on Sunday.

Which now leaves fans wondering what is the problem?

That's an answer that only Bill Belichick can figure out the answer to.  The reputation the team had earned came in large part from the schemes he had designed.

So for now it looks like it's back to the drawing board.