Jonas Gray came up big during the Patriots win over the Colts Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)
Ever since Stevan Ridley went down with a knee injury back in week six against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have been in need of someone stepping up in the ground game.
They’ve gotten limited production from that standpoint, relying primarily on a rotation that has included Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen and James White, none of which had provided much of an impact to this point heading into their match-upÂ against the Colts Sunday night.
That all changed against Indianapolis after a massive performance by Gray during the team’s 42-20 road win.
Gray scored twice in the first half, and twice during the second half during the Patriots 42-20 win over Indianapolis.
(USA TODAY Images)
In the game Gray came out focused and whileÂ racking up 100-yards in the first half on 14 carries, including reaching the end zone twice while the team fought through a mistake-ridden opening two quarters that had them up by just four at 14-10 at the intermission.
When they hit the field in the second half, it was a completely different story. Â Gray picked up right where he left off and it had the Colts completely off balance, allowing Tom Brady to bounce back from throwing two interceptions in the first half. Â With Indianapolis looking at Gray things opened up for New England’s offense, allowing Brady to pick them apart and missing just two throws in a second half where he was 9-of-11 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
Gray, meanwhile, kept chugging along, piling up 99-yards while reaching the end zone twice. Â However, Bill Belichick said after last week’s game that, “It’s not about a bunch of stats and stats this and stats that,” pointing out he didn’t care about any one individual player’s stats. Â After carrying five straight times to close out the game, the team had Jimmy Garoppolo kneel and kill the clock, leaving Gray one yard shy of the 200-yard mark.
After the game Belichick wasn’t surprised by what he had seen from Gray, noting that the running back has been working hard.
“He did that for us in preseason,” said Belichick. “He does it for us every day out there on the practice field and works hard. I thought he ran hard tonight, real hard.”
Gray’s 38 carries were obviously the most he’s seen to this point, having had just 11 offensive snaps against the Jets, 28 against the Bears, and 22 during their win over Denver. Â During that span he carried the football 32 times for 131 yardsÂ but had yet to really establish himself as the team’s lead back. Â That obviously changed against the Colts, but Belichick noted that part of the reason for Gray’s success has simply been his steady approach, which is what we saw from him for four quarters Sunday night.
“Heâ€™s just a smart, hard-working kid,” said Belichick. “Heâ€™s got good power. He runs hard. His game is what we saw tonight. Thatâ€™s what it was in college, and we talked to Coach Kelly and some of the other players at Notre Dame that we had on our team or that were familiar with Jonas and they all kind of said the same thing. Thatâ€™s just what we saw.
“But he works hard every day. Itâ€™s not any one thing or one great epiphany. Itâ€™s just something that he comes to work every day, does his thing and gets better. Things he needs to work on, things the coach thinks he needs to improve on, splits his pickoff, his assignments in the passing game, his reads in the running game, and heâ€™s gotten a lot better at those.”
And as a result, heading into their final six games, the Patriots now potentially seem to have a real threat out of the backfield.