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Offseason pondering...Inconsistent running game

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  1. cstjohn17

    cstjohn17 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Something I think has hurt the Patriots in their last 3 playoff losses was an inconsistent running attack.
    • 2008 Superbowl - The Giants played a scheme that focused soley on rushing the QB.
    • 2007 AFCC - Dillion broke a couple of big runs but in the 2nd half when they really needed to establish the run they couldn't get it going. 1 or 2 more first downs and the Colts don't even get the ball back.
    • 2006 - Divisional Game - Denver blitzed like mad, showed a total lack of respect for the running game.

    This year the running game looked great against SD and then poor against the Giants. Very up and down.

    In the off season I expected either a blocking TE or a mauling guard to be added to the mix to establish more of a physical presence along the line.

    Maroney will benefit from a full off season of training, he couldn't really work out last year after his surgery.

    Open questions
    Will the Patriots try to establish a more consistent running game? How will they do this? Will another year in the zone blocking scheme make a difference? Will a healthy Morris back a difference?
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  2. blackglass3

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    Um, how does this apply to Matt Walsh? :p

    Seriously, though, I hope the Pats notice this trend you picked up on. The 2006 AFCCG against the Colts I will say is the anomaly...Dillon broke down pretty quickly that whole year and was just not even close to being what we needed anymore and Maroney had his shoulder/rib/knee/whatever it was injury ever since that Lions game and was just not what we needed.

    The other two games you mentioned are very poor game planning and management, and the blame lies fully on the coaching staff. ALL YEAR Maroney was mediocre AT BEST running out of the shotgun. So what did they do in the whole SB? Shotgun. It was ridiculous.
  3. JoePats

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    I think they will certainly try. The passing game will be good again, but can't be expected to put up the big numbers it did last year.

    More than the zone blocking, though another year in the system can't hurt, is simply that Maroney, who was excellent the last 6 games or so and really had no room at all in the Super Bowl, will be entering his 3rd year in the league. He has every right to keep improving. Having Morris back is a plus, he was very effective.

    The only way the running game regresses is if the OL plays to the Super Bowl instead of the rest of the games, and I don't see that happening.

    So I would say the offense will not be as potent in terms of raw numbers, but will have more of a pass/run balance.
  4. wizwor

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    meh. that guy morris was pretty good, eh? injuries happen. football teams make do. losing the super bowl is a lofty disappointment.
  5. bostonia3333

    bostonia3333 Rookie

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    I think Belichick used Maroney perfectly last year. He didn't need to against the bad teams. He basically saved him for the playoffs to avoid injury knowing how fragile Maroney was. As far as this year is concerned, I think games against crappy teams like KC, the Jets, Cardinals, Bills, Dolphins, we should run Kyle Eckel like crazy and use Maroney sparingly. Against the big boys like SD and IND, that's where we should use Maroney and Morris fully. I don't think we need a stellar running game to beat 95% of the AFC.
  6. DocE

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    I'd agree that Belichick used Maroney well last year, but I disagree that the Patriots don't need a stellar running game to beat 95% of the AFC. The Patriots easiest game (on paper) in the playoffs was the Giants game and that was the game they ended up needing the running game in.

    As for the original post, I also expected the Patriots to add someone (be it a guard, tackle, or tight end) that would add a more physical presence to the Patriots running game. It was reported that the Patriots made a run at OG Mike Wahle when he was released by Carolina, but he quickly signed with Seattle. The Wahle move happened before the start of free agency, so I thought the running game would be a focus of the offseason. The lack of movement tells me that the coaching staff simply believes the line played an absolutely horrible game against the Giants, but either unreported injuries or a fluke bad game was responsible as opposed to lack of talent.

    It still so hard to understand how one unit of the ballclub could play so poorly in such a huge game. If the line was simply bad as opposed to horrendous, history would have been made.
  7. richpats

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    In the December '06 game at Miami, essentially the same unit played horribly and couldn't handle the speed or different looks that the Dolphins threw at them. I still believe the Pats should have just accepted the fact that their o-line was sucking and gone no-huddle, or at least 3-step drops.
  8. BradyManny

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    Changes were made, but they didn't seem drastic enough. They added more tight ends, but really nothing worked until it appeared they started running Moss on shorter routes.

    In general, I believe that a healthy Sammy Morris combined with an increasingly effective Laurence Maroney will give the team the balanced attack they need. If I have one criticism of McD over the years - and maybe he took this from Weiss - is that it's easy to get pass-happy when you have Brady as your QB. I think good things happen when you run the ball, even if its not overly effective, you have to keep the D honest. Take the Colts game for example, Maroney didn't break any big runs or anything, but it was effective enough. Same for the NYG week 17 game. And the first drive of the Super Bowl, there was a lot of balance, and we didn't see that balance as much the rest of the game.
  9. richpats

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    I was going to post something to that effect. While not as glamorous, earth-shattering or record-breaking, balancing the offense pays dividends, especially late in a close game. And Tom Brady is good enough that if you just put the ball in his hands he will succeed MOST of the time.

    I believe they came out planning to mix it up on the first drive and just blowing the doors off from there on out. They could have ground out a comfortable 24-10 victory instead of forcing things, giving the Giants confidence and ultimately losing.
  10. RayClay

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    To have a consistent running game, you need to run consistently.

    Maroney's style is different than Dillon and Morris, but he's certainly not a lightweight. He was a beast near the end of the year.

    Hopefully, he'll get clicking with the OLine on the zone blocking. He's the primary.

    Morris is an fine straight ahead runner. I love the combination myself.
  11. richpats

    richpats Banned

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    Notice that when Morris went down (the Dallas game) that's when the offense started to get crazy - NE had to lean on the pass more, and they were so overwhelming for most opponents that it turned into 48, 49, 50, 56-point games. But this was ultimately bad for the offense as it was less productive over the last 9 games.

    NE needs a running game that it has a lot of faith in, like 2004. On 3rd-and-3 everyone in the building knows whats coming - a pass.
  12. PatsFan37

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    I don't have much evidence for this, but my strong feeling is that Brady was hurt more than people know. He has this iron-man persona and his strength is the Pats achilles heel. When he's hurt, the team suffers disproportionately.

    No huddle, 3-step drops and quick sideline passes are all fine when Brady is in top form. No huddle against that rush requires tremendous mental agility. Since they're covering the short middle, you have to go outside. Quick sideline passes are thrown as harder or harder than any other pass, since they have to travel 25 yards like a bullet. Between the ankle, the rumors of him being hurt in the first play, I'm guessing there are things we don't know about that game. Yes, that was one heckuva rush, but to hold that offense to 14 pts? Wow.

    Though I have the game still on DVR, I haven't yet decided to face it. Maybe this summer when upcoming pre-season games are available to take away the pain. Pats1, you're a brave man to have watched that game twice.
  13. richpats

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    Still leads to the question of why they exposed him to the pass rush so much when he could have handed it off more and saved a few hits.
  14. psychoPat

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game


    Yeah.
    What a waste of bandwidth.
  15. BradyManny

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    If I ever have the guts to watch that game again, I would watch with this in mind. Heck, if I have the guts to look at the box score or play by play I could probably discern if my feelings were right - but the thought of even looking at that makes me want to vomit. My feeling as the game unfolded was that the first drive was balanced, used a lot of Maroney, and was one of McD's best playcalling drives all season. After that, we pretty much declared if we were passing or running the rest of the game, with the heavy emphasis on passing from the gun in the spread. I could be "misremembering" though.
  16. Deus Irae

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    This is a bit of an unfair assertion, in my opinion. Look at the difference between the teams played before that game:

    Jets
    Chargers
    Bills
    Bengals
    Browns

    Of those teams, only the Chargers were a good defense, and they started the season off playing terrible football. Now, taking a look at the teams the Patriots went off on after Dallas:

    Miami
    Washington
    Buffalo

    All 3 of these teams had huge problems in their secondary, as did Dallas.

    Now, take a look at the rest of the teams played after Dallas:

    Colts
    Eagles
    Ravens (emotional game after Sean Taylor death)
    Steelers
    Jets (Snow game)
    Dolphins (Brady chucking it up for the record)
    Giants

    The defenses they played in the second half of the season and scored fewer points against were better than the defenses they played in the first half of the season. Toss in the snow game against the Jets and the second half of the Dolphins game where it was clear to everyone watching that Brady was going to throw deep to Moss time and again to try getting the record, and the lower scoring games make sense without having to look for things like the running game to blame.

    Now, having said that....


    I agree that this team has problem getting the 'tough' yards against quality teams. I don't think it's the running backs that are the problem. I think the relatively undersized line struggles to implement the zone blocking, and it really showed up most when opposing teams were geared to stop the run. I remember seeing opponents hitting Maroney in the backfield time and again. Heck, it's part of the reasoning behind my wanting the team to draft a tackle with that round 1 pick.
  17. BradyManny

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    When Maroney was getting criticized early in the year, I was breaking down all the running plays in every game. I noticed two things, first, they were far more successful running left and most notably when Kyle Brady was lined up on that side. Second, I noticed how many times defensive players were able to break through and get to Maroney. Frankly, Maroney took a lot of heat, but a lot of times, he would turn a play that should've been for a loss into a couple yards. The OL needs to be more consistent in their run blocking - and I think McD has to do a better job of not declaring run or pass. The team won 18 games by simply out-executing other teams, particularly in the passing game. But based on their formation and their personnel, you can pretty much know if they are running or passing on any given play, and maybe that's true for all teams and I just don't know b/c I don't watch all their games, but I hope next season we see a more balanced approach and one that disguises run or pass a little bit more often.
    Last edited: May 9, 2008
  18. Deus Irae

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    Well, another thing we saw out of the 'HEY, WE'RE RUNNING THE BALL!" formations was a tremendous amount of success with play action. I honestly don't think it's a matter of needing more balance, since I'm not really bothered by 44/56 or 43/57 when you've got this much passing firepower. That's just about the same ratio as the Colts, and it's skewed by the team's willingness to just avoid even trying to run the ball against stout defensive lines.

    By no means am I saying that the things you mentioned don't play a part in what seemed to be some running problems, I just think it was mostly a matter of inconsistent execution by the offensive line combined with a conservative use of Maroney due to injury/depth concerns.
  19. richpats

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    What I'm getting at is the Morris injury took the offensive philosophy off track. It was routinely explosive in the first 5 games with a good balance of run/pass, then it turned volcanic in the next 5 with emphasis on the pass. While scoring was up, the philosophy didn't improve necessarily. During the latter part of the season the Pats basically had to dedicate a whole game to running the ball (Jets part 2) just to get Maroney ready for the postseason. The Jax and SD playoff games were impressive as far as balancing the offense, and while the games were close, the Pats used the running game to take command. In the SB, the Pats had no offensive rhythm except for the 2 scoring drives.
  20. richpats

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    Re: Offseason pondering... Inconsistent running game

    I texted a buddy at halftime of the SB, to the effect of "Why are we trying to throw downfield every play?!!?" The Pats offense was extremely impatient that day. They wanted points early, they wanted them quickly. They wanted to put pressure on Eli to force throws.
  21. Deus Irae

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    But your logic is wrong because you don't take into account the on-field realities. They ran the ball in JetsII because they couldn't pass in the weather (just think back to the Revis interception). As for the Super Bowl, the line stunk up the joint once Neal left the game. Run or pass, it failed to get the job done. Balance, or lack thereof, had nothing to do with it: the O-line got its collective ass handed to it. This was the most potent offense in NFL history, and people are letting a fluke loss in the Super Bowl cause them to find flaws where there aren't any and to imagine little flaws to be enormous problems.
    Last edited: May 9, 2008
  22. richpats

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    Well if the o-line can get undressed that badly then that is a potential flaw. We've seen their struggles against speed-rushing teams such as Indy, Miami, NYG.
  23. BradyManny

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    That's a good point - but I think the Colts rely on deception a little bit more. The Pats do a good job of setting up the play action by creating patterns, but its really a matter of whether you want to surprise a team or keep them guessing.

    Running 10 times in a game in a certain formation to show off a pattern - that sets up the opportunity to run play-action and catch a team guessing wrong. The Colts, IMO, use play-action not to make teams guess wrong, but just to make them question whether its a run or a pass. They love running that stretch run, but just as often, it's play action, so when teams see them line up and start to run it, you can't really commit if you're an LB or in the DB. That's why it's effective.

    I've been saying it for a little while now, and it almost makes me vomit whenever I say it, but given the personnel on this team, I really want to see them adopt some more of the offensive philosophies that have made Manning and the Colts successful. As long as its within Brady's comfort zone, introducing more deception into this offense could be really lethal, and prevent things like the Super Bowl from happening in that in the rare instance the team is not able to execute better then the opposing defense, it can rely on deception based off of balance in the offense.
    Last edited: May 9, 2008
  24. PatsFan37

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    The problem is that no team can be everything. If they used a high pick on an Olineman, which pick would it be? Wheatley? They needed a CB. Crable? They needed depth at OLB. I sure won't second-guess their #1 pick, and anyway I like it.

    The one pick you could argue (at the risk of making this thread instantly popular) is they should have taken a guard or tackle instead of a QB in the 3rd round. But again, they need to develop depth there as well.

    As for struggling against speed-rushing teams, heck, everyone does. Since the offense is centered around Brady, as Brady goes, so goes the team. That's also true of the Colts. In both cases, it's the right choice. To say they can't get the tough yards on the ground against quality defenses, well that's pretty much true of every team. The Pats are a quality defense because they're good at stopping opponents from getting those tough yards on the ground.

    I'm not saying the OL is perfect, just that it's less imperfect than other positions, and nowhere near as bad as that one game made it seem.
  25. BradyManny

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    I was hoping they would take a Rinehart, Donald Thomas kind of guy in the mid rounds, but in hindsight, they have invested development in O'Cal, Britt & Yates, and it wouldn't be worth kicking one of them off. If they were going to upgrade on the OL, it was going to happen in Round 1, and it didn't, and Mayo was the right pick and the best way to improve the team. Ultimately, you're right on point, you can't address all needs, and this OL is good enough to protect for the best QB in history and the most explosive offense we've ever seen. Could it be improved? Sure. But I'm OK going into the season w the same group.
  26. Deus Irae

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    Freeney and Mathis, Taylor and company, and Strahan and company don't give the line trouble because they are fast. They give the line trouble because they are among the best pass rushing defenses in the NFL. It makes sense that the best lines in the league would be the lines giving them trouble.

    There are teams with a lot of speed on the D-line that don't give the Patriots that same kind of trouble. I agree that Light and Kaszur seem to be susceptible to the fastest rushers in the league (it's why I wanted to draft a tackle, particularly Clady who's strength is supposed to be against the pass), but so is every other tackle in the NFL. That's why players like Jason Taylor and Michael Strahan win DPOY awards and set sack records, and undersized DE's who aren't very good against the run, like Freeney, still get massive contracts.
  27. cstjohn17

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    As potent as the offense was it just goes down in the long line of high powered air attacks that couldn't close the deal (Air Correal Chargers, 2001 Rams, 2004 Colts, etc.). It is kind of funny that even in the last 2-3 games when they were forcing the ball to Moss (even when the other team knew it), they still put good numbers. As soon as they got the record and didn't have to force it to Moss the offense slipped. Funny, but not in a ha-ha funny kind of way.
  28. RayClay

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    Faith is a funny concept. 5 linemen they bought at a Walmart clearance and Pokey Antowaine Smith aren't exactly inspiring. Yet they got the job done a couple years because they stuck with it.

    Running is rhythm between the backs and line. Good rhythm is attained through repitition.
  29. RayClay

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    And their backups at guard are quite serviceable. Think again back to 2001, with no long passing game and street free agents and we got it done.
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