The New England Patriots have become a dominant passing team since 2007. However, they are 0-2 in the last two Super Bowls they have been in. The retooling of the wide receiver corps has everyone excited, but it won’t be the reason the Patriots succeed or fail in 2012.
Tom Brady has proven he can throw the ball six ways to Sunday, you can pass your way to the Super Bowl, but to win it you have to run (or at least commit to the running game).
The Patriots do not need a number one rushing attack, but they do need to place more emphasis on the run game. They have the ability to win 12-14 games every year, the potent passing game shreds bad defenses and holds it own against good defenses. However, the fatal fault from the 2011—12 Super Bowl was the inability to gain one crucial 3rd down.
Teams know that Brady and the Patriots are going to do what they do, which is throw multiple formations, spread the defense out, and look to move the chains through a short passing attack. That will work most of the time, but in a sport where a game plan can completely take a team out of rhythm, the Giants proved two times that all you have to do is drop seven.
It’s not about yards, it’s about rushing attempts. The commitment to run the ball drives a defense to honor the run game. Furthermore, it creates a physical mentality that will get the tough yards on the ground. You can game plan against a key situation, but defending the pass is more about reading the offense, and disrupting its timing. Running the ball is all about physical domination, when you impose your will by running, defenses tend to wear down.
The Patriots can pass all day, but if the defense doesn’t wear down, the fourth quarter might as well be the first. In 2004, Cory Dillon showed that a dominant running game not only ruled the regular season, it mauled opposing defenses in the playoffs.
We remember Dillon roaming the sidelines during their 2004 playoff showdown with the Indianapolis Colts; he mimicked slicing his throat while shouting “They don’t want anymore of us!”
In 2001, they rode the running game to a Super Bowl win. In 2003, they ran just enough to create balance.
2012 will be determined by how strong the run game will be for the Patriots, or should we say, how much the Patriots use the run game.