Commentary

The myth about Super Bowl contenders

The Patriots' backfield has seen better days, but it doesn't matter

Updated: November 5, 2009, 2:16 PM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
Getty ImagesMaroney and company should be just fine.

This article appears in the November 16 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Despite a spate of recent blowouts, not everything is going according to plan in New England.

Left tackle Matt Light is nursing a bum knee, and the Patriots running backs have been playing starter roulette. Veteran breakaway threat Fred Taylor began the year at the top of the roster, but yielded to fourth-year back Laurence Maroney in Week 2. The two traded carries, then Taylor gave a 105-yard performance worthy of the starting job in Week 3. Too bad he went down with an ankle injury. Enter Sammy Morris, whose so-so outing (68 yards, one fumble) in the Pats' Week 5 loss to the Broncos kept him on the field in Week 6. But a first-quarter knee injury put him on the shelf and Maroney back in the lineup.

With all this inconsistency, the team is averaging just 4.08 yards per carry, 17th in the league. But does this mix-and-match running game spell trouble down the line for the Pats?


To see why a shoddy backfield, backfield-by-commission, or generally banged-up backfield tend not to matter in the playoffs, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.