Pats shouldn't abandon the run

Despite .500 record, New England needs to stick with dominant ground game

Originally Published: October 20, 2012
By Henry Gargiulo | ESPN Stats & Information Group
Tom Brady, Stevan RidleyAP Photo/Elaine ThompsonThe Pats' ground game is one of the NFL's best.

With 3:02 left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots clinging to a six-point lead in Seattle in Week 6, New England set out to do what most teams would in that situation -- try to run the ball and pick up a first down to effectively end the game.

On its first play, New England lined up with Stevan Ridley and Dan Connolly (an offensive lineman) in the backfield with Nick McDonald (another offensive lineman) as a tight end in a 3-tight end set. The Patriots gave the ball to Ridley running left for a gain of 1.

On second down they used the exact same 3-tight end personnel and handed it to Ridley a second time. Again they picked up only 1 yard.

Then, instead of sticking with the run, the Patriots lined up with three wide receivers, Rob Gronkowski on the line and Aaron Hernandez in the backfield -- all but signaling a pass play. And pass is exactly what they did, with Tom Brady throwing incomplete to Deion Branch.

From there you know the rest of the story. Seattle got the ball back and scored the game-winning touchdown, dropping New England's record to 3-3 and in a four-way tie in the AFC East.

The aforementioned series is an interesting one, however, because it demonstrates in three plays something that is a much larger question for the Patriots. Given their struggles in the standings and their new emphasis on the running game in 2012, some may be inclined to link the .500 record to a lack of success in the running game and believe the Pats should turn back to their pass-happy ways of a season ago.

Simply put, that would be a mistake.