Patriots

Patriots running attack is a legitimate threat

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Patriots running attack is a legitimate threat

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The numbers are uncannily similar.

In 2009, the Patriots ran for 1,921 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.1 yards per carry and were ninth in the AFC in yards per game on the ground.

This year? They ran for 1,973 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.3 per carry and were sixth in the AFC in yards per game.

But those are surface numbers. Plumbing a little deeper, you can uncover some of the key stats that show just how effective the Patriots were on the ground.

For instance, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was second in the entire NFL in second half rushing TDs.

Complementing that, Danny Woodhead was fourth in second half yards per carry (5.9, 50 carries, 297 yards).

In first half YPC, Woodhead was seventh in the NFL and Green-Ellis was 16th.

On first-and-10, Green-Ellis was 13th in the NFL with 623 yards.

On third down, Green-Ellis was tied for seventh in creating first downs (12 for 18). He trailed three fullbacks and three quarterbacks.

In the entire NFL, Woodhead finished third in yards per carry (5.64 on 97 carries).

Total yards arent as important as when they come. For instance, Laurence Maroneys 45-yard touchdown run in a 59-0 win over Tennessee in October 2009 were not quite as impressive as the Patriots 72 rushing yards in the second half at Pittsburgh in October. Especially with those yards coming against a team that hadnt allowed a 100-yard game by an opponent all year.

The general feeling about the 2009 Patriots running game was that it was pretty good. But this years edition spearheaded by a pair of undrafted guys is far more effective.

I think the durability of that running back position and to rush the way that our offense has been rushing lately, its been great, Tom Brady said Sunday night after the win over Miami. Weve played some really stout defenses lately, especially in the AFC East. The Dolphins are a great run defense and the Jets are tough. These 3-4 defenses are tough to run against, whether it was the Steelers or Green Bay was a good defense, so weve played a bunch of great defenses. So, I think theres really been a strong commitment over the course of the season to make yards in the run game and keep things balanced and use our run to set up play action. Its definitely been a huge threat.

The Patriots rushing attack is a realistic threat this year. Last year, it seemed more a device used until Brady could go long for Randy Moss again. The diversity of the offense with tight ends now being featured in the passing game has had an impact. And the blocking of the tight ends has as well.

Its interesting because, last February, the Indianapolis Colts presence in the Super Bowl despite having the planets worst rushing attack was seen as proof of a sea change.

The notion teams needed a legitimate, grind-it-out rushing attack to succeed was pass. Protections for quarterbacks and receivers, sophisticated advances in the passing game made the air the way to go. Indy was at the leading edge of that wave.

Last season, the Colts advanced to the Super Bowl with an attack that averaged 3.54 yards per carry, 80.9 per game. That was last in the NFL.

But the presence of Peyton Manning was the equalizer.

And this year, the presence of Brady and an effective running game has resulted in a Patriots team that is again historically explosive.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Ex-Patriot Chris Long donating his salary to educational equality program

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Ex-Patriot Chris Long donating his salary to educational equality program

PHILADELPHIA - Chris Long is donating the rest of his year's salary to increase educational equality.

The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end already gave up his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, he's using the next 10 to launch the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign.

"My wife and I have been passionate about education being a gateway for upward mobility and equality," Long told The Associated Press. "I think we can all agree that equity in education can help affect change that we all want to see in this country."

Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.5 million guaranteed. His base salary in 2017 is $1 million.

The charitable initiative encourages people to make donations to improve equal education opportunities. Long began his career in St. Louis in 2008 and played for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last season. Long's foundation has selected four organizations whose missions focus on making education easily accessible to underserved youth while also providing students the support they need to develop strong social and emotional character.

The four organizations are based in the three communities in which Long has played during his NFL career. The city that raises the most money during the season will receive an additional $50,000 donation.

"There's a lot of opportunities to help out and they're wonderful organizations," Long said. "We have such a great platform as football players and hopefully fans get behind it."

Long grew up in Charlottesville and starred in high school at St. Anne's-Belfield before going to the University of Virginia. He was moved to start the scholarship program following the violent protests in Charlottesville in August.

"Our hometown is a wonderful place and I feel like people got the wrong idea about what the residents of Charlottesville are all about," he said.

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Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.

"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.

"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."

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Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.

"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."

Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks. 

"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."

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